Pastor, teacher explains to Rotary the difficulties in change

May 5, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Getting business people and others to “think outside the box” is difficult because they each create their own boxes, the Rev. Doug Pierce said.

Pierce gave Rotarians and their guests a business-themed presentation at a luncheon April 24 at First Baptist Church of Cokato. Rotary members invited their co-workers to the event, which also celebrated Administrative Professionals Day.

Pierce is not only pastor of Lamson Evangelical Free Church of Dassel, but also teaches communication at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.

The “box” referred to in the statement “think outside the box,” is our viewpoint shaped by our experiences. Most of the box we choose for ourselves, Pierce said.

The “box” also is shaped by our parents. Parents help create an image in the mind of what a family is, he said.

In addition, school experiences shape our “boxes” in how we live in a community. Pierce illustrated this to his students at Ridgewater by asking the class to line up by height, an arbitrary and meaningless way to line up. The students were so conditioned to obey the teacher’s authority, they not only lined up by height, but also did not ask, “why by height,” he said.

Likewise in business, much of the box is determined by how our chosen profession operates. Our boss also gets to design a lot of the “box,” but we get to decorate it, much the same way employees decorate their own cubicles, Pierce said.

When Pierce came to the Lamson church, he brought with him “decorations” or images of other churches he had attended, he said.

Why is it so difficult to “think outside the box?” Pierce asked.

“You’ve made it, you love it or at least are comfortable with it,” Pierce answered.

People have a built-in resentment to change. He told how communities in Pennsylvania had steel mills where their grandparents and parents worked their entire lives. After the steel mills closed, instead of moving away or changing employment, people stayed in those towns and waited for the mills to reopen, Pierce said.

Also, people are surrounded by others who don’t want change, either. When Pierce led a support group in weight reduction, the spouses of the patients considering weight loss surgery had the most objections to it, he said.

Finally, there are four barriers people erect to keep them from “thinking outside the box,” Pierce said.

• Selective exposure. People choose to go where people think the same way.

• Selective attention. People listen for what they already agree with.

• Selective distortion. People twist what they hear to fit their view of the world, attributing ulterior motives, for example, to someone’s positive action.

• Selective retention. People remember only what makes them feel good about themselves.

Pierce concluded that it is easier for people to stay with what they know, than it is to risk what may be in the future. People will always be in “boxes,” but the boxes can be changed to “better boxes,” he added.

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