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Tag: work psychology

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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Designers teach work psychologists 3 questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Mood hoovering work

I am a work psychologist and we design work.  We are brought up on a diet of (ersatz) experiments and (dated) statistics.  That’s not all bad. We are good at operationalizing – taking an idea and saying “what exactly are we going to do“?  We find Google Analytics easy to understand.

But we become very bad at people.  We even joke that is why we become psychologists.  Because people mystify us.

So we set out to learn from people who are good with people.

Psychologists learn from designers

Here are three questions that were blogged as a summary of Bantjes  (see that training, pedantically precise!). If we are going to set up mock experiments and tiresome evaluations, I suggest we hold ourselves accountable to these.

Three questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Does it bring joy?

Is there a sense of wonder?

Does it evoke curiosity?

Failed at the off

My rendition does none of these things.  I can feel the energy hoovered out of me.   So do look up Bantjes when the videos on TED Global 2010 come out.  And let’s put the fun back into life.  Being orderly is good.  But being dispiriting is not.

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My predictions for the future of business psychology

Facets of business psychology

Being a business psychologist can be giddy-making. Well, that is our job.  To have the giddy-experience so other people don’t have to.

Industrial or work psychology

When we want to improve productivity, we ask “what is the best way of doing this work?”  Whether you do it or whether I do it, what is the best way (and when we get sophisticated, what is the error range and variance)?

Personnel psychology

When we want to choose someone to do the job, who will find it easiest to do the job?

Organizational psychology

What is the best way of organizing the work so that we can all get along with the minimum of emotional friction?

The thinking behind business psychology

The answers to these question do not necessarily contradict each other but the thought process behind them is contradicting.

Work psychology assumes we are all the same and can learn easily. Personnel psychology assumes we are all different and our differences are hard to change.  Work & personnel psychology looks at what we do as individuals and organizational psychology might ask us to sacrifice efficiency for the sake of the group.

Who’s right and who is wrong?  No one.  Each question offers a slightly different perspective.  And that is giddy-making.  What we are good at is separating the questions  and asking them one at a time so that we don’t end up with a confused, useless mess. That is what we are trained to do and we train for a long time – 5 years.

Modern questions in business psychology

Our giddy life doesn’t stop with the 3 traditional questions, though.

Old management theory assumed that change was slow, that there was a ‘best way’, that people were happy with the social and political relationships suffered and enjoyed by their forefathers, and that someone, somewhere knew what to do and how to do it and that the world would be sufficiently obliging to wait while they decided what to do and told everyone in the organization.

We know now that the world is not like that.

Work psychology

Laying out work for others to do while we decide is so, so, last century and bankrupt motor corp, we should be shot for suggesting it.

We’ve known for I don’t know how long in the military, and at least 40 years in psychology, that we should set a goal that is appropriate for a person’s skill level, give them the resources, free access to incoming feedback, and let them get on with it.

People cannot function with our constant back-seating driving.  And the world will not wait for an organization that is that slow.  It might seem like it will wait but that is probably because of some artificial barrier to entry.  Best to see how much that barrier costs and how long that will be sustained.  More under organizational.

Personnel psychology

Much of the work we do in personnel psychology is for really large organizations, like armies, where gathering “objective” information and allocating people on a “best fi”t model makes sense.   We introduce efficiencies for everyone.

In smaller organizations, we are expensive ,and frankly managers don’t listen.  Why is it that?  This is an organizational psychology issue not a personnel psychology issue. So let’s move on.

Organizational psychology

Getting along in an organization is about human relations and “passing the ball” without dropping it.  Management and organizational theory comes into play along with a raft of other issues, including politics.

The biggest issue in organizational psychology is “what is in it for me?” When managers are insecure, they will look for people who will protect their interests.

In big organizations, it is our job to reassure the managers and put the brakes on their worst self-interested excesses.  We flag up artificial barriers to entry that are maintained at huge financial and moral cost (e.g. apartheid in South Africa and excessive privilege like doctor’s payments in the US).  We put in procedures to balance managerial interest with organizational interest, in pay, for example, and in the selection of people who are good for the organization and not simply good for the manager.

We provide stability, in other words.  Sometimes we even introduce a generative, healthy upward spiral.  Though world events in the last two years show clearly that preventing a destructive tail spin would be a pretty good outcome.

We have to include people.  Honorably.  Allowing a core group to take over is very, very destructive.

Future organizations

Having said that.  What is the future of large organizations?

We are much more likely to move towards a system of local modularization in which smaller companies cooperate to complete specific contracts as the aerospace industry did with the Boeing 787.  Our business will change accordingly.

My predictions for the future of business psychology

This is how I see our profession moving.

Work psychology

In depth understanding of the work of an industry and the critical factors affecting productivity and learning in each sub-sector.  We will become a mirror to the industry.

Personnel psychology

Continue to show people the limits of occupations.  To give an obvious example, if I am a sprinter I’ll run the sprints not the marathon, and so on.

Beyond this well developed technology that needs to be updated to keep us informed about the limits of new professions, we might possibly change our focus to understanding careers over a lifetime: how do we develop a narrative that sustains us over the rapid changes in industry structures that we are likely to see over 50 years of our working life?

I think developmental psychology might become more important than personnel psychology and understanding business might become more important that the brute horsepower of “intelligence”.

Organizational psychology

The biggest change will be the nature of organizational life and the work that we are called upon to do. Companies will become smaller and more specialized and a new beast will emerge. Akin to entrepreneurial and holding companies, and replete with negotiation-minded supply chain specialists, these new organizations will create the projects and organizational conditions that set the boundary conditions for specialists to work together to be creative.

Specifically, it is my best guess, at March 2010, that these new organizations will analyse the markets and flag up what markets want, host discussions between relevant suppliers and arrange consortium funding, and carry the market risk themselves, though conceivably they may make innovative arrangements on the demand side too.

Further, some firms will specialize in backing up the market “seers” with infrastructure to allow global cooperation – firms like Cisco and firms specializing in virtual law and financing.

And then we will have people doing their stuff.  The producers.  Who are doing what they love and who morph and develop as they respond to the market. Hmm, I think there may be a role for people who develop the industry, much like the aerospace industry in the UK.

These aren’t my ideas. The first three strands were developed by Hagel & Brown, now of Deloittes.

My advice to young business psychologists

In not so brief words, that’s where I see us going.  My advice to young psychologists is

1. Pick an industry that you love and understand how it is developing and changing and the skills needed within it.

2. Learn more developmental psychology and narrative counselling than psychometrics.  Testing is a mature field.  Little is happening there.

3.  Think whether you want to serve producers, coordinators or entrepreneurs.  Maybe try all three out. Maybe in you industry you have to do all three.  Or, maybe you should specialize.

You need to map the ecology of your industry, see where your heart is, and join the people you love to serve.

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Springing happily into games design

Spring and new projects

Today is the first working day of British Summer Time 2009. The daffodils are out along the paths and the highways of England. It is light by 6am and it is time to spring clean my apartment.

I am also going to revamp my blog.

This is the third revamp or fourth incarnation.  I will still write about work and opportunity and I will still write about positive psychology – that is, the psychology of what goes well rather than the psychology of what goes badly.

Happiness engineering

What I will focus on for the foreseeable future is “happiness engineering” or “fungineering” or “happiness hacks”. These are all terms used by preeminent games designer, Jane McDonigal who has pointed out that games designers use basic work psychology to make engaging games far more effectively than managers, HRM and psychologists use the very same body of knowledge to make engaging work.

Learning games design from the beginning

I have no experience in game design. Zip. I don’t even play games – much. So this is the blog of a rank amateur exploring what games designers have to teach us about making work and play engaging in the 21st century, in our built up urban areas, with the threat of climate change and financial ruin hanging over our heads!

A community of amateur games designers

I suspect there are a heap of people out there who want to do this too. Please drop me the name of your blog if you also blog. Or join in the comments and suggest puzzles and conundrum for us to solve. And we will do our best.

Here’s to a winning 2009!
Jo

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3 characteristics of recession-lovers

I need your help

This is a serious post and I would love some of the heavy hitters out there like Jon Ingham, Scott MacArthurBay Jordan and Jon Husband to critique it. Others please join in!

I am a work psychologist. That means I am as much concerned about work as I am about psychology. I do a lot of background reading about management, organizations, new work like nanotechnology, etc.

McKinsey’s advice on management & organization in a recession

McKinsey have just circulated an old report 2002 report on risk and resilience in recessions.

They argue that firms that come out of a recession in the upper quartile, differ significantly from other firms.  The winning group, lets call them “recession-lovers”, either hung on to their upper quartile position, or came up from below.

The McKinsey report has a few sentences I find ambiguous. They are also talking about firms that make the UQ. They aren’t talking about firms who climb from LQ to Median say, so we should be careful not to over-extrapolate.

3 winning characteristics in a recession

I have found THREE characteristics of the ‘recession lovers’.

1.  ‘Recession-lovers’ surge ahead because they were always clearly focused on what they are doing. Prior to the recession, recession-lovers are involved in less acquisition activity than their rivals. Recession-lovers maintain their acquisition activity during a recession, while others drop acquisition activity to the steady level of the recession-lovers.

Can we conclude that firms who are less successful during a recession were involved in shakier business prior to the recession?

2.  Recession-lovers make 33% more sales per employee than their rivals. During the recession, they maintain this ratio by spending MORE money on sales and general costs. To do this, they absorb lower margins (TESCO’s just announced this I think).

Can we conclude that more successful firms move to protect and maintain their central markets?

Can we conclude that less successful firms are willing to jeopardize their market position by taking quicker profits?

3.  Recession-lovers spend more money on R&D and double this expenditure during the recession.

Can we conclude that rivals had thought that their markets and products were stable and by cutting back further believe that markets will be essentially unchanged after the recession?

3 thought-provoking questions for HR Managers to ask

If I have summarized this report correctly, then there are hard questions HR Managers should be asking as they consider redundancies, cutbacks, etc.

1.  When we hired staff, we assured them of their importance, and the value and importance of the products and services they would deliver.  What has changed?

2.  Now the market is tougher, surely we should give staff  more, not fewer,  resources to do their work and to sell our products and services.   If we don’t allocate more resources, than why?    Was our previous allocation of resources thoughtless, or,  is the market is worth protecting, in which case .  .  .  What are the ethical and legal implications of what we are saying?

3.  If we are making less provision for R&D, then are we saying that the demand for our products and services will be stable into the future?  Is so, why not write long-term contracts for staff on those lines?

What’s your take?

I would like to phrase these questions as constructively as possible and I don’t want to overreach.

How can we improve our understanding of a business so that in the future we can ask the right questions earlier?

Where do young HR managers in UK develop and test their understanding, BTW?  Which are universities and firms known for turning out HR Managers with solid business sense?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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Uni degree, then what?

Meeting up with psychology students around the world on Twitter

A psychology student, Trudy, commented on my post about Work Psychology: 2008 AD. I first ‘found’ Trudy using Twitter, the micro-blogging service, where you say what you are doing in 140 characters or less. I ‘followed ‘her there, and from there to her blog psychology in real life.

Gen Y are proactive

Trudy is an example of Gen Y: connected and proactively connecting to the world by writing about what she is doing now. Blogging & twittering illustrates an important issue for work psychologists. The world changes and we need to be up-to-date about the way we work, communicate, and interrelate. Work psychology is as much about work as it is about psychology.

Now Trudy doesn’t want to hear about her – she has her own voice! She would like to know what I do. So with permission of my client, here is a case study of a project currently on my desk.

Case study

A graduate, let’s call him Tom, lives and went to university in a remote regional capital.  Tom always had very clear work ambitions and read far beyond his university studies about his chosen industry. Unfortunately, this industry (industry not function) doesn’t operate in his home town and ‘getting into play’ means applying for jobs thousands of kilometers away where he is unknown and unsupported.

Undaunted, Tom is setting off to a trade meeting where he hopes to meet people and circulate his CV as a committed wannabe that someone should take on as an apprentice production manager. This is pretty proactive by any standard. Understandably though, he is anxious, in rather a diffuse way.

There is plenty advice about networking and job hunting on the internet. And it is valid. Look the part you want to play (preferably one level up). Have a smart CV stating your achievements briefly and with numbers. Speak to the needs of your targets (whom he has researched). Circulate with copies of your CV. Keep conversations focused and sum up what has been agreed. Follow up with an email and follow up again when you get home.

What does a work psychologist offer that is over-and-above this advice?

1.  We are on your side

We know that only 1 out of 20 students leave university with written goals and they achieve as much in life as the other 19 do together! A ROI of 2000%! We also know that 1 person out of 100 creates content on the internet, 9 comment, and 90 lurk. What distinguishes active, proactive people from the passive?

Actually nothing. Achieving goals is very easy. Setting goals is the difficult part and we cannot be continuously proactive about everything!

A psychologist helps you to assess what is reasonable to expect of yourself, taking into account your life as a whole, and most importantly, stays with you during the whole process. A mentor and supporter is critical to Tom’s professional success.

2.  We take the trouble to understand your task

When I was growing up, career advice was a matching process in which we find appropriated holes for pegs of various shapes.. In this century, we understand careers as “discovering and shaping the place where the self meets the world” (David Whyte). We no longer believe there are holes or pegs. Instead we encourage students to make the place where they interact with the world.

Trudy does this very well with her blog. Tom is making that place by attending the trade meeting, but can he do more?

3.  We share with you what we have learned in other industries

The last ten years has seen growing tension on many fronts. Indeed, many people see the credit crunch and Obama’s election as two sides of this coin. Any one watching the Obama election will know he used Facebook, Twitter and a website where supporters (and non-supporters) could log on, make their own profile, and talk directly to each other.

This is not just a political phenomenon. We have all used call-centres and so, we know about out-sourcing. What has been less visible to the public is a move from ‘push’ management to ‘pull’ management. What this means is that, just like in the Obama campaign, we have added a third stream to management.

We still have people-2-purpose, we still have people-2-resources. Now we also have people-2-people. The fun part of people-2-people systems is that we can take the initiative. Moreover, because people-2-people systems use platforms similar to Facebook, Gen Yers are very comfortable taking the initiative.

My suggestion to Tom is that he takes the initiative hugely and sets up a social media interface for his trade meeting. In practical terms, all he needs to do is spend a couple of evenings activating a community on Ning, a hashtag on Twitter, and start connecting with people attending the meeting.

What would he expect to gain?

  • Early contacts whom he can follow up in person

  • Better conversations among graduates in the same boat as himself

  • A place for employers to ‘come out’ and engage at a deeper level with ‘wannabes’

  • Reputation as a project manager in the industry

I would expect that as he worked on the project that his goals would refine themselves quite fast and that would maintain my interest and motivation! I would be quite forgiving of phone calls and DM that have the time zone calculation wrong! I would not think it impossible to create the ultimate space where the self meets the world: a special assignment as assistant to the CEO.

This is an ongoing assignment: will it work?

This may surprise you. It doesn’t have to work. Tom is going to the meeting anyway. He will walk around introducing himself anyway. Twittering, Facebook, Ning cost nothing but “intellectual surplus” [TV time] and if he gets bored with the project, or runs out of time, he doesn’t even have to clean up!

Modern day norms allow this. That is the nature of “pull” management. Take part if you wish, don’t if you don’t want to. The world is our oyster!

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Work psychology: 2008 AD

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!

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Buzzing with expectation?

5 contemporary concepts for understanding why some groups buzz with expectation

Self-styled vagabond, Sam Brannon, asked a good question last weekend on Linkedin.  Are we in a state of learned helplessness?

I’m an inveterate shaper so I am always asking “is what we do important and are we doing the important things?” Because I ask these questions, it is possible I sense learned helplessness more than do others.   But, I am also much more interested in the the opposite of learned helplessness.

  • I love the crowd singing their local hero to victory.
  • I love the buzz of getting a group project done on time.
  • I love the feeling of belonging to an institution worth belonging to.

Indeed my love of that community buzz is key to my professional interest in work psychology and university teaching.  Sam’s post led me to list 5 contemporary concepts from psychology and management that, I think, are key to creating the spiral of group buzz and efficacy.

1 Collective efficacy

If we believe in each other, we add 5-10% on our effective results.  Collective efficacy is a simple yet powerful idea.  When the teachers in a school believe in each other, the school outperforms other schools who have equal resources!

Rule one:  The CEO needs to believe genuinely in his or her direct reports.  That process kicks off their belief in each other and in their direct reports, etc. etc.

P.S Faking doesn’t work.  The pre-requisite of leadership is genuine, heart-felt belief in one’s followers.

2 Solidarity

Rejection is enormously destructive.  Roy Baumeister, who blogs at Psychology Today,  has shown that being rejected by a computer (not even a person) is sufficient to stop us looking in a mirror.   Someone who feels rejected is not going to be feeling efficacious!

Rule two:  Don’t just walk around!  Walk around with a mission to create a sense of belonging.

P. S.  Be hyper-alert to the small minute and accidental ways in which we exclude people.  They are devastating to moral and self-confidence.

3 Personal Leadership

Social media (like LinkeIn) has awakened our sense of being at the centre of our own network.  Everyone is a leader.  The personal leader ‘school’ supports the development of individual leadership (see poet David Whyte).  I am also interested in organizations that recognise that everyone is a leader.

Rule three:  Tell our own ‘stories’ to show how the organization fits in to our personal destinies, and write an organizational story that depends upon our differences and uniqueness.

P.S.  A story that depends on us mimicking the boss defines us as irrelevant (a hole below the waterline for the organization!)

4 Positive psychology/positive organizational scholarship.

The work of Martin Seligman and David Cooperrider has shown the power of gratitude and appreciation.  Positive whatever-whatever sounds like touchy-feely stuff but it is pretty hard core.  Basically, it is an approach where we focus on what works and works well and we discard the rest.

There are good reasons why haven’t focused on what works well as a matter of course.  Simply, if we define leadership as one person knowing what is best, and telling the rest of us what to do, then we are always focusing on a gap – on something negative.

Rule four:  Scrap all the “gap” technology on which management and HRM was built.  Pinpoint what works and do more of it! Then keep the conversation there.

P.S.  Its scary to abandon the idea that we know best.  But when we get the hang of it,  we find out all the good stuff that is happening that we didn’t know about.

5 Globalization

Globablization has changed economics and shifted where and how we can make a profit.  We have to work harder now to create value that produces a penny of profit.  Working with this constraint produces fantastic results as we see in V.J. Prahalad’s value at the bottom of the pyramid.

The principle used by large companies to rethink their process is this: abandon the idea of trying to sell more and more at a better and better price.  Rather, ask what is needed at what price, and work backwards to what we can supply.  The ability to ask questions about the world outside the organizations is a key aspect of successful business teams.

Rule 5:  Forget about being a leader!  Ask how to develop a community who are interested in what we do.

P.S.  We do need to honour the community’s needs and trust it to honour ours (complete the circle).  When we don’t have this loyalty to each other, a buzz is not possible.  We simply don’t have the conditions for a high performing organization.  This is not the day!

[CSPPG : cheerful squirrels prepare parties toGether]

Everyday use of these concepts

I use all these ideas in running everyday projects, like university courses. I know students do better when they believe in each other.  My job, as I see it, is replacing their initial dependence on me, with, a strong belief in each other, a belief in their project of studying together in this year & in this place, and a deep pride in how they came to be here and how they will move on together.

That is the buzz of expectation that the whole world feels tonight with the US galvanized to get out and vote (or is just to get a free cup of coffee from Starbucks?).  That is the buzz we get when our favourite team makes the finals.  That is the buzz we get when you couldn’t stop us going to work even if you tried!

Have a winning week!

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5 businesses encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday)

I love being a work psychologist

I became a work psychologist because I love learning about organizations and what people do. What makes a business tick?

It’s only Monday and here are five picks of whom I have encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday!)

Geographer who locates supermarkets (location, location, location)

Valuer of cars in Russia (great when it freezes and plenty of work until the insurance market matures)

Broker of Nepalese art (deep relationships with artists = supply chain management)

Furniture retailer in Sudan (steady as she goes – continuity and cost leadership)

Retail banker in Sri Lanka (get that customer served – be reliable and dependable)

What I do (my core competence, if you like)

HR always seems so obvious to people in the business.  If it works well, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” set of value assumptions in the underwater part of the cultural iceberg.

Non-formally trained business people take for granted what they do, twice over.  What they seems natural, it also seems childish not to know.

The fun of being a work psychologist is drawing out the assumptions business people have held for so long that they haven’t mentioned them or talked about them to anyone for a long time.

What is it like to have a conversation with a work psychologist?

I am having fun. What do business people gain from talking to me?

  • My interest is a mirror where they can see how their business runs.  They enjoy the experience and are reassured and steadied as they work in other areas that may be shaky.
  • Talking aloud to an appreciative listener allows them to put into words what they have been acting on, but not thinking or saying.  Often we don’t realize what we think until we say it aloud in the presence of someone else.
  • The principles of what they are doing are now out in the open where they can inspect them, consider them, and consider how relevant they will be in the future.  The valuer in Russia, for example, has trained valuers in distant city so he can take advantage of the current boom in valuing assets.  He also knows the boom will peak in a few years.  He is perfectly aware of both facts but may allow the situation to drift if he does not say what he knows aloud in front of someone else.

Why a psychologist and not someone else?

A business person talks to many people – their banker or their associates at the pub.  Why and how are we different?

  • We draw out the assumptions about HR.
  • We are trained to challenge gently, and reveal those long taken for granted assumptions that operate like the underwater part of an iceberg – essential to the visible business but deadly if forgotten.  A friend or banker is concentrating on what they need to hear, not on what the business person needs to hear themselves say.
  • We deliberately restate assumptions clearly so they are on the table for discussion and sharing with other people – new employees, bankers, and people we are talking to during times of change.  A business person talking to a psychologist in any setting, say a conference, a training room, an interview, should come away feeling invigorated.  They should feel clearer about what is important to them and confident that the important things are being attended to.

And it is only Tuesday!  This is a great job.  People are endlessly fascinating when they are talking about a job they love and do well.

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So if I am not going to reify my organization, what should I do?

I was following up the new field of “performance studies“.   I have lost the link unfortunately.   Here are five statements and questions I re-phrased in “plain-language”.

1.  We make the company every day by what we do.

2.  Together we act out a story.

3.  Remember there is more that one story we could tell.

4.  Why do I have to speak for you?  What can’t people speak for themselves?

5.  What does the story we are acting out say about our relationships with each other and are we willing to talk about this question?

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