Psychology for Business

                                        We are dedicated to bringing out 
                                      the best in you and your employees

Vol.2, No.2                                                                                                                         January 26, 2001


By Dr. John Weaver, Business Psychologist and Independent Consultant

Headline: “More Data Show Slow Economy.” This recent headline from the business section of a local 
newspaper is representative of many news outlets for the past month. Every day there is discussion of the 
economy, are we in a slow down or at the beginning of a recession? Should the fed cut interest rates? Should the government pass a tax cut?

More importantly, what does this news mean for your business?

Many business owners, managers and workers will worry and fret about the economic forecast. As the business 
climate changes they will begin a series of reactive decisions that will leave them a step behind in this rapidly 
shifting environment. Only a few will have the courage to act creatively. Many will see problems for the economy and for their own business. Only a few will grasp that opportunity may be hiding under the surface of this turmoil.

Will you be creative or reactive?

Of course, in a short newsletter article there is not enough room to explore this topic fully, but let me outline 
for you three general principles that are necessary for a creative response: listen – respond – let go. These are 
the qualities that characterize adaptive organizations. They value relationships within the organization, and 
relationships are the source of creativity and adaptability.

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LISTEN: The first step in the creative process is listening. Creative business leaders see and hear what 
ordinary business leaders overlook. When the creative innovation is introduced, the reactive leader responds,
“Why didn’t I think of that?”

Listening is time consuming. It takes time to be a good listener. Often, life is busy about many things. We want 
to listen, but we are already late. Creativity does not run on our time schedules. It requires slowing down and 

Listening is also anxiety provoking. At the start of the creative process, we must be willing to plunge into 
uncertainty. It requires being willing to ask questions without clear answers. In the concrete, bottom-line world 
of business this can be hard, but if we cannot ask new questions we will not get new results.

Listening is, above all, relational. We must listen to our customers. We must listen to our colleagues. We must also listen to our employees. We must learn the very difficult task of listening to those who have different ideas and opinions. We even need the courage to seek out differences to spark new ideas.

Here is one action step you might consider. Every organization has a “troublemaker.” Pick a “troublemaker” 
from your organization and invite him or her to have a conversation with you. Try to listen to his or her point of 
view. Even if you disagree, is there some truth to what he or she says? If you made an attempt to address the 
concerns the “troublemaker” raises, what would change in your organization? What would be positive about that 
change? What would be negative? You have made a step toward thinking in a new way.

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RESPOND: Ideas and insights are plentiful. This article will be one of thousands that will be written about doing business in a slow economy. A creative response requires the willingness to take action.

Responding is proactive. In the initial stages of creativity, we must stop the busy-ness and pay attention. When an idea or an insight occurs, it is time to act. Insight is accompanied by urgency.

Responding involves commitment. It is easy to be paralyzed by fears of being wrong. Not every creative 
response will be successful, but the lack of response is guaranteed failure. It is important to make a decision. It 
is also important to commit to making the decision work.

Responding reverses roles. The role reversal occurs when the relational nature of creativity is understood. 
Real leadership catalyzes the creative thinking of the whole organization. The burden of a creative response is 
not yours to carry alone; it is a shared company-wide responsibility.

Try this: Take out your organizational flow chart. Turn it upside down. The real keys to your success are at the 
top of this reversed pyramid. The real job of the owner-CEO is to supply the managers, who supply the front-line staff with what they need for the job. When the front-line staff is able to do their job, the bottom line grows. Leadership supports the staff in its creative response.

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LET GO: This may be the hardest element in the creative response. Creative responses unfold in 
unpredictable ways. They seem to take on a life of their own, and they can only be guided, not controlled.

Letting go requires trust. You worked hard to create your business, setting up procedures and structures that will move you toward your goals. You have carefully considered those with whom you work and selected them 
to help you reach your goal. Why is it so hard to trust what you have built?

Letting go fosters flexibility. When you are tightly holding on to and controlling your work, it is impossible to be flexible. When you let go you are free to move with the ebbs and flows of the complex environment of the current economy.

Letting go is liberating. It is seemingly paradoxical that creativity involves committing to a response and letting 
go of the outcome. The creative process is a process. Stop to listen. Act with commitment. Let go and let the 
process unfold. Engaging the process allows each to happen in its own time.

To take an active step toward letting go, make a list of the people in your organization that you trust. Remind 
yourself of why you trust them. In your organization, are there others that share these same qualities? Can you 
extend you trust to them? What would change if you did?

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The Chinese character for crisis has a double meaning. It can either represent the equivalent of our word for 
“problem” or it can mean “opportunity.” 

The choice is ours. The economic slowdown can be our problem. It can also be our opportunity to make a 
creative response.

About the Author

John Weaver, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with 22 years’ professional experience working with 
organizations, groups, and individuals. He has experience leading groups and creating teamwork in 
organizations. His areas of expertise include assisting teams and individuals to improve performance under 
stress, assessing employees and potential employees to ensure the right person for the right job, working toward 
conflict resolution, and training in stress management and “stress hardiness” skills for individuals and groups. 
He is an experienced public speaker. 

Based in Waukesha, WI, Dr. John Weaver is available for consultation or coaching by phone, e-mail or in person. He may be reached at (262) 544-9918 (office) or (414) 491-8719 (cell), by e-mail at or: 

John Weaver, Psy.D. 
Psychology for Business 
2717 North Grandview Boulevard, Suite 303
Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53188
Dr. John Weaver has an article published in the November 2000 issue of Executive Update Magazine. It 
is titled, “Surviving Real World Stress.” It addresses the unique challenges faced by work teams under stress. You can view the article in Executive Update magazine. It is the feature article in the print edition.
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