Sigmund Freud and Enterprise Architecture
“Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind.”
Freud is probably one of the best known and most influential psychiatrists of all time.
What are some of Freud’s major contributions to understanding human behavior?
- Unconscious mind—Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud made to Western thought was his argument for the existence of an unconscious mind…he proposed that awareness existed in layers and that some thoughts occurred “below the surface.
- Id, Ego, and Superego—Sigmund Freud’s “structural theory” introduced new terms to describe the division between the conscious and unconscious: ‘id,’ ‘ego,’ and ‘super-ego.’ The “id” (fully unconscious) contains the drives and those things repressed by consciousness—it is dominated by the pleasure principle; the “ego” (mostly conscious) deals with external reality—its task is to find a balance between primitive drives, morals, and reality; and the “super ego” (partly conscious) is the conscience or the internal moral judge.
- Psychoanalysis—Freud is the father of psychoanalysis (free association), is which the analyst upon hearing the thoughts of the patient, formulates and then explains the unconscious bases for the patient’s symptoms and character problems. Through the analysis of resistance (unconscious barriers to treatment often referred to as defense mechanisms) and transference unto the analyst, expectations, wishes and emotions, from prior unresolved conflicts is often unearthed, and can be quite helpful to the patient. (Adapted from Wikipedia)
How can Freud’s contributions help us be better enterprise architects?
- Developing a deeper understanding of stakeholders—Understanding that leaders, subject matter experts, end-users, and other stakeholders don’t always communicate what’s on their mind or even know fully what’s on their mind (because some of it is in the unconscious), can help us as architects to dig longer and deeper to work with, question, and seek to understand our stakeholders and their requirements. Very often open-ended questions (or free association) works best to let user get to what they truly want to communicate, while at other times closed-ended type questions may get more quickly to the facts that are needed.
- Not everything the users want is for the ultimate good of the organization—While most users have the very best intentions at heart, there is a component in all of us called the id, that are unconscious desires driven by the pleasure principle. “The id is the primal, or beast-like, part of the brain…the prime motive of the id is self-survival, pursuing whatever necessary to accomplish that goal.” The id can drive some users to pursue “requirements” that are good for their own selves, careers, ego, or training goals, but may not be ‘right’ for the enterprise. For example, some users may want to purchase a technology that “they know” (or are familiar with) or that will make their functions or departments more important or powerful in the organization, or to show “what they can do”. While this is not the rule, I think we can all probably relate experiences at work to this. (Thank G-d for Investment Review Board and EA Boards to catch some of these and put them back in their boxes.)
- People are resistant to change and have all sorts of defense mechansims that can impede progress—“When anxiety [between the selfish id and moral superego] becomes too overwhelming it is then the place of the ego to employ defense mechanisms to protect the individual” However, while mechanisms such as denial, repression, rationalization, and so on can help protect the person, they often hinder progress at the organizational-level. Just because a person can’t get what they want (technology toys, resources, turf, prestige…), they “act out” to protect their own self interest and thereby also impede the organization. As architects, we are not psychoanalysts nor psychiatrists, so we can not resolve people’s underlying internal battles or unfilled desires. But what we can do is recognize and call attention to these mechanisms and their impact, and work to focus the architecture on the good of the organization versus the good of any particular stakeholder.