Seeing New Possibilities

October 19, 2015

By: Robert E. Quinn

Original Post on Bob Quinn’s Blog

I have a close associate who took over a troubled company. There was one unit that had a “particularly horrible culture.” The people were “actively disengaged.” The phrase suggests that they were using their talents to proactively undermine the collective good of the company. It is what happens when people lose all faith in their leaders. It a sign of advanced organizational decay and often managers have no idea what to do about it.

My associate read the earlier positive passage titled Change the Music – Change the Dance. He took it to his management group and they discussed it. The ideas in the passages did not reflect their conventional logic. They began to talk about their work in a new way.

Within a few days my associate began receiving unsolicited emails from employees who interact with the particularly troublesome unit. They raved about the changes they were seeing. The emails indicated that the people in the troubled unit were more collaborative, energetic, productive, open, happy, and easier to deal with. One person indicated that improvement inside the unit reduced his own stress outside the unit.

We do not know what was actually done to initiate this positive change. What we do know is that the process started when the management team discussed a positive passage. Doing so challenged the existing mindset, and invited people to the reality of possibility. Some manager began to see in a new way, and that led to new behavior.

The idea behind positive passages is that we can change the culture by changing the conversation. Positive passages are meant to challenge the conventional way of thinking, to jolt people into seeing new possibilities.

When a group of people in an organization reads a positive passage their minds are being seeded with new images and this may lead to new conversations. One strategy, therefore, is to use email to expose them to a steady stream of positive passages and trust that new conversations emerge.

A more assertive strategy is seen here. Positive passages can be used to start conversations in meetings. You can supply a positive passage and ask the group to analyze the passage and explore how to apply the resulting insights. This guarantees a change in the conventional patterns of discussion and opens the possibility that people will see and act in new ways.

By providing you with positive passages I inviting you to the realm of transformative influence. I am hoping to turn you into a person with the capacity to lift conversations and turn cultures positive.


When in your life did seeing in a new way, lead to new behavior?

How does a positive passage invite people to the reality of possibility?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?