IAF Methods

Kenneth Boulding: Image Exercise

by for . Last edit was over 2 years ago
180 + 11 - 25
To begin a discussion about understanding and changing employee behaviour
DRAFT Pending Declined
Submit for approval

Additional info


To develop skill in using the behavior, image, message model of Kenneth Boulding and to experience the possibility of bring intentionality into changing behavior of employees.


You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.




    Number of participants: 11-25

    Time needed: 3 hours

    Pre-Work Required: read the chapter from Boulding's "The Image" (see file IMAGE_long)

    Facilitator personality fit: some understanding of the concept of the image



    1. We want to use the insights of Boulding to look at what it might mean to change behaviour by changing images through the kinds of messages you send as a manager.

    2. Messages have 4 kinds of effect on an image. They can have no effect. They can add to the image, The can cause a revolutionary change in an image. And they can raise doubts or increase certitude in an image.

    3. Something Boulding did not mention in his paper is that there are two kinds of messages. Direct message say in clear terms what the message is. "You need to take more responsibility for new ideas." Indirect messages are often more effective. When a person is reluctant to take more responsibility an indirect message might be, "Could you suggest some ideas about the project?" This implies responsibility.


    1. We want to do an exercise. This exercise is to develop some skills in helping workers becoming more effective in their work.

    2. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into 4 columns. Label the columns as follows: the first, Behavior; the second, Image; the third, Direct Messages; and the forth, Indirect Messages.

    3. Let me give you an example of what I want you to do:

    Behavior - Late for meetings

    Image - Worker;s image: My participation is not really wanted. (remember this is always a guess)

    Direct Message - Outside the meeting telling the person that his/her participation is important.

    Indirect Message - Ask the person to give a report at the meeting or to run some part of it.

    4. Let us do this together one time.

    - What is one kind of behaviors that you find unhelpful among your workers?

    - What is an image that would have a person doing that kind of behavior?

    - What is a direct message to deal with this image?

    - What is an indirect message to deal with this image?

    5. I want to divide you into teams of 3 persons each. Each team is to think of two examples of unhelpful behavior that you would like to change. For each kind of behavior I want two possible images (this makes four images for each team) that would explain why a person is behaving that way. For each image I would like two direct messages (8 in total) and two indirect messages (also 8 in total) that would change that image. Put your results on a flip chart.

    6. You have 30 minutes to complete the assignment and come back here.

    7. Have the first group report their findings.

    - (You want to push for clarity if the relationships between the behavior, image and messages are not clear.)

    8. Have each of the teams report.

    9. What was easy in doing this exercise?

    10. What was difficult?

    11. If you had to explain to your boss what you did this session, what would you say?

    12. Team Reflection

    - What were some of the things you did when you first met as a team?

    - How did you make decisions?

    - How did you settle differences?

    - Why is it helpful to work as a team?


    The idea of the image is an important model for a manager who is interested in developing the capacity of his or her employees, dealing with ineffective behavior and for dealing with resistance to change.

    See File (THE_IMAGE_long) for more detail


    Follow-Up Required: If it is used as a planning session then an evaluation of the difference the plan made is important.

    Usual or Expected Outcomes: initial plans for changing employee behaviours

    Potential pitfalls: Participants not understanding the indirect route being taken in the method


    Source: Jon and Maureen Jenkins

    Derived from: Kenneth Boulding's concept of the Image from his book "The Image" (see footnote in attached file) and the work the Institute of Cultural Affairs has done with images and image change.

    Comments (1) ( 5.0  avg / 1 ratings)

    Please Log in or Register for FREE SessionLab account to be able to comment or rate.
    • Using this model can profoundly increase understanding of the roots of behaviour. It is very helpful for the facilitator to really understand Boulding's theory in order to lead the group: the procedures are clear and not difficult.

      over 3 years ago