In eight years, or 192 hours, Agent Jack Bauer has responded to eight terrorist attacks. Now that he has entered retirement, Agent Bauer is looking for a little supplemental income and is starting a consulting business.
(Note: for those not familiar with the series “24,” please binge watch it on your favorite video streaming service).
Most of our organizations may not have a need for a consultant that can shoot well or get answers using pain compliance. However, Jack can teach us three things he has learned about terrorists that can help us understand how and why the people in our own organizations behave a certain way or make decisions.
First, terrorists join terrorist groups because they want to join a distinct group of people that share their common interests and have a purpose they believe.
Second, terrorists behave in a way that they believe they should based on the beliefs of the group. This means they will base their behavior on in-group norms, prototypical behavior based on a model member of the group (even if this model is not a real person), and how they expect their behavior to be judged by other group members and out-groups.
Third, where we view a terrorist act as grotesque and irrational, the terrorist and their in-group sees it as a rational and expected behavior. Values and emotions are what drive their behavior. Although we may not agree with their values, we have a better chance of understanding and countering extremism if we have tools that help us understand what they do, what they say, and what they write.
What Jack can teach us is the social identity approach to understanding human behavior. In general, people are social animals. We want to belong to groups, we want the groups we identify with to provide us with purpose and self-esteem, and we use the groups we identify with to guide our behavior.
So, here are the takeaways to help us when we are dealing with human behavior in our organizations:
People are social animals.
People want to belong.
People understand the context of the world around them based on the groups they identify with.
People behave based on what they perceive is expected behave of group members.
People belong to many different groups. This means they have many identities that drive their behavior.
The identity that is important to them given the context of the situation is what will determine their behavior at that time.