using ritual to switch culture models or identities

What rituals are most useful to you?

This time I want to talk about how simple rituals help us switch modes between different mental models or identities. Rituals can help us to overcome inertia and be deliberate about what models/identities we are choosing to use.

Ritual is a word that has some baggage, it feels heavy and artificial. However rituals can be simple and lightweight and easy, we use them more than you might realize.

Consider some examples of lightweight rituals

  • A judge donning robes before entering a courtrooom.
  • A surgeon scrubbing up before a surgery in the same way every time.
  • A painter using a certain pencil and notebook for sketches.
  • Mr. Rogers changing into tennis shoes and sweater at the beginning of every episode.
  • A board meeting reviewing old business before considering new business.
  • A bank teller giving candy to a child on each visit to the bank.
  • A coffee afficionado making pourover coffee in a specific way on days off from work.
  • A team taking turns to recount a positive event from the prior week at the beginning of the weekly status meeting.

One neat example of a more involved ritual is the Ritual Dissent method for facilitating both dissent and assent of proposals and ideas. In this method an idea is presented to a group, who recieves the idea in silence. The presenter then turns their chair so their back is facing the group, and listens in silence as the group disagrees or supports the proposal. Both the group setting and the turning away from the group are little rituals that switch the way the group is interacting and the mental model that is being used to process the feedback.

If you want to go very deep in exploring the history and modern significance of ritual in human experience, Sarah Perry has beautiful work exploring ritual in depth.

I’d love to know what rituals are helpful for you. Hit reply and let me know!

Next time I’ll introduce a mental model for security culture in organizations.

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