Cognitive Dissonance & IT

Cognitive Dissonance has been defined on Wikipedia as an “uncomfortable tension caused by holding contradictory thoughts simultaneously“. A similar definition is found on, among many other websites.

Ever found yourself  ‘afflicted’ with cognitive dissonance?  Sure you have.

Do you speed during your commute to work?  Intellecutally, you know its wrong but you do it any way.

Do you smoke?  Again…intellectually you know its bad for your health but you continue to smoke.

What about your use of social media?  Sure you understand (and believe) that social media is a place to build relationships with your clients / customers, yet you still approach social outlets with your old ‘pitch and blast’ methods of talking at your clients instead of talking with them.

Cognitive Dissonance results when an individual (or organization) has to choose between attitudes and behaviors that are contradictory.

This occurs daily in the world of IT doesn’t it?

Think about it…your Marketing and Communications team need to live in the social media space these days yet many IT teams have disabled access to all social networks because of ‘productivity’ issues.  This approach creates cognitive dissonance in a big way…it forces the marketing team to have to choose between following IT standards or breaking those standards and using these platforms.

Another example – The IT group forces users to use the IT helpdesk for any service requests.  Except for when its ‘really’ important or if the requester is someone ‘important’.  So….what do people do?  Do they call the helpdesk and wait for 2 days to get their minor computer issue working or do they make the issue more important than it is?  Or do they escalate to their boss (who escaltes to her boss, etc) and get IT to fix the issue now?  This happens every day in every organization and it happens because its allowed to.  It happens because the IT group has allowed the ‘important’ people to have their issues addressed differently than the ‘regular’ folks.

This mentality creates dissonance…everyone knows they should follow the procedure but they also know it will take too long so they call their buddy to get the problem solved.  I’ve done it. You’ve done it..everyone does it.

What can IT do?  Remove the contradictions. Remove the exceptions.  Everyone goes through the same process.

Removing Cognitive Dissonance

To get rid of Cognitive Dissonance, you’ve got to make sure you aren’t confusing your customers with options that are contradictory.

You’ve got to remove contradiction from your processes to make them mirror the reality of business today. That’s a tall order for most organizations…but its a necessary one.

Make it easy for yourself and the organization to make decisions…take the contradictions away as soon as you can.

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