Management And Accounting Web

Ariane David - Non-Positional Thinking

Note by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Change and Risk Management | Decision Theory | Systems Thinking

Non-Positional Thinking is a very interesting concept or technique. It is a form of critical thinking, and seems to be closely related to systems thinking. It is also the type of thinking that is needed for effective change management. The following notes are from a transcript of Ariane's presentation at the In2:In Thinking 2015 conference. For more on non-positional thinking see the links below.

Non-Positional Thinking: Thinking Beyond the Obvious.

Beneath every apparent problem is a condition that fosters the problem, complex and hard to see. Solving only the apparent problem (the symptom) leads to worse problems. The actual problem involves culture and people and how they think about the problem. Discovering what the actual problem is is the most important part of finding the solution! A new way of solving problems. Non-positional Problem Solving.

Uncovering Attitude. What is the goal of solving the problem? Is the goal to solve the real problem or something else? What is my/our attitude? Do I think I know what’s going on? What will we lose if we are wrong? Do we really want to know, or do we have our minds made up? Is there anything that could persuade me I’m wrong? Non-positional Problem Solving.

Finding the Actual Issue. Uncover the layers of the problem. Uncover the symptoms (presenting problem) and explanations. Uncover the thinking. Uncover the system. Uncover the human dynamics. There is no problem that doesn’t have a solution if we are willing to change the way we think about it.

Non-positional Organizational Change Based in the knowledge that: Human thought is fallible: we cannot trust what we think we know. Organizations ARE the people in them. Organizational thinking IS human thinking. If you want to create permanent change you need to transform the people/culture to support it. A different way.

Clearly define where you are now (This is what you figured out about the secret life). Clearly define where you want to be. For each change that you want to introduce, ask What in the culture needs to change? What are the behaviors associated with these? How can we strengthen the things that will help us and minimalize the one that will hinder us? Identify “resistance” Transforming the Secret Life.

All change generates reactions that reinforce sand/ or push back on the change. Reinforcers are called ENABLERS. Things that push back are called RESISTORS. Resistors create resistance. Resistance cannot be managed by bull-dozing it. It can only be handled by understanding what it’s made up of. Reactions to Change News Flash! It is not human nature to resist change or fear the unknown.

Resistance is a natural, inevitable and unavoidable human reaction to disruption. How much of it we have relates to the size of the disruption and the way in which it is being handled. Begins immediately when people become aware of the change. It is neither good nor bad. It can be overt or covert Reactions to Change Perception is reality!

Don’t assume you know what’s going on. Resistance is very rarely what we think it is. Identify specific resistors: people, conditions, fears, motives (think “fruit”). Identify the underlying causes of each of these resistors. Identify specific enablers. Make a Force Field Analysis for resistors and enablers. Find ways of weakening resistors and strengthening enablers. Managing Resistance to Change Non-positionally.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain.


For more of Ariane David’s Non-Positional Thinking see the following:

Thinking about thinking Health-care:

The Tyranny of Knowledge -

Papa’s Glasses -

From the Los Angeles campus of Aerojet Rocketdyne, (AR) located in Canoga Park, California. In our fourth session of 2015, Ariane David, from nearby Woodland Hills, California, will present on Thursday, July 16th, from 11:30-1pm Pacific Time on the topic of "Thinking Together About Positional and Non-Positional Thinking."

For more on Ariane David see Veritas -

Related Summaries:

Abrahamson, E. 2000. Change without pain. Harvard Business Review (July-August): 75-79. (Summary).

Axson, D. A. J. 2011. Scenario planning: Navigating through today's uncertain world. Journal of Accountancy (March): 22-27. (Summary).

Beard, A. 2017. The theory: "If you understand how the brain works, you can reach anyone. A conversation with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. Harvard Business Review (March/April): 60-62. (Summary).

Beer, M. and N. Nohria. 2000. Cracking the code of change. Harvard Business Review (May-June): 133-141. (Summary).

Coutu, D. L. 2002. The anxiety of learning. Harvard Business Review (March): 100-107. (Summary).

Malone, D. and M. Mouritsen. 2014. Change management: Risk, transition, and strategy. Cost Management (May/June): 6-13. (Summary).

Pascale, R., M. Millemann and L. Gioja. 1997. Changing the way we change. Harvard Business Review (November-December): 127-139. (Summary).

Rafii, F. and L. P. Carr. 1997. Why major change programs fail: An integrative analysis. Journal of Cost Management (January/February): 41-45. (Summary).

Reiter, S. A. 1994. Beyond economic man: Lessons for behavioral research in accounting. Behavioral Research in Accounting (6) Supplement: 163-185. (Abstract and Comment). (Summary).