“Do you admire men of principle?

That would depend, I suppose, upon what set of principles you’re speaking of.”

Well. Don’t you find that principles inject an almost moribund inflexibility in the people who subscribe to them?”

The Hollow Men


I am not certain if this is a passive/aggressive thought on culture in business or simply a general thought on some of the more delusional thinking applied to business.


Read on.

As much as we attempt to be noble in our value statements and how we decry <insert whatever is bad about business here> and even when we attempt to be idealistic, inevitably it ends up looking like some version of a commune wherein people seemingly share in everything, yet, there are a few subverting the real desires of the many. These attempts attract a wide variety of people, but the problems arise because everything is based on “the delusional context.” Remember. A delusion is a firm, unshakeable belief in something that has no basis in reality. It is a mindset in which rational counterarguments are ineffective because there is no actual logic in the context, just some nice sounding platitudes.

In my least cynical mode, I bring this up because within the delusional context self-regulation is, well, regulation of something that has no basis in reality.

At my next level of cynicism, it is some leadership rationalization to control behaviors.

At my most cynical I would believe the delusional context is specifically constructed by a select few to sow, and create, the seductive illusion of a healthy environment of the many.

Basically, all of this cynicism suggests this is what I call heuristic design. What I mean by that is nice sounding simplistic platitudes offer the heuristics people can crowd around. From that, well, crowds are crowds. But then I find an even higher level of cynicism where I begin thinking the heuristics are used to control networks or nested systems within the organizational system. What I mean by that in the current business world 95+% of business leadership people have a sense that the basic command and control hierarchy is flawed and that organizations are some version of networked connections <some controlled in departments and some not>. As a consequence, and their feeling of loss of control, yet, desire to show some grander cohesiveness, they start plucking heuristics from a “purpose-like” deck of cards and do some ‘crowd control.’ Control, in this case, isn’t from some set of rules or even something distinctly defined, it just creates a comfortable story for the crowd to tell <each other and strangers>.

Control, in this case, is offered at arm’s length from reality so that it doesn’t take on the inevitable liabilities found in its hollow story. The delusional context is so broad that everyone, high and low, cannot reasonably avoid participating in the illusion even as the illusion creates a reality which is insanely destructive. Within most delusional contexts in business today there is incredible wealth laden within the system and, yet, economic problems abound within the organization. And this where delusional contexts get really insidious (unhealthy). Despite the supposed openness of these constructed ‘contexts’ the differentials – economic and power – between the participants remain stark, yet, many of the participants don’t notice the differentials or justify them through the delusional belief they were actually participating in self-regulation. I imagine my real point is that ordinary people within the delusional context never really gain access to the real context to make the best decisions yet have an illusionary sense of participation. Within this delusional context everyone pretends there is a debate of ideas when in fact the truly actionable ideas reside in the purview of the few.

Oh, and all the while, externally, a ‘culture’ of success is seen. Therein lies the grandest delusion – the public belief that reality matches the illusion. It’s a doom loop of delusional thinking with real world repercussions. People get fooled and business foolishly moves on.


“Management is about the interaction of human beings – of individual people. Whatever functions and expertise that enlarge its skills, management remains a human and social process.”

Sir Peter Parker


Which leads me to circle back to the ‘commune’ thought.

This type of thinking is flattening and ‘approximately’ moral and ethical, or ethical fading, because it all lacks specifics <despite some pretty posters and maybe a nifty speech or two and an overall advocacy for total sharing>. The delusional context permits everyone to wander the hallways thinking they are part of something special and all the while individual behavior is more often than not less-than-special. On a grander business scale, a ‘heuristic’ design doesn’t actually build a healthy business ideology let alone business acumen, yet, it can certainly enhance the descent. Heck. It doesn’t even offer the lily pads of ‘ethical certainty’ or maybe just some touchstones of behavior, all it does is create an illusion of ‘good’ even though day-to-day bad increases the gap between the haves and have-nots WITHIN a business.

I wrote this today because, to me, it seems like we embraced delusional contexts for fear of simply stating what we want and what we expect.

What do I mean by that? The heck with values or Purposes or, well, I don’t care, just create a no bullshit behavioral context, i.e., “we will do this.”

If we can’t do the right thing, we will do the least bad next option.

We will lose and make mistakes, do so with dignity.

Learn everything you can, all the time.

If it feels not ethical, it isn’t, and don’t do it.

Laws and rules are not meant to make decisions, if they do, you are making the wrong decision.

Accounting/finance is a strategic partner, work with them as one.

We will sacrifice some growth if growth means compromising our future belief in ourselves.

Do not balance ethical responsibility with profitability, they are not equal in value, or values, or what should be valued.

Stuff like that.


I almost added “speak the truth”, but even that feeds into a delusional context with its lack of specificity. What I mean by that is if you truly want a behavioral ‘truth statement’ it should most likely be something like:

“Tell the truth as you know it, but, be prepared to revise your truth if someone shares new learning” <your truth is dependent upon what you know therefore truth is actually dependent upon the most information knowledge available>.

My real point is to create a behavioral context so no one is delusional and there is no ‘illusion of’ anything, just reality of what one does day in and day out. I am fully aware this belief goes counter to mindset establishes behavior. My belief is that more often than we like to admit, behavior establishes mindsets – especially in business. The trick is to tell people what to do without treating them like machines, hence, the way I articulated my behavioral construct. Its more principled behavior rather than just behavior, or, principles.


“Order exists because a system of beliefs and sentiments held by members of a society sets limits to what those members can do.”

James Q. Wilson wrote in The Moral Sense



Business, it seems to me, gets more and more delusional about what it is supposed to be and what it is supposed to do, which is bleeding into some fairly delusional organizational design and ‘organizational speak.’ This is running parallel to an increased emphasis on measuring, well, everything. And I imagine that is my delusional context point. If the context is delusional, and an illusion, yet, the day-to-day emphasis is a sledgehammer focus on tangible measurement, business gets the best of nothing and only the worst of most and flattens any real value creation. Yeah. That doesn’t sound good. But delusional is never good.

Written by Bruce