Logical Levels of Thinking & Change

Purpose: A model to help you decide at what level (or levels) a particular intervention has to be pitched for it to be sustainable over time

This model recognises the effect that different environments and contexts have on behaviour.  It also demonstrates the fact that while the upper levels will influence the deeper levels, the lower levels will ultimately dominate the upper, more surface, ones.

Logical Levels Image..jpgAlternatively:Logical Levels DiagramIf you want to encourage or influence a change of behaviour (in yourself or others), but encounter some resistance, it is first important to understand what is driving the situation.  For example, consider the apparently simple statement “I can’t do that here”.  Depending on where the emphasis is placed in the sentence as it is spoken…

             I can’t do that here” (Identity)     or     “I can’t do that here” (Behaviour)

… the underlying cause of the resistance may be quite different.

By recognising the level of thinking at which a problem or opportunity exists you can then decide how to intervene, to increase the chances of any change you make being sustainable over time. This model encourages you to look behind the obvious presenting issues and to identify what is really driving a particular situation or action. As Albert Einstein suggested:

“You do not solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking

that got you into the problem in the first place”

Some examples to illustrate how easily the various levels can be identified in everyday situations:

  • Someone who had unsuccessfully tried to learn the German language (Behaviour) several times over the years was reasonably competent in French and Spanish (more Behaviour). This meant that he had a basic predisposition to learn other languages (Competence level). Despite this he was still unable to become confident or competent in German. When he considered the beliefs and values he had attached to the different languages he realised that he thought of both French and Spanish as being musical, beautiful and sexy languages. When he thought about German he considered it brash and discordant. It was then evident that he would have to revise his beliefs before he would be able to learn the required new language. (A shift at the Beliefs level therefore making the change possible).
  • A team were experiencing lack of motivation and an increase in cynicism      (Beliefs and Values level) even though they had been successful over a considerable period of time (Behaviour).  New performance measures were introduced (Behaviour and Competency levels) and were accepted by all concerned as being a good idea (Beliefs level). The situation continued to deteriorate however until the leader of the group began to consider the issue of the group’s sense of purpose and mission (Identity level). This led to discussions about respect and lack of trust (Beliefs/Values) which had arisen due to increasing pressure. The group re-established its sense of shared purpose and the role it plays in larger society (Identity and Systems levels). The situation began to improve from that moment on.
  • A  spotlight over your desk goes out (Environment) making reading somewhat difficult (Behaviour). A simple act of changing the bulb is normally sufficient to correct the situation.  If this had not succeeded – a fuse having blown for example – you might have to move to a higher level (Competency) by calling in an electrician before the situation is resolved.

This example described below also includes the benefit of deliberately taking different perspectives on the same presenting issue (stepping into their shoes) as another way of getting some breakthrough in your thinking.

  • A  manager was concerned that one particular member of staff was making a repeated error each month in the reporting process. The first step had been to draw the person’s attention to the issue and it was agreed that particular attention would be paid to it. Unfortunately the issue arose again. Another conversation took place, some retraining about the reporting system was done and further follow-ups were established. It soon became apparent that the same error was occurring again and she decided to experiment with the notion of stepping into the other person’s world (to really understand how something that looks odd from the outside actually makes sense to the individual themselves) before talking with the them again. After doing this, she realised that the issue was more closely associated with a loss of self respect after an apparently unrelated change to the team member’s role some months earlier which had taken them out of direct contact with other team members. It was then possible to address this situation fairly easily at the level of Identity (dominating the levels of Competencies and Behaviours).

(Note: this last example is taken further at the bottom of the Perceptual Positions page)

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