Becoming Bilingual

In yesterday’s blog post I wrote about the contrast between the conventional and the positive mental map. The two maps look like this.


•    Pursue self-interests

•    Minimize personal costs

•    Feel fear

•    Prefer the status quo

•    Stay in their roles

•    Speak in politically correct ways

•    Fail to see opportunities

•    Compete for resources

•    Experience conflict

•    Become alienated

•    Deny feedback and fail to learn

•    Underperform

•    Personally stagnate


•    Embrace the common good

•    Make spontaneous contributions

•    Feel confident

•    Seek growth

•    Overcome constraints

•    Expand their roles

•    Express their authentic voice

•    See and seize new opportunities

•    Build social networks

•    Nurture high-quality connections

•    Embrace feedback

•    Exceed expectations

•    Learn and flourish

Today’s post is about how we can add more “possibility” to our conventional thinking.

Most people try to negotiate organizational life by using the conventional map. A few people have life experiences that expose the limitations of the conventional map. When this occurs they may learn their way into the discovery of the positive mental map. When they internalize the positive mental map they do not discard the conventional mental map. Instead they become bilingual. They begin to speak two languages. An example may be helpful.

Alberto Weisser was the CEO of Bunge, a global food company. In his eleven years as CEO, the company grew by a factor of ten. While he was greatly successful, in his first year as CEO he nearly failed.

He tells of being trained in conventional assumptions of finance and then becoming successful because of his training. His success led to the certainty that the conventional map was the only map for a leader to follow. Yet when he became CEO and things did not go as expected, he was driven by the necessity to discover the positive mental map. Using it led to ten years of extraordinary success.

Reflecting on his development, Alberto made a final point. It was seemingly insignificant and would be easy to ignore. But as we interviewed other CEOs like Alberto we realized that the point is quite important.

Alberto told us that he does not always speak to others the way he was speaking to us. Many of the people he deals with are embedded in the conventional mental model. He has to take that into account and adjust how he communicates. He can do it because he once was where they are now. The once skeptical Alberto can still speak the language of control and constraint, but he can also speak the language of vision and empowerment. He is thus able to invite people who were like he was to become people like he is.

In the process of development, some people become bilingual and acquire the capacity to effectively invite others to create more positive organizational cultures.   One goal of Positive Organization is to accelerate the developmental process. The book is designed to help the reader discover the positive mental map now, and not after a major life crisis.


Am I bilingual?

Are my people bilingual?

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


One thought on “Becoming Bilingual

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