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si lutum mundas, lutum eris - Roughly translates to “If you clean dirt, you become the filth.”

To all who wish to eradicate mankind of dysfunction, I say to you Si lutum mundas, Lutum eris! Stop trying to extinguish that which makes us human. Humans build civilizations and empires in large part based on dysfunctional behaviors. We are emotionally impulsive and somatically rational beings of continuous adaptation. No child is born with Bayesian logic circuits, or for that matter given a Monte Carlo simulation dangling above as a cradle toy. And while it is commendable to offer emotional intelligence training, unless you pull out the amygdala, short circuit the ventral medial cortex, and severe parts of the vagus network, you will still have dysfunctional behavior. Nothing to say of the fact you won’t have a functioning human.

This is a series of insights from: Dr. Christopher David Kaufman doctoral researcher in organizational learning science.  Dr. Kaufman is a certified social behavioral investigator, author, patented software developer, Fortune 100 strategist, learning design consultant, and earned his EdD doctorate on a thesis working with VR organizations including the United Nations World Health Organization, while at the esteemed Peabody College of Human Development at Vanderbilt University.

The urgency is that organizations are too focused on eradication of dysfunction, when it should be focused on the disturbing trend of normalization, rationalization, and operationalization of unethical functional behavior and maladaptive criminal behavior. And too often ill-informed experts are trying to categorize low functioning as dysfunctional and dysfunctional behavior as maladaptive. Dysfunction is neither. So let’s set some definitions, of functional behavior, maladaptive behavior, and of dysfunctional behavior.

I am going to define these because we have a crisis where the wrong professionals are prescribing the wrong solutions because they do not have the right tools, robust frameworks, or correctly aligned processes to solve these unique challenges. In fact when we look at the situations within the organization, we find tragic fallacies that must be extinguished. Let’s look at five fallacies that this lack of definitions creates.

Poor performance is a product of poor attitude or poor aptitude.
In reality what you may have is low functioning is attributed to dysfunction. If you don’t have a precise definition of levels of functional behavior, you may rather be missing the solution is incremental engaged training systems. For example, an experienced line worker complains about work. Most who would perceive the problem would consider that the individual has ‘issues’ that are unresolved in their personal life, yet if we understood what functional behavior is, we might look immediately to the tools they were required to use, were never trained on appropriately and the worker found them to be unyielding.

Dissatisfaction has an origin of trauma
Too often we see emotions at the workplace as an obstacle rather than an opportunity. Misdiagnosed, what you have is functional behavior is attributed to maladaptive behavior as a mental disorder, rather than finding ways to align individual needs and goals to organizational objectives. For example, a mid-level manager has bursts of tears going into the bathroom to deal with emotions. Is this triggered by trauma? Or is there a work-life balance which has not been addressed through life-stage planning and project coordination.

Unethical behavior can’t be functional
Pulled straight from the headlines and court rooms organizations can bend, twist, or lower moral standards which then can be operationalized and normalized into acceptable work tasks or habitual norms, rather than developing organizational north stars that require higher development and training of individual‘s moral compass. In a very contemporary fit, finding that your product is both addictive and harmful, but developing procedures and conditions to avoid lawsuits. For examples of this type of behavior see past news on Tobacco and recent news on Opioid producers many of which are publicly traded corporations.

Maladaptive behavior can’t be operationalized
We have seen in recent years very powerful people that build organizations worth millions if not billions in capitalization but that created organizations that aided in their persistent, recurrent, detrimental, non-prevalent, and maladaptive behavior. There again organizations enabled and empowered maladaptive leaders such as Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein to name a few. And we know from court records that these were not lone actors, but utilized organizational resources to continue their aid in their mental health disorders. One can see this type of behavior invading not just business but also social and political organizations as well. And yet without clear guidelines, the precise challenge organizationally may be missed as to why such organizations were enabled to exist to proliferate such maladaptive behaviors in the first place. And then there is the most frequently misdiagnosed organizational challenge, that if a behavior in the organization is labeled dysfunctional, it is by nature counterproductive.

Dysfunctional Behavior must be counter productive.
Once we define these behaviors, we find organizations can harness dysfunction to identify opportunities for growth. Brainstorming, pitch sessions, and creative scrum sessions generally miss the mark if the organization or groups fail to have high levels of trust. Utilizing ‘Test Flights’ with built-in psychological safety measures provides space for individuals or groups to try impulsive ideas and behaviors within safe guidelines.

Am I suggesting dysfunctional behavior is just another word for creativity? No. Despite this fact, there is no question that creative endeavors require chaotic, impulsive driven, risk taking, that is outside the context that would be to others useless. Staring at ballet dancers get you Degas, desolate New Mexico landscape produces O’Keeffe, yet many observe ballet and appreciate desert environs. Or any of a million ways artists, engineers, or inventors act on impulse, breaking from their typical controlled purposeful consistent practice to try something different. Otherwise artists from Pollock, to Picasso, to Dali would not have the renown that they received in changing styles completely. Yet dysfunctional behaviors need not be divergent, novel, nor problem finding. In fact, they can be cliche’ like the examples of sleeping with someone at a wedding or trying to get laughs with well worn gags. “Creativity is a meaningful response to situations that combine the invented problem with the expressive solution, and can be distinguished from both divergent thinking and insight.” (Wakefield, 1987).

So to return to the subject of dysfunction, there are many, many other examples across the weakly defined worlds of toxic, counter productive, or dark triads and tetrads of organizational behaviors where the lack of rigorous definitions forces behavior into sets that are arbitrarily organized on loose parameters. So as to stop this poor diagnosis conundrum, the following definitions are proposed.

First let’s start with there are the five types of functional behavior. High functioning, just functioning (average), low functioning, malfunctioning, and non-functioning, of which each is quite different. If we use a person and a sport as context, we can define these nicely. If you are a runner and can complete a mile in 5 minutes or less, that would be a high functioning runner. If you ran the mile in 10-15 minutes we would say you are a functional runner. If you ran the mile in 20-35 minutes, this should be low functioning. If you took five steps forward, heard a crack, and then lost strength in your left knee and then recovered to straighten your path, that would be a malfunctioning runner. And of course if you took a step and fell down unable to get up, you are a non-functioning runner.

We can go further and state five characteristics that define functional behavior. These are Consistent, Recompensive, Purposeful, Appropriate, and Competent. Let’s move from running to tennis, to define these further. If I practice my forehand stroke responding to low slices, then near net volleys, then over the head lobs, I do so to practice with a controlled variation. I do this to functionally to improve my forearm strokes. Consistent is controlled variations. I put in this practice or effort to gain some kind of proficiency or reward. A balance of effort to reward is recompensive if the amount of work is commiserate with the goal. If I was to think of only needing once in your life practice session, and such once in a lifetime experience would garner me winning a championship, that would not be a functional behavioral outcome. Conversely, if I was to spend years first practicing how to pick up a tennis ball so as to not bend over, that too would not be a functional behavioral outcome to master tennis. The behavior must have a purpose or goal, goals that are large in impact and distal tend to generate better outcomes assuming there is planning to the effort. Yet, essentially if the serving up of a tennis ball does not have a goal of flying over the net and landing in the appropriate side, then the movement, actions and stroke would not be a functional serve.

Now these three are core to functional behavior, consistent, recompensive, and purposeful. There are two more, appropriate and competent. If we continue the tennis analogy, if you came onto the tennis court with a hockey stick, that would not be appropriate. Nor would trying to breakdance before you serve. So process, steps and tools need to fit situationally for the behavior to be appropriate. And finally, if you had watched tennis on TV and read a biography of Ivan Lendel or Venus Williams, or John MacEnroe but never held a tennis racket, you would not be competent. That competence has required knowledge, skills, and attuned abilities to achieve functional levels of tennis. Not to mention the O of KSAO, other certified experiences, such junior league championships, league rankings and etc.. Competence is not static, it is assumed the functional behaviors accrue, so that one through competence goes from low functioning to high functioning, and that process is of course purposeful and recompensive.

Now before I define dysfunction, I am going to describe Maladaptive behaviors. There is much discussion around these types and often dysfunction gets thrown into the mix. This is a horrendous mistake. Therefore, I use maladaptive as both a name and characteristic of the behavior. Classically, what I am defining is a mental health disorder. It may become apparent through outward physiological manifestations and actions, but its output is similar to functional behaviors in that I am concerned with those characteristics that are communicated and perceivable. There are different levels of maladaptive behaviors, which include neuroticism, psychosis, and pathological types. I am not going to restate the DSM or cover the variances of mental health disorders other than to separate it from functional and dysfunctional behaviors.

Therefore, I will define maladaptive behaviors inline as best as the APA and DSM have done so despite published disagreements with the definition of mental disorders by the practioners themselves. Maladaptive behaviors can be defined by five characteristics; persistent, recurrent, detrimental, non-prevalent, and maladaptive. Let’s use another sport to define how these behaviors might manifest, as in long distance running. If the person has only tried to run a long distance such as a marathon consisting of over 26 miles once, that would not be a persistent condition. If we take the behaviors to prepare for a long distance run, we can maybe see more clearly the maladaption and the difficulty that some see with the previous definitions. If a person eats a massively large meal full of fats and simple carbohydrates repeatedly every week for years. This behavior might fulfill the first three characteristics of maladaptive behaviors. Persistent, in that the over-eating has taken place over years, recurrent in that they do this at least every week, and detrimental because the meal is not balanced with high-fiber complex carbs with nuts, fruits and legumes. Yet it is not until we get to the non-prevalent characteristic that we see this is not so much a disorder, as it is a habit of long distance runners to carb-load the night before a long run or race.

Thus, while the core characteristics of mental disorders are persistent, recurrent and harmful behaviors, we must add that there is a community that conducts this behavior of carb-loading for a purpose. Often this purpose has both physiological and emotional supports. We can look at behaviors such as same sex behaviors or even those of indigenous people that across other cultures might be deemed harmful by one culture, yet are norms within that community and would not be within their community maladaptive. And so in turn, we have the maladaptive characteristic, which is what sustains the other four characteristics. For this over-eating before long runs, an adaptation maybe caffeine to speed up bowel movements or hydration rituals. Alone these adaptions may be considered harmful or detrimental, but in the context of the entire community and with these type of goals the science remains conflicted. These five characteristics must be present, otherwise a professional might correct a behavior that ultimately works for the goals of the individual within their community.

This brings us to our final behavioral type, dysfunction. Dysfunction has been mischaracterized for some time. There are various features of dysfunctional behavior that in the last 30 years of neuroscience research and cognitive science as well as behavioral economics that have shown, much of human decision-making behaviors are inherently sub-optimal. And yet despite the overwhelming evidence of the default systems that generate these types of outcomes under various situations and stressors, the science of dysfunction is still in its embryonic stages. Therefore to clear up the confusion, eliminate mis-diagnosis, and insufficient appreciation of dysfunctional behavior, I will define it.

Dysfunctional behavior is behavior that can be categorized with five characteristics. Dysfunctional behavior is stochastic, impulsive, sub-optimal, cognizant, and adaptive. Let’s drill down on each of these characteristics. I use stochastic to mean random or patternless behavior that does not repeat in any discernible frame. Again, I will use another sport, golf to provide examples. If I was to decide to play golf, but either choose random clubs or use a bunch of random tools, a pool cue, a hockey stick, a baseball bat, and a fly swatter this of course would not be functional and if I did it just this once it would not be a mental disorder either per se. Though I believe anyone watching would think I have lost my senses. That patternless behavior is essential to dysfunction. Next, I used these tools because I thought it would be funny, the reasons to be impulsively funny could be various. I am golfing with children with terminal diseases and I wanted them to laugh. Or I could have been surrounded by more experienced players and wanted a built-in handicap for failure to justify a weak performance. Regardless the emotionally laden trigger, the actions were not well thought out. Alternatively I may be a champion player and the terminal kids could be disappointed in not seeing me be serious. Or I could hate my job and want to get fired for embarrassing my boss. In any case, the output will be sub-optimal and I will due to the very random and impulsive nature of the behavior not have appropriate skills or reasoning to understand fully the potential outcomes. An yet I am cognizant of the behavioral risks.

These first three, stochastic, impulsive, and suboptimal are the core characteristics of dysfunctional behavior. Yet, just like functional and maladaptive, the second two characteristics are needed as well. If I bring pool cues, bats, and fly swatters to play golf, I am cognizant of the outcomes being potentially sub-optimal. There is science that suggests when we are overcome with emotions and feelings we narrow our focus on the object of the goal. So cognizant is not necessarily fully observant, but rather affectively abridged awareness. We understand and know that we are doing something impulsive, sub-optimal and random. And lastly and most importantly this behavior is adaptive. We understand that while we risk specific outcomes, we generally will not repeat the behavior as performed precisely. We are cognizant of this prior, during, and post behaviors. In fact, this awareness tends to enable us to learn from it. If we got some laughs, we might add more wacky tools like a drill saw spinning several golf clubs, or if we get no laughs we change back to regular clubs and become less a performer for the kids and more of a coach. Regardless of the outcome, we learn. We learn by being dysfunctional. We learn by taking risks on impulse to possibly get a goal closer to capture even if the behaviors are random, impulsive and sub-optimal.

This provides us with a set of very powerful definitions to separate human behavior. Particularly with organizational behavior. There are hundreds if not thousands of articles that discuss, toxic, counterproductive, unethical and even criminal organizational based behaviors. Yet none of these articles defined if the counterproductive behavior was functional, dysfunctional or maladaptive. Thus, we must as a broad community of behavioral investigators that looks at human behavior must begin to separate once and for all functional, dysfunctional, and maladaptive behaviors. Yet now that we have these definitions, we gain a powerful insight, that people and organizations can move, migrate, slip or slide from one category to another.

Mental Health issues may arise from maladaptive behaviors, that contain systems of dysregulation, which are persistent, recurrent, detrimental and non-prevalent within the context of subjects population, and in which the subject behaviors form a maladaption to situations of which can be categorized as a disorder.

If there is a biological component, it is often a malformation of a subjects underlying component to a dysregulation of another system or a malfunction of that specific component of the subject. Therefore, when describing a mental health disorder, it is important to use the correct language. Systems suffer malfunctions of components and dysregulations from other connected systems. A person who is relatively happy that lives a life full of random, sometimes impulsive often suboptimal outcomes is human. There is nothing to do for the psychologist. The dysfunctional behavior is human. Thus, the shocking conclusion is once these definitions are accepted, the world of the psychologist narrows on the one hand, and becomes exceptionally more precise and effective on the other.

In fact the language of behaviors once defined suggest, that consultants and coaches should handle optimizing functional behaviors and medical doctors and surgeons should be addressing malfunctions and dysregulations. Whereas mental health professionals should be dealing solely with maladaptive behaviors.

Dysfunctional behaviors are random, non-recurrent, may be considered a norm or behavior often occurring within the specific population and in specific situations, and may serve as a satisfice to the subject or individual only in the short-term and yet be beneficial to a group or organization in the long term. Regardless, its semi-cognizant nature provides an opportunity for individual learning and growth as well as growth and learning for the organization.

If a dysfunctional behavior persists over time, repeats or displays a pattern, is harmful and or detrimental in the course of time, and is not prevalent in the subjects population, then it is a mental health issue and as such it should be categorized as a maladaptive disorder.

If on the other hand too often behaviors that are patternless are judged to be mental health issues. Some in the profession of mental health professionals in broadly defining mental illness, reach a precarious position of attempting to regulate societal values. I am referring to westernized societies which are based on the political system of democratically elected constitutional republics of which are utilizing the economic system of capitalistic individuals operating on open markets, no profession should be attempting to prognosticate the terms of free will of human behavior in those societies. That is for such societies something the citizenry must be capable of doing. So as not to perch too high, I will use some down to earth examples.

Eating too much at dinner is an issue for some, it is not when the subject is about to run a marathon in the morning.

Meeting someone you barely know at a bar and going somewhere later to have sex is an issue for some, but if its after a wedding at night, both are single, and both have been attractive to each other from afar, its just another human sexual encounter.

So we can see in each of these examples, if over-eating is persistent, recurrent, detrimental, and not the norm of the subjects population, that is an issue for a mental health professional to aid in. The same terms apply to having a random sexual encounter. Only if the behavior is persistent, recurrent, detrimental, and not within the norm of the subjects population, only then it is the behavior that may aid in the service of a mental health professional. We could see that each of the first three principles could be enough to be satisfied for the addition of a mental disorder, but just as in the case of a marathoner large meals before long distance runs are a norm for this population. As such so to may be a nudist colony that practices polygamy relationships.

It is time for the psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed marriage couple therapists to step back from their perch of controlling and regulating dysfunctional behaviors. There is a reason for this claim, dysfunctional behaviors serve a purpose in our society.

As a scholar practitioner, consultant, with a MBA and a doctoral degree in organizational learning, there is a need to redefine and take back dysfunction and its use of the word from the realm of mental illness. Despite my doctorate in organizations learning, I am not certified to treat mental illness. Yet, if my definition of dysfunction stands, neither are psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health therapists trained to deal with dysfunction and all its manifestations along the realms of individual dysfunction, group dysfunction, and organizational dysfunction. This brings us to the near exception, to the rule.

Before I continue, we always within any neat model or framework, exists an exception to every rule, the industrial / organizational psychologist. As my work, research, and education brushes up against their work, I will suggest again, that while we both look at suboptimal behaviors, their work focuses on recurrent, persistent, and detrimental behavior within the context of the subjects organization. Though, they tend to focus on behaviors that include sub-optimal performance, their work should by the definition already aforementioned be only the worker’s performance. That performance is integrated into groups and the subsequent performance of the organization, and yet should still focus on their core competency at the individual level based solely on the context of the organization. I make this claim here too, to note their work often overlaps precariously into sociology, business management, finance, and human factor systems engineering. I/O psychologists do not require an MBA to understand finance or operations, they do not require a MS or any certificate in computer science to understand systems, they are not required to have a BA in sociology to understand societal frameworks and pressure, nor any background in creative strategy to understand design. At least that is according to their Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists.

Therefore, they too should back away at regulating dysfunctional behaviors of the organization. As such they should focus on individual maladaptive behaviors that can in congregate at subliminal levels produce signs of detrimental performance at the group or organizational level. This therefore is more than enough work to focus on for my honorable brethren of I/O psychology.

Yet I have added a claim here, that they should not aid in the eradication of dysfunctional behaviors at the organizational level. Let’ revisit the definition of dysfunction now at the organizational level. These are behaviors that happen in the congregate which individuals are cognizant of the impulsive, stochastic, adaptive behaviors that result in sub-optimal outcomes. And in fact, based on a treasure trove of research, the majority of individuals at these organizations see this as the norm. Therefore, it is not maladaptive and an illness but rather beyond that of where a highly educated psychologist should go. Because it deals with all the subjects they are not trained for.

Of course, they could get degrees or advanced education in systems science, finance, creative strategy, operations, business management and sociology. I am sure some have. But the reality is, the majority do not. Therefore I humbly request they stick to career management and toxic individual counter productive work behavior training research based on maladaptive behaviors.

If as I suggest, individuals in organizations are dysfunctional, I am suggesting that they know that they behave impulsively, often without a pattern of logic, that the initial output will be suboptimal but that through adaptation will change. If we take this as a category of behavior that sits between the five functional types (high, normal, low, mal, & non) and maladaptive behaviors of (persistent, recurrent, detrimental, & non-prevalent) we have dysfunctional behavior. And I will make the further claim, we need dysfunctional behavior.

Organizations need random, gut instinct, risk taking within a learning curve that is based on non-fatal operational, financial, and managing mistakes to adapt and grow. And the literature on these in various academic sub-domains is as vast as it is deep. And all of it is not in the domain of most psychologists.

– Dr. CD Kaufman

Therefore we need to begin to look at the science of dysfunction more carefully. It is not looking at low-functioning individuals, low or malfunctioning groups or teams, and it is not looking at the high or low functioning organizations. It is looking at the five facets of dysfunction, at each level from individual, to the group, and to the organizational level. The science of dysfunction must look at the causes and effects of impulsive decisions, stochastic behaviors, affectively abridged cognizant forecasting processes, and with known short-term sub-optimal outcomes holistically. This is where a huge valley of incorrectly investigated, crossed contaminated academic domains with unclear objectives that have accumulated from our lack of concrete definitions of dysfunction. This must end. The jingle, the jangle and the pop psychology.

Therefore, the science of dysfunction serves no purpose if we were to break it apart and drill it down vertically. The science of impulsive decision making is varied, deep, and on going with break throughs from behavioral economics to cognitive neuroscience. We do not need to create a new science of low performance behaviors across the spectrum of studies of intelligence, disease, or malfunctioning or dysregulated biological systems. Any more than we need a new science of high performance behaviors. We do not need to regurgitate theories of motivation or perseverance. And we do not need to create a new field to look at sub-optimal business performance. We have volumes from Stanford to Harvard to London business schools to fill libraries worth of sage financial and business advice.

What we do need is to understand why we act as and are aware of our impulsive, patternless, erratic, short-term sub-optimal needy behavior as something that requires it to be eradicated. This is where the work of the scholar practitioner begins in synthesis.


We do not have a science of harnessing emotion for public good.


We do not have a science of scaling impulsive actions with feedback systems to develop greater business value.


We do not have a science of why we continue to pursue human emotional eradication in business decision making.


Nor do we have any science of embodied cognitive business behaviors.

Though a few have flirted with it, we don’t have a science of using the somatic and physiological systems to create a learning organization. We assume that the learning organization will be one that is purely cognitive in its pursuit of acquiring and organizing knowledge. This is what I call the study of movement to emotion that produces business and organizational value. We don’t have this because we assume that dysfunction is to be removed surgically from the carcass of the organization.

And while there are many reasons for this, it begins with the incorrect use of dysfunction. We must embrace this combination of behavioral principles. We can look at the subsystems that support it of course, the theories of affective decision making such as Demasio’s somatic marker theory. Or look at polyvagal theory of behavior that we know from various studies we make decisions that are effected by the interactions of our bodily systems. And that our emotional processing of information and events influences our ability to make performant decisions. We know that impulses arising from our instincts and basic human drives and needs are physiologically based and influence our decision making process. And we know that this decision making can be greatly swayed by these physiological processes. Whether we greet someone holding a warm cup or a cold cup of tea, has been shown to influence our opinion of that person. We have studied the operation of blind justice on judges who decide fates that are statistically altered in severity based on the judges timing of lunch.

This bodily connection is at the core of the first principle of the science of dysfunction. It insures that our behavior will always have an element of impulse. But what really makes this science fascinating is the cognizant nature of the behavior. Dysfunctional behavior is not deeply repressed projections of insecurity, that makes us nervous around say circus clowns or unkept pizza parlors. The cognizance is in the awareness that the behavior is impulsive and sub-optimal. We may not know why we must have those new pair of shoes, despite owning a perfectly decent working pair which are similar. But we do know that spending on shoes with a pair in the closet is sub-optimal. And we do know it’s an impulse. And if we nearly max out our credit card, we adapt and don’t continually buy on impulse. That’s dysfunctional behavior. If of course we continue to buy shoes and things and ruin our credit, lose our home or apartment, then again, we are doing a behavior that is persistent, recurrent, detrimental and non-prevalent to the majority of people who shop, we have a maladaptive disorder and need to seek professional help.

And this example of commerce, brings us to a reason of why we need a science of dysfunction. Our economy runs on it. Our businesses and entrepreneurs are told they must harness their emotions and gut instincts. Yet, we hand them Monte Carlo simulations and ‘six sigma belt’ tightening to assure success in operations. Despite the effectiveness of Monte Carlo simulations, our economy the consumers of nail polish, deodorant, electric vehicles, and homes with 3 car garages run on dysfunction. People buy on impulse that is colored by emotional signals. The wealth of science on impulse buying is as deep as that of statistical reasoning. Yet it is extremely rare that any consumer uses a fault tree analysis to judge whether to buy a pair of shoes much less a new home. They get college degrees with huge loans that train them for careers that statistically do not return the value of the loan and its interest in any timely manner.

Can dysfunctional behavior be optimal or have optimal outcomes? Once the person begins a process of controlled variation of the initial dysfunctional behavior, it leaves dysfunction and enters the domain of functional behavior. The person’s pursuit of the new random behavior, becomes consistent, purposeful, recompensive, appropriate and the develops competences.

But without dysfunction, one is expecting convergent thinking to deliver creative outcomes. And so systems or processes of creativity generally require outbursts, wrong turns, and failures to recover and learn from. Therefore, innovation requires dysfunction. Innovation requires random, impulsive, suboptimal, passionate awareness to learn from. Not for realization or production of the innovation, but for the initiation of it. Because realization is what we referred to as creativity of the problem finding and expressive solutioning. The production of an innovation while it can survive and adapt with some initial dysfunctional spurts, ultimately it must become functionally operationalized to scale. Dysfunction in and of itself inside the organization does not scale well yet. It is fertilizer, and as such you must not clean the dirt and get rid of it, you must place the dirt in a container and plant a seed to see what comes of it on its own.

To further the fertilizer analogy just a bit more, the organization must place the dirt in spaces of sunlight, nourishment, and protection. In fact, the science of dysfunction could be the science of farming emotional impulsive actions to learn from. Rather than trying to extricate emotion from all business decisions, the astute organization would cultivate it for what it is. Not to run all divisions on dysfunctional behavior much less maladaptive, functional behavior has many merits. But solely functional organizations that don’t risk take, that don’t nurture instinctual and emotional understanding of problems will ultimately do an extremely adequate job in their markets and thus experience organizational downward drift. That is to say without harnessing dysfunction the organization will not respond and harness emotion to change and adapt to changing circumstances.

Feelings and Emotions, feelings being the somatic sensations of experiences and emotions being based on affective perspectives of thoughts and beliefs are mechanisms to manifest readiness for survival or procreation. What is missing is the organizational research is to harness and scale dysfunction for organizational transformation. Dysfunctional impulses have been utilized in persuasion since the dawn of advertising. And the scale and breadth of using dysfunction to move products and services into buyers, businesses, and every citizens’ home is what our economy runs on and the science of how emotional and feeling subsystems on buyer intent is deep and expanding. What does not exist is the science of dysfunction for organizational transformation through emotionally impulsive and somatically reasoning actions of continuous adaptation.

We are still at the beginning of this journey. To many it may sound sacrilegious to suggest dysfunctional behavior as a tool for organizational transformation. But can we ignore our emotions? Can we suppress our impulses? Do we only focus on finding and triggering the buyer’s random, impulsive, needs that well thought out reasoning would dissuade them from purchasing our businesses products and services? If we can’t operate our businesses without dysfunctional buyers, then why are we trying to extricate the very nature our businesses run on to disappear in the organization?

And if we want to help our buyers not be dysfunctional, then we would provide tools to judge our product against all alternatives, with consistent matching by all significant features and benefits. And while some businesses do provide some comparison charts, few to none coordinate with their competitors to provide consistent honest purposeful understandings of the value and rewards in comparison of their products. No company in fact works with their competitors to provide real consistent economic and consistent feature-benefit comparisons, feature to feature price point to price point. Every business wants some or all of the decision making process to be based on emotional impulse. This lack of cold hard comparisons are left to third parties to create. And in almost every case the comparisons all have stated caveats that the products are not true equal comparisons.

So our economies run on dysfunction. The huge amounts of money spent on brand, on product narratives, on product placement, on influencers, on jingles, on scents, on color, on taste, on sounds, on beautiful and happy people discovering the fit and feel of their target markets are all to use our functional reasoning abilities to make functional decisions based on consistent, purposeful, recompensively perfectly appropriate, competent decisions? Of course not. These techniques of persuasion are used to activate feelings and emotions to drive the transfer of some need or drive to satisfaction to the purchase of some product or service.

It is in essence to profit off dysfunction.

Therefore, it should not be revolutionary to use those insights, knowledge, and functional behaviors to profit off dysfunction, so as to use on the organization itself. And to lead that effort can we trust the psychologists who confuse dysfunction with maladaptive behaviors? Do we trust the consultants who are untrained in dysfunction and maladaption?

We therefore need to begin the science of organizational dysfunction in earnest. Let’s start that conversation today…

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