Sunday, October 28, 2007

Change or Die

Most folks who know me, know that I am a voracious reader, and I like to read a lot of different things - history, biography, management books, etc. One of my favorite things to read are Psychology books. I like to think that I am a student of human behavior - although it is mostly perplexing, irrational and confusing. It is still interesting though.

I just finished reading a great book called Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

This is a book where the author studies the major macro problems of our time on a case-study micro basis.

The main case studies of the book are the work of Dr. Dean Ornish with heart patients (macro problem health care), Dr. Mimi Silbert of the Delancey Street Foundation which turns criminals into productive members of society (macro problem prisons, crime, rehabilitation) and the case of the Nummi Automotive plant in Fremont California - a supposedly unmanageable plant taken over and managed by Toyota (macro problem competitiveness, malaise in the economy, supposedly unmotivated American workforce).

He also has some bonus case studies where he studies Gore-Tex company, a Probation Officer in Iowa who uses some different techniques in his work and one called "Changing the Schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)" (macro problem - the education system).

The author's three keys to change are:

1. Relate. You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.

2. Repeat. The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need.

3. Reframe. The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. (Change or Die, pgs 14-15)

The author also weaves in 9 "Psych Concepts" of Change through each of the case studies.

These 9 "Psych Concepts" are:

Frames (how we view the world), Denial and other Psychological Self-defenses, Short-term Wins, The Power of Community and Culture, Acting as if, Recasting a Life's Story, Walk the Walk, The Brain is Plastic, The "Solution" Might Be the Problem (Change or Die, pg xi).

Anyone who is familiar with change scenarios will recognize some of these, others may be new.

As I was reading this book, I read an article on the efficacy of different treatment strategies for PTSD in Iraq war veterans, and how it is believed that a lot of the treatments don't seem to be very effective, especially in the long term. As a country, we own this problem. The people who led us into a war planned for a quick, painless, low casualty war. What they got was a war that had a lot of casualties involving the brain (both physical through TBI - or Traumatic Brain Injury, and not physical, PTSD and other psychological problems).

I think this will be a significant issue in the years to come, especially as we try to make these veterans productive members of society. I believe that there is, somewhere out there, the Dr. Dean Ornish, or a Dr. Mimi Silbert of this particular problem (taking care of these vets). They will be people who are working outside of the "system" and what "works".

When they come along, I only hope that we have the brains to listen to them, instead of saying, "no, that will never work, we've always done it THIS way" (and never mind that THIS way doesn't work at all - it is the SAFE method).

Honorable mention of a recent read is Napoleon's Egypt, Invading the Middle East by Juan Cole. Be prepared to have the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you find some of the parallels of the French experience in Egypt and ours in Iraq (also good is Professor Coles blog

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