Work psychology thinks about work on 1,2,3,4,5,6 dimensions

The cloud, work, working and the cloud

For three years now, I’ve been engrossed in the overlap between social media and work psychology.

A  memo published by Techcrunch today purporting to come from Steve Ballmer, head of Microsoft sums up the new opportunities in the cloud wonderfully simply.

Substitute “work” for “cloud” and you have the vision of work psychology.  We don’t only work with the cloud.  We work in the same way though on all dimensions.

  • The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities
  • The cloud  learns and helps you learn, decide and take action
  • The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions
  • The cloud wants smarter devices
  • The cloud drives server advances that drive the cloud

Poets make exactly the same points.  We are shaped by our work and work is shaped by us in turn. Work is good when it actively engages with our imagination, helping it to flourish and in turn being shaped by our curiosity and innovation.

Clearly Ballmer is talking about the artifacts of the virtual world of telephone line, servers and satellites in space.  If imagination is our fifth dimension.  Then the cloud is our 6th.

Work psychologists think about work on all  dimensions: 3D, time, imagination & the cloud.

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Learning about leadership from bankers :)

How do you greet a banker?

I did the two-step shuffle down the aisle of the aircraft, muttering apologies here and there, bobbed and weaved like Muhammed Ali  determined to get to my seat quickly, without being run over by bags-on-wheels, or clouted over the head with duty free wine as someone swings it into an overhead locker.

Blessed relief.  My seat!  Unfold the seat belt.  Move the blanket and pillow.  Plop myself down.  Greet my neighor.  Start chatting civilly.

It turn’s out my neighbor is an ex-banker.  I catch my breath for a moment, feel my pupils dilate slightly, and I burst out laughing.  A test of social skills, perhaps?

How do you greet a banker who helped design the Titanic of the UK economy – the ship that would never sink?

He’s a idiot, he’s a fool, he’s knave  .  .  . do I greet him with contempt, anger or curiosity?  Sell him something perhaps. He’s gullible after all.

Behind my impulse to laugh is a mix of embarrassment (for him) and traces of British irony – can’t fix it so you may as well live with it.

The natural born salesman, on the other hand, approaches life differently.  He understands that everyone should take initiative – all the time, every day, where ever we find ourselves.

These three attitudes correspond to three prominent ways of we talk about leadership.

Heroic

In the heroic idea of leadership, which we often associate with American movies, an individual leader rises to the fore, points to the horizon, and carries us off to our salvation.  It’s deemed hard to do.  That, of course, is just a belief to justify rewarding some people a lot more than others.

We have this idea in British culture too.  In the biography of Winston Churchill, Gathering Storm, it is clear that Winston had strong ideas about saving his country, long before there was any call to do so.

The trouble with heroism is that outside the moment of heroism, we look more than a little batty.

Ironic

The ironic story line of leadership runs a little differently.  It goes like this.  I tried.  It didn’t work out.  What a plonker I turned out to be.  So I will go back to the status quo.  It is not so bad after all.

We come together at the end of the story in a ‘group hug’, where no one wins or loses, and there is no challenge at all to distribution of rewards.  We celebrate the status quo.  Very British, of course.

Irony is funny when it is done well, and often awesome in its execution.   But it is a form of narcissism.  We do so love preening ourselves in the mirror.  It is such a good excuse to do nothing!

Personal

Personal leadership is a new label for understanding leadership in the networked world.  The salesman who promptly sells something to the ex-banker (a new job or a new Caribbean island, perhaps), sees the world as a network where everyone is influencing everyone else in their small way.  Tacky when I talk about a salesman, but very important as the world becomes more networked.

The Hero’s Journey

This genre, with its understated label, is a version of the heroic – where we are each our own hero traveling our own hero’s journey. It’s inspired by author Joseph Campbell, who believed that all good stories have a heroic structure.  We set off on a quest, meet a number of challenges on the way, overcome them, and return home in triumph to a new challenge – how to integrate our new life with the old.

In the cloud

Though this genre is a simple heroic form, and individualistic to boot, it fits neatly into our every increasingly networked world, where each person really does influence the world, and can influence the world.

I imagine Earth from outer space with a blanket of mist around it, cocooned in a mohair mesh of internet messages.  Anyone with an internet has free access to the cloud.  They need skills, but little is stopping them entering, and influencing, that space.

Swirling with others

But, of course, others are doing that too.  At the same time.  So, it is an ever evolving space and requires a new way of thinking.

Life becomes less a matter of right and wrong.  To predict an outcome requires the world to change slowly.  At the minute you believe you are doing the right thing, someone, maybe a ten year old in a rural village in India, does his own thing, and changes conditions and renderes your calculations incorrect.

To play in the new connected world, we have to play.  We have to be ever present. This bothers people who are not used to taking into account what a ten year old is doing in rural India.  It scares the pants off the old guard.

Learning about personal leadership in the cloud

Well, I might be squirming on behalf of the banker sitting next to me.  And maybe he is a fool or knave. But just maybe, he also understands banking sufficiently to see where banking is going.

Maybe, he will straighten out the mess and be our new hero of tomorrow?

Let me ask.

So where is banking going?  Where do you see banks in the future?

[And if he is heading towards his Caribbean island, maybe I can cadge a invitation for a holiday.  Have I lived in England too long?  Well, this will be an interesting flight, anyway.  I always talk to people on planes.]

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And after EQ comes PQ . . .

Jane McGonigal, game designer and games researcher, specializing in pervasive games and alternate reality games.

 

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IQ, EQ and now PQ

PQ is going to be the next big thing in work psychology and management. What competencies do we need for participating, leading and influencing in today’s interconnected world?

Here is a list from Jane McGonigal, the games designer who talks of the engines of happiness. I’ve found links to her work here, here and here.

1 Mobbability

“- the ability to do real-time work in very large groups

– a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously”

Restated: My immediate thought is the ability to mobilize people for anything – a party, a demonstration, etc. This is a little more though. It probably begins with the ability to appreciate the dynamics of a music festival, or the crowd at a big sporting event. A Mexican Wave is one of the simplest forms

My questions: I get the feeling that I am missing something!

2 Ping quotient

“- measures your responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement
– your propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network”

Restated: How quickly do you respond to requests for your attention and participation? Do you plan your communication systems so that you are able to respond? Do you anticipate the types of inquiries you will receive and do you update your communication systems to reflect the inquiries you receive? Do you initiate contacts and broaden your network? How do people find you and how do you find them?

My questions: Where is listening?

3 Collaboration radar

“the ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task”

Restated: When you start a task, do you think about who can and will help you? Do you take an interest in what work other people like to do? Have you some kind of model in your head about how to collaborate with other people and what helps collaboration to be satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

My questions: Is this ability to engender collaboration? Or just detect it?

4 Influency

“- the ability to be persuasive in diverse social contexts and media spaces
– understanding that each work environment and collaboration space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique”

Restated: Are you persuasive and are you persuasive to different audiences and in different settings? Are you interested in persuasion and how other people are persuasive? Are you able to communicate through different channels? Do you understand the nuances of using different channels? Have you an emerging theory of when to use various techniques and why? Do you have some idea of what motivates other people in various settings? Are you curious about their motivation? Are interested in how motivation changes when we take part in groups? Can you predict what will individuals will do next in a social settings and what an entire group or community will do? Can you anticipate what individuals, groups and communities are willing to do?

My questions: The arts are so important, aren’t they?

5 Multicapitalism

“fluency in working with different capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, and financial”

Restated: How much capital do you need for your business to succeed? What do you have now? What do you need to do to

Financial?

Intellectual?

Social? Whuffie?

My questions: What is natural capital? Is social capital tradable? Is the “securitization” of social capital the next political innovation?

6 Protovation

“- fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles
– ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure”

Restated: Do you “have a go” and look for feedback from other people? Do you pick small, cheap, easy ways to experiment with new things that don’t just lead to success but teach you something important when you fail? Do you learn the meaning of errors? Are they useful signals or just sources of distress? Do you celebrate the errors of others (and I don’t mean gloat!) so their experiences are seen as useful and valuable by everyone?

My questions: Has anyone linked protovation to self-efficacy (Bandura) and error-training (Michael Frese)?

7 Open authorship

“creating content for public consumption and modification”

Restated: Do you write, speak, make videos, etc. for other people? Do you expect them to take what you use and change it (mash it)? Do you judge your effectiveness by the extent to which your audience uses and changes your ideas?

My questions: Is this a major aspect of social media? That we expect our ideas to be an input rather than an output or expert opinion? Is expecting a reply rather than approval or disapproval the major behavioral shift of our time?

8 Signal/noise management

“filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from massively multiple streams of data”

Restated: Have you set up your data streams so that you receive information from many, many sources? Have you set up your data streams so that you can detect repetition (without checking our original sources), speculation, rumor? Are you interested in how information is passed around the world on matters that interest you? Do you streams allow you the benefit of serendipty? Have you got people (lots and lots) to consult when you are stuck?

My questions: How much have these skills changed from the checking of provenance taught in universities? How much can we transfer skills from one domain to another?

What have I still got to learn?

9 Longbroading

“thinking in terms of higher level systems, cycles, the big picture”

Restated: Having a “helicopter view” and seeing a problem from different perspectives have long been valued business skills. This seems to go further – to understand a situation in terms of its dynamics

My questions: If I am correct, then we need to see situations in terms of their feedback loops? And is this an important skill that kids learn when they work out different ways of playing a game?

10 Emergensight

“the ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity”

Spot unexpected patterns as they pop up, and be ready to take advantage of them – even when systems scale in size and messiness.

Restated: Do you look of for the way a pattern unfolds? Do you look for changes in speed as well – from the lull before the storm to the tempest that will blow itself out? Do you look for small levers that have huge impacts?

My questions: Is this improvisation? Are we talking about good reaction times, or understanding complex dynamics?

Hat-tip to NLabNetworks and Andrea Saveri of the Institute of the Future who spoke at the recent NLabNetworks meeting at Leicester.

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