Anton Wilhem Amo – First African thesis in psychology

Vuvuzela Up close and personal by voltageek via FlickrCan you guess the date of the first African thesis in psychology?

I’ll tell you that it is really early – well before Wundt.

Have your written down the date?

Now you can download (from the files below) the Life and Times of Anton Wilhem Amo who wrote the first known thesis in psychology by an African.  It’s a 2 page Word document.

I guarantee you will be surprised.

Managing in Africa: We may have wild animals but we write concisely. We have a to-the-point culture.

Harare International Ariport
Image via Wikipedia

Yes, there are wild animals in Africa and sometimes you meet them

A jet on a domestic commuter flight collided with a squad of warthogs that had found their way onto the runway during the night at Harare International Airport.  The jet hit the pigs just as it screaming down the runway in take off.  The undercarriage was damaged and the plane veered off the runway at speed.  The pilot brought the plane to a safe stop and all 30-40 passengers were evacuated safely though obviously startled.

That’s my summation.  I am following this story because I want to know what happened to the pigs.  It’s called the zeigarnik effect. We always want to know the ending!  No one says what happened to the pigs (or whether anyone has mended the airport fence).  So I keep reading the stories to find out!

Manage for animals and be to-the-point ~ very to-the-point when you work in Africa

While I’ve watched the story I read an extract from a statement from the airlines chief executive.

In exactly five sentences, the CEO summarizes the situation and he does so in logical order.

A template for perfect business writing

I’ve copied the statement below and added a heading before each line.  It’s a case study of a perfect business memo.

Situation : something has happened and we must pay attention

“An Air Zimbabwe MA60 aircraft impacted with warthogs during the take-off roll on November 3, 2009 at approximately 19:36.

Mission : this is why we must pay attention

This resulted in a rejected take-off.

Execution: Specific events in logical order

The aircraft was on the take-off roll and was about to lift off the ground when it hit the five warthogs.

The nose and left main landing gears collapsed after the impact.

The aircraft veered off to the left side of the runway and stopped off the runway with damage on the engine propeller and on the wing tip.”

Missing:

What will happen next and who to contact?

NB:  There is no mention that the passengers got off unharmed because no one is hurt.  We take it for granted that if casualties were not reported, that there is NTR – nothing to report.

I still want to know what happened to the pigs.  I know it is not particularly relevant. It is just the zegarnik effect, I know.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Map of Botswana
Image via Wikipedia

Have you read The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?  Or did you see its premiere on BBC1 last Easter Sunday?

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is that – the first detective agency run by a woman – and its novelty is that this series of detective stories is set in contemporary Botswana.

The star of the series, Patience Ramotswe is a heroine, with a large heart, but she is no superwoman.   She is famously ‘traditionally built’ and has few pretensions.  She runs her detective agency on the basis of one “how to” book, and has no particularly skills.   She dislikes telephones, and drives with her handbrake on.

Jill Scott’s  plays Patience Ramotswe in the BBC series.  Ian Wylie quotes Scott’s description of her character:

“She believes in justice and she loves her country.   . . She’s a real woman who has experienced the loss of a child, being heartbroken with her first marriage, but decided that life is so much better, that there’s so much more than those particular heartaches.”

The series of books are written by Alexander McCall Snith and are available from a library or book shop near you!  Fabulous reading but do read them in order as the lives of the characters unfold.  No 1 Ladies . .  is the first in the series.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A casestudy of good HRM from Africa; and now from UK please

Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

 

Image by Danny McL via Flickr

To keep our heads when those around us are losing theirs

We are living in calamitous times and it is not surprising that people are using strong words.  The essence of the credit crisis seems, for now, while we wait for a thorough post mortem, a bad case of “emperor’s clothes’.   What irony then that we act with scant regard for the technique of our respective professions, or the decorum we expect from people who wield influence.

Using African ‘names in vain’

Yesterday, I was shocked at the language used on Twitter to describe the detention of Corsi in Kenya.  I am not closely acquainted with the case but it seems Corsi arrived in Kenya to promote a book highly critical of Obama, who as you know was born in the USA of a Kenyan father.  Though I am not closely acquainted with the facts of the Corsi case, the accounts seem odd.  A) Would the profit on sales of a book in Kenya even cover the cost of the visit (are any books even on sale there?)  B) Kenya has just recovered from massive and murderous unrest and someone visits to provoke controversy? C) A US citizen arrives on business in a country he does not know well and he hasn’t requested prior assistance from his embassy (or has had his request declined)?

I have no idea which of these is true, if any.  What shocked me was the alacrity with which Tweeters referred to Kenyans as Obama zombies (@SmoothStone) and to the place where Corsi was being questioned as Torture House (@susan_s_smith).  Looking at their home pages, the first tweeter is Republican and the second Democrat.  I suggested to both that they apologise to African tweeters and only @susan_s_smith replied, unless I missed the other.  She was bemused at what might be offensive.

Emperor’s clothes

Returning to the times we live in, there are huge question marks about the way we are managing large powerful companies.  The Economist today summarized an article in Harvard Business Review suggesting managers should be held accountable for the effects of their management, in the same way we hold doctors, lawyers, architects and others to account for their professional competence.  It is time we lifted our game. Not to do so will lead to the equivalent of the credit crunch in other sectors too.

What we can we do

We are all guilty to some extent.  In HRM and related professions, we persist in muddling through and disregarding what we know to be the acceptable standards of our profession.  To link back to the Kenyan theme, follow this link to a newspaper article on HRM happenings in Nairobi.

Note the willingness of the newspaper to call the incompetence.

Note the ability of the newspaper to tutor its readership on what should be done.

Note the coherence and depth of the recommendations.

And above all note the temperate and professional language.

To those that way inclined, please desist from using cheap racist tactics of ‘dis’ing’ someone by invoking stereotypes of African incompetence.

To those of us who care about the professionalism of HRM, let’s move on to use the sound research done by our universities, and run our organizations in ways which we would make us all proud.   The Kenyan newspaper article sets a standard we can meet, should meet, and have no reason not to meet.  It is an excellent example for a university classroom and I have put it into my intranet.

I would like to add British case studies of equal professionalism that model for students

the HRM that we should be

HRM that adds value

and HRM that offers leadership in these distressing times.

If you have a case and you are not a blogger, I’d be most happy to host your article here, and even to write it with you.  If you are a blogger and you have a case, let me know and I will deep link back to you!

Have a winning day!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Why use an atom bomb when a spear will do . . .

BlankMap-World6.svg (which is public domain)

We do not get back what we put in

A long time ago when I was as young and frisky as any Gen Yes, I was furious about the unethical and aggressive behavior of a colleague.  I was fortunate to work in an organization where mentorship was generous.

An older colleague (well, he seemed old to me . . .  he was about 38 at the time!) said to me, why use an atom bomb when a spear will do?  I was young, but I was already wise enough to know that focused behavior has a downside – underestimating side-effects – so thought I didn’t feel like backing off, I did.

The idea of using small, well thought out actions is a corollary of  chaos theory – the idea that a butterfly can flap its wings and set off a perturbation that ripples through the world and causes a  hurricane in London.  The central idea of chaos theory is that

effect is not proportional to the effort!

Sometimes a single small action matters.  Use a spear if you can.  Here is an example.

Through the actions of committed Trade Unionists, a people were saved

Yesterday, I went to bed knowing that the “An Yue Jiang” was anchored off Durban with 3 million rounds of ammunition destined for Zimbabwe.  I was sick to my stomach.

Today, we woke to the news that, despite clearance from the South African cabinet to offload these and other munitions and trans-ship them several thousand kilometers across SA soil to Zimbabwe, SATAWU, the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, have refused to handle them.  Well, we must see how this unfolds.  But I could place a healthy bet that this action has cemented relations between the people of Zimbabwe and South Africa.  God be with you!

This is how communities are made.  Later generations may forget, but those of us who are here never will.

Thank you, brothers!  And thank you from all the people in Zimbabwe.

A big crunch and a big bang

I managed Newtonian physics OK, the stuff you do in high school, but I gave it up before I got to quantum mechanics. I rather suspect that is the same for most psychologists. Around us, our understanding of the world is changing and I wonder whether psychology is keeping up.

Neil Turok, of Cambridge University, won a TED prize this week for his work in mathematical physics and his parallel work setting up the Africa Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town. Neil was born in South Africa and grew up in exile (is that fair) in East Africa and the UK. So I am motivated to ‘have a go’ and see how much I understand of what he has to say and how it relates to us.

The beginning

Most of us have heard of the big bang. But the problem with the big bang is, what happened before the big bang. Where did the big bang come from?

No beginning

The new theory is that big bangs happen cyclically. They come and go like growth and contraction in an economy. And the big bang is the good part, the part where we expand and be different.

Big bangs are preceded by big crunches, the part signally the end of a phase of contraction in the universe.

Our beginning

So how does this affect us? Is a big crunch imminent? Not as far as I know. As I understand it, we are living in phase when things will go on much as we know them, at least in the grand order of things.

But we may think differently perhaps about our own lives.

A cyclical view of the world considers it quite normal to have good stages in life and bad. To have seasons which are not associated simply with good when you are young and bad when your are old. Bad necessarily precedes good and is therefore one and the same thing. If you want to know how new that idea is in the west, try writing it down in your own words and citing movies and books that illustrate the idea.

A cyclical view of the world suggests that there are many possible futures. We know that. But in psychology we have been trained to predict, in a Newtonian way. If we have these conditions at this time, that is NOW, then this will happen in a few minutes, in an hour, or NEXT. We’ve predicated a whole industry on making these predictions, and possibly a second on promising the world we make them a lot better than we do.

That we have many possible futures means that from HERE and NOW, there are many different routes that we can follow to many different places. Yes, says the classically trained psychologist, but to which one and which one is ‘best’.

To exploit the new model, we don’t ask that question. We ask what are the routes we can follow. Lets just write down the possible routes. Let’s just do that task of showing all the possible ways forward.

What does hope have to do with a positive attitude towards error?

Hope is a central concept of positive psychology

I’ve just spotted this brilliantly titled blog on the WordPress Dash and landed on a post about hope, made topical by the man-of-the-hour, Barack Obama. I also believe that hope is key to wellbeing. Without hope, we are so miserable.

As a concept, it is tricky to handle though. In English, hope is often used ironically and so much so, we think of hope as pie in the sky as in “I hope so”.

Hope is seeing the way ahead

Hope is more about seeing the way ahead. And seeing the way ahead depends on your knowledge, both academic and real-world, your ability to bring different bodies of knowledge together, and your knowledge of your own abilities.

Showing the importance of hope in a lab

Two psych experiments are very important.

If I put you in a room with a boring and unpleasant task to do, you will persist longer if I also put a button for you to call me when you have had enough.

I don’t have to connect the button to anything (sigh, psychologists!) because you are never going to use it. Just having it there is enough for you to think you have an ‘out’ that is under your control!

I spotted a post yesterday, but didn’t hang on to the link, about someone who gave up his family wealth and went downtown with 25 bucks in his pocket. In 9 months, he had demonstrated the American dream by building up to an apartment and vehicle. Not to be down on this guy, but he hasn’t really worked his way up. He always knew he could opt out, which is what he did eventually. Working your way up without the opt-ut button is much harder because it is scary.

The morale of the story is keep your contingency fund. Keep your social support. And provide that life line for others too!

You must see the way ahead in our mind’s eye. They must see the way ahead in their mind’s eye.

The second interesting experiment is the famous marshmallow experiment.

We put a little kid in a room with a marshmallow and tell him or her: if that is still there in 15 minutes when I come back, I will give you another one. Kids that wait to get two (delayed gratification) do better in life.

Now let’s try a thought experiment. Say the kid knows I cheat and I am not going to deliver. Or worse, when I come back, I will take the first one away as well. They’d do better to scoff the first marshmallow in an instance.

The world must also work for us and we need to know it works for us.  Hence we plan but don’t overplan. We bring things under our control but leave enough room to adapt to circumstances as they unfold. Michael Frese of Giessen University has shown this with entrepreneurs all over Africa.

The key: be realistic. Hope is not pie in the sky. It is built on a realistic understanding of what we are doing and for most of us, that gives us a very real pleasure.

Hope and the entrepreneur or creative artist

Will your relatives and friends undermine your entrepreneurial efforts, or your dreams to be an artist, or your determination to do something different?

Sure they will. They don’t know what you know.

So you must help them. Give them some time lines. Give them some concrete markers. Don’t expect them to see the world through the same lens as you. Your lens is your knowledge of the situation, your knowledge of the way ahead, and your knowledge of your skills.

That is hope, and it is delicious and self-affirming and encouraging and magnificent and even miraculous.

Learning about hope through movies

To explore hope further, try contrasting these movies:

Shawshank Redemption for knowledge and intricate planning.

Polyanna (is it called Tomorrow?) for optimism and infectious cheerfulness (for those doubting Thomas’)

The Legend of Bagger Vance for accepting social support and trusting to the coherence and timeliness of your ideas

Hope and Mistakes

And what has any of this to do with making mistakes? What will seem like a mistake to others is simply a learning curve to you (at least most of the time).   We are positive about errors when we trust the task, ourselves and the partners in our adventure.

Thanks for the stimulating post. For more ideas on entrepreneurship, go here.