Nov 14

The Pike Syndrome

My good friend Tom Hulme passed me this video called the Pike Syndrome. It’s a short clip that’s a dark commentary on learned helplessness. I won’t spoil the video for you, you should watch it.

The clip is an important reminder of how much our culture and our environment can condition our behavior. In a short time, negative reinforcement de-programs the fish of its basic instincts for survival. (How is that even possible?) I think about this sort of stuff a lot, so it’s nice to have such a powerful story telling tool to convey the point. 

The video focuses on how the fish has lost its ability to hunt, a dark warning that we all should  be wary of ‘becoming a pike’. For me, the bigger warning is to not allow an environment that disempowers people. It’s one of the biggest failures you can make as a leader. Think about it: you spend all this time trying to find great people to work with only to squander all their potential by not creating the right conditions for them to shine.

People naturally look for cues from their environment. As a leader, you should think about their perceptions. Dictate orders and actions, you’ll have a team that is lost without sharp direction. Run a fear campaign, you’ll have a team that is afraid to think for themselves. Provide zero direction, you’ll be lost to distractions. As a leader, you need to be personify the characteristics you need in your team, (I’d suggest starting with being approachable and human). As a team, you need healthy friction; discussion and dialog that make sure the ideas are more important than the egos; Strong opinions, weakly held. Everyone is empowered, everyone is responsible, there’s zero room for helplessness.

Since we have the ability to organize around ideas faster that ever before, we have to extremely careful about the environments we create. We can move so fast, we aren’t afforded too many detours as we create the cultures we work in. In this sense, the Pike Syndrome is the perfect reminder that we can strip people of their most important behaviors if we aren’t careful of the conditions we create.

(BTW, I just wrote this in Desk. It was a pleasure, and I hope it has me writing more.)