The underlying assumption dictates the paradigm under which you operate.
For instance, most criminal justice systems assume that people are inherently wicked, and that they ought to be punished or incarcerated to ensure that they behave themselves. Based on that paradigm, the police’s duty is merely to maintain order by meting out penalties. It is built to deter bad behaviour rather than to encourage good behaviour.
Ward Clapham from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada, wanted to change that. In the town of Richmond, the police decided to issue positive tickets that rewarded youth for good behaviour. Even simple acts such as a cop spotting a youngster putting trash into the trashcan, or wearing a helmet while skateboarding earned them a small reward – discount coupons at restaurants, a movie ticket and the like. The Richmond police handed out about 40,000 positive tickets a year. The outcome? Among other youth outreach programs, positive tickets had brought down youth-related service calls by 50%.
People rise or fall to the level of whatever others expect of them in what psychologists call the Pygmalion effect. This happens applies not just to police departments, but to the assumptions we make about people as teachers, managers and teammates in every profession built around social interactions.
What are the underlying assumptions of these systems around you?