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Tag: futurology

Psychologists: Eyes and Ears To Spot Opportunties

Time is never wasted in reconnaissance

An old military friend of mine said: “Time is never wasted in reconnaissance.” It surely isn’t, though in ordinary life the word has unpleasant connotations. We don’t want to spy on people.  Nor do we want to get into the habit of thinking we can know what the future holds. When we think we know what will happen, we stop paying attention.

But whether we are going to party or to a war, it is useful prepare. It is very helpful to know what questions to ask about a place. It is useful to learn what we can to free up time to pay attention to more important things. Most of all, it is useful to learn about other people’s intent.

My mission is to understand the world they are trying to create

If I creep up to the crest of the brow to spy on my enemy, I want to know how many there are and how they are armed.

I also want to know what they are going to do, or rather try to do.

My mission is to understand the future that they are trying to create!

After all, I might prefer that future to one that I am going to make myself!  Sitting and watching them might be a very good choice for me!

Our mission is always to understand other people’s intent.  That’s why you hire psychologists!

What can psychologists do that you can’t do?

We often claim to be able to read intent with some magic tests and potions!  What we are good at is reading the other person’s intent and not confusing it with yours.

  • We are more accurate, just because we are less involved in the situation.
  • We also like reading intent. We are happy to do it all day long. We don’t get bored and impatient with people who are unclear about what they are going to do. And many people fit that category. They really have no idea what they will do in the morning. We’ll wait and watch and tell you when they have made up their minds.
  • Because this is our job, we will be mindful of ethics. There is spying and spying. And when you go too far in your spying, we’ll tell you to stop. We’ll tell you when you really have no right to information. We’ll tell you when it’s best that you don’t know because knowing will damage the give-and-take that is essential to forming a good relationship with other people. We’ll tell you when it is easy for the other person to fool you and when you should look away, lest you fall for the scam.
  • We will also teach you. What are the right questions to be asking? What can be asked and answered? If you are looking for conflict, what is the potential for negotiation? If you thought you have to divide the spoils, could you not multiple the spoils?  We ask what might happen to intent on both sides when you understand each other.

Intent is organic ~ it responds to understanding

Intent is not fixed. Intent morphs as action unfolds and people perceive or misperceive what is going on. Our job is to help you understand the dynamics of intent.  How can  we influence a situation to avoid worst case scenarios and improve the possibilities for surprising and delightful outcomes? We can’t make anyone else do what we want.

But we can look at the world through their eyes and let them see the world through our eyes. 

Together we might see a world that neither of us has seen before

That’s what psychologists do

  • They lend you eyes and ears to help you sense the unfolding of intent.
  • They show you ways of displaying the world so that you see more of it and others see what you see.
  • And they help capture incipient mutual intent so that we can do better things together.

Let me give you an example of psychologists at work

Let’s imagine that we are hiring engineers from around the world. We ask them to do the Myers-Briggs online. They may even know their Myers-Briggs profile by heart.

We find an engineer who has the skills and know-how that we want and to our surprise, he is an ISFJ.  We could say that is very un-engineer like, or we could engage defensively.  We can ask, for example, whether they will not get bored buy the “feelingless” nature of our business.  Or we can sense opportunity.

Our eyes might light up at the idea of someone who has the high level skills we need and who is helpful, supportive and pleasant. Together we might be able to re-jig the structure of jobs to give them a central supportive coordinating role which we’ve never made before because we thought we couldn’t fill it.

What has the psychologist contributed here?

1.  We knew what questions could be asked and answered in an economical way.

2.  We profiled intent.

3.  We respected and privileged the ethics of information about other people. We let them see what we did with the information about them and we let them influence what we did with it.

4.  In the process, we broadened our repertoire of intent. We found new things that we hadn’t known we could do or which had been too improbable to plan for.

5.  We saved you time, confusion and missed opportunities.

That’s what psychologists do. We lend you eyes and ears to spot mutual intent that you may miss.


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Are you presentologist or a futurologist?

Presentology or futurology?  Which is your pick?

I think most of us think that it is good to defer gratification. Well we know it is.  We all know by now the story of the kids given a marshmallow and told they will get another if they leave it untouched until the experimenter gets back. The 30% of kids who resist the urge to wolf down the marshmallow do better in life.

So it is better to be a futurologist?  Not so?

But what is the future?

Our fascination with the future rests in a great part on a fallacy of prediction.

Since mankind has kept records we have been pretty keen on consulting oracles, reading the tea leaves, listening to the weather reports ~ anything to allow us to know what will happen and to be on the right side of history.

We desperately want to know and we desperately want the world to be as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning.

Some predictability is good

I see nothing wrong with that.  Personally, I like my keys to be where I left them.  And I quite like it if my black dog doesn’t lie in a dark passage way for me to trip over him.

Here in lies the important point.  It is not forecasting the future that is important.  It is understanding how the world works that is important.

If there is no one else in the house it would be jolly strange if my keys moved from where I put them.  If there is anyone else in the house, even a black dog who likes keys, some dogs do, then my keys might not be where I left them.  It is the mechanism not the prediction that is important.

When we know the mechanism, then we can do something about it.  We must know the mechanism and all the mechanisms that are relevant. Keys rarely move by themselves but other people might move them without telling me.  Mechanisms introduce randomness and it is better to allow for randomness than get fixated on certainty.

Let’s take my dear black dog as a second example.  He might lie in the dark passageway quite often, but I can’t predict when he will.  I can only allow for the possibility that he might and either walk more slowly or whistle and hope he moves and makes a noise so I can hear him.  Knowing how the world works and the range of possibilities we might encounter is what matters.

So what is better: presentology or futurology?

Now I have explained this like this, it seems quite obvious but what does this affect the choice of presentology or futurology?  How does this relate to the kids and the marshmallows?

I need to know the mechanisms to know what I  can do now, RIGHT NOW.  Because the future follows from now, I want to know how I can change now.

  • I want to change now so that now is better.
  • And I want to act now because now is the only time we can act.
  • I want to act because I like action. Action makes us feel good.
  • And I want to change now because it makes the future more interesting!

Instead of worrying whether or not I will trip over my black dog, I ask myself what mechanisms I can manage to walk safely to my destination.  Calling to my dog is one of them.  If I want to get to the end of the passage safely, I must manage all of the mechanisms, on their own terms, as they come up.

Knowing that I want to get to the end of the passage safely or knowing that I get to the end of the passage safely 90% of the time simply doesn’t help me.

But knowing that a black dog tends to lie there quietly, and knowing that dogs do respond when you call, knowing these mechanisms helps me manage possibilities and helps me rearrange NOW, in this case what is going on in my head.   By understanding now and rearranging it, I allow possibilities to evolve that I might enjoy.

Presentology : the art of now

What needs to be done now?

We are all talking about now. Personal kanbans, productivity, mindfulness, solidarity, happiness. It is all about being master of the present ~ master of what is happening this minute!



Note:  The late Russ Ackhoff used the term presentology to describe his philosophy of management


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