Aaron Beck and Strategic Doing

Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) died this week. He had a powerful influence on the development of #strategicdoing. This strategy practice is designed to create a collective, strategic narrative for a network: an existing team or a loosely joined group interested in exploring how they could work together. The narrative that emerges from a #strategicdoingworkshop focuses on the two key questions of strategy: Where are we going? How will we get there? 

We start this process with a Framing Question to create boundaries for a strategic conversation. Scholars have shown that framing — a cognitive discipline that shapes how we make sense of the world — has a powerful emotional influence in how we react to situations. In CBT, Beck showed how skillful questioning can prod us to reframe our sense of the world. As we do, we alter our emotional response. 

Beck’s work began with a deep, reflective practice in the treatment of depression. Through CBT, he taught his patients first to recognize “automatic thoughts” that we immediately impose on a situation to give it meaning. Next, he taught his patients how to question these thoughts and test them against reality. We can alter these thought patterns and, as a result, shift our emotional response to them. 

(The concept of automatic thoughts is similar to Kahneman’s ideas presented in Thinking Fast and Slow. In that book, Kahneman presents us with two modes of thinking. System 1 is automatic and instinctual. System 2 is slower, more reflective, and logical.)

Strategy in networks involves shaping collective cognitions and then testing these cognitions with experiments (what in Strategic Doing we call “Pathfinder Projects”). Through this process, we engage people emotionally. 

The positive emotions of designing a shared future — a process psychologists call “collective prospection” — moves people from thinking into action. As people make commitments and move into doing, they build trust across their network. With growing trust, the productivity of the team grows. They are more willing to share what they know, their hidden assets. 

We have verified these insights much like Beck did: through years of reflective practice. I outlined my 25-year journey developing #strategicdoing in my dissertation. You can download it here: https://lnkd.in/dnxntRr9

To understand the deeper dynamics of #strategicdoing, there’s no better place to start than reading about Beck.