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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Here is a marvelous visualization of the US economy.

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Before I saw this visualization, I hadn’t appreciated how well the American economy is doing.

I wish we have an equivalent presentation on UK economy.

Who is audacious enough to hope?

Do have a look.  I find myself not daring to hope that they are true.  I wonder how many more people want to wait a bit before they get their hopes up?

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Education level that was good for the top 3% is now necessary for all but the bottom 3%

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. — Soren Kierkegaard

Good to remember!

Though most people are better living forwards that understanding backwards

In industrial psychology, we distinguish between “tracking” and “diagnosis”.

Take a pilot landing a large plane, for example. They assimilate a lot of information, that changes before they have time to put it into words, and bring the plane down, hopefully, to a gentle landing at high speed.

When, God forbid that something goes wrong, highly trained investigators will come in to work out what happened. The investigators aren’t likely to be pilots and the investigators probably don’t land fully laden passenger jets.

We have specially trained people to think backwards

In factories, we make the same distinction. We have hands-on people who keep complex, continuous flow plants going, safely.  It’s as demanding as landing a plane.

Yet, the day the process breaks down, we call the process engineers. They work out what went wrong and bring science to bear to figure out what the factory managers can do to get the plant going again.

The two people groups aren’t interchangeable. Simply, the managers think forwards. The engineers think backwards.

Usually the engineers are more highly educated. They often earn more.

But they aren’t “line”. And the “line” thinks they are egg-heads because they can’t do the “real thing”.

So it is funny that we have to be reminded not to think backwards. Most of us don’t. Most of us can’t. We need experts for that.

In the future, we might have to do thinking forward as well as thinking backwards

What has been puzzling me recently, or truthfully what is in my in-basket marked “puzzles”, is how the “design-thinking” approach to management will change this divide.

Take Toyota, for example. Every worker on the assembly line is capable of doing quite sophisticated experiments.  They use statistics equivalent to Honours in any subject except statistics itself.   The two types of work seem to be merging.

The idea of ‘failing informatively’ will also change what professions like engineering and psychology learn and contribute in the work place. We will not only be required to diagnose what went wrong. We will be required to play a more hands-on role in moving things forward.

This is the age of statistics

The attitude of Google to data makes simple A B experiments a day-to-day job rather than the job of an expensive graduate. The burgeoning use of good visuals makes statistics a discipline of communication.

I sense there is more to this change than I am saying here. What is clear though, is that the education levels that used to be regarded as the preserve of the top 3% of the population are now necessary for all but the bottom 3%.  Necessary. Not optional.

How can every child learn statistics?

So what are we going to do about illiteracy in Western countries?   It amazes me that people who cannot read books play computer games quite well.

So I doubt this is a real problem. We need to get kids into factories where they see statistics being used

And then they can teach us!

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Excellent site to put your anxieties and dreams in perspective.

UPDATE: This is also an example of crowd-sourced psychology, semantic web and visualization.