Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Category: Brain and Behavior (Page 1 of 2)

Apparently, Employees are also People!

I was playing around with some of my flower pics on Saturday, wishing for Spring after weeding, composting and fertilizing the day lily garden. That got me to thinking that we need to do those same things in some workplaces (yeah, weeding, also). And then I thought to put up a flower post

Employee Growth by scott simmerman at The Square Wheels ProjectThen, I got to thinking about that first word and if it might be better if I made it more general and changed it to people, since it also applies to children and it did not have to be a workplace poster. So, I put up a “which one” image of both in Facebook and the resounding response was PEOPLE.

People agree that PEOPLE can grow and that employees are people, too.

People can grow if we help them - from The Square Wheels Project

Now, I wish that more organizations will make that simple realization and behave to better involve and engage them in alignment to goals and objectives and provide them with the feedback and support and teamwork that would allow them to grow and perform at a higher level. The data suggest that people are disengaged and often unmotivated. Extrinsic rewards are not driving high levels of overall performance and interdepartmental collaboration remains an oxymoron.

Supervisors are the fulcrum for changing behavior. HR and T&D simply cannot impact people who are doing the jobs at hand. We must improve supervisory skills and facilitating involvement is straightforward – Ask and Receive. But few supervisors seem to be listening, or even respecting their people based on many different surveys of attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.

Remember that the flower IS in there! (And so is a brain.)
So, give them some sunlight and some good soil and watch what happens!

Poster by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

The Square Wheels Project is an LMS designed to teach facilitation skills to supervisors, using the Square Wheels metaphor for organizational performance improvement. The theme is simple, Square Wheels describe how most organizations and most processes really work and the Round Wheels already exist, in that the people at the back have the hands-on experience with moving forward and know what can be changed and improved. The idea is to enable to conversations, which is what the short course is designed to accomplish.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

Innovation and Thinking – Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

There are plenty of good tools out there for generating new ideas and momentum about innovating in the workplace. And I would like to think that our Square Wheels approach is one of the good ones. We set the situation that the people are pushing the wagon with Square Wheels but the cargo represent better ideas for improving the journey. There are all sorts of linkages and it is really easy to facilitate a discussion of real workplace issues and opportunities.

The main illustration has evolved to look like this:

Square Wheels Facilitationand we are implementing our training program to teach supervisors and managers how to facilitate discussions and to involve and engage people for workplace improvement purposes. That all comes together at The Square Wheels Project, which will also have a social media back-end to allow people to share their experiences as well as coach each other to roll forward #MoreBetterFaster.

My newest thought for how to illustrate the benefits looks like this:

Brains, Square Wheels and Round Wheels, an image by Scott SimmermanMy goal is to get people to step back from their wagons and look for new or different or better ideas to make improvements. Perspective is a key to choosing to do things differently.

Your thoughts on this would be great! You can also check us out at TSWP to see how we are rolling all this forward. It is new and pretty thumpy at the moment but your ideas and feedback will be helpful in smoothing all things out and making this truly effective as a tool for organizational improvement, coaching and simple innovation,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

 

 

Facilitation, Square Wheels and #MoreBetterFaster

We are just about ready to launch our new LMS, The Square Wheels Project, that will feature our Square Wheels® LEGO images and teach anyone how to facilitate a discussion about improving things in the workplace. The basic approach will be simple and straightforward and the links to themes of engagement, innovation, motivation and teamwork will be really clear.

Dan Stones and I have been working to bring all this together for the past few months and Dan does this seamlessly. For me, it is a much more difficult learning practice, it seems. He quickly gets the technology side of this so I mostly support the effort with my LEGO people and my ideas around turning Square Wheels into Round Ones.

So, as this all comes together, I started cranking up production of my “posters,” a little one page shot of some thought or a poem or similar. So, here are a three of the ones I thought you might find of interest.

Square Wheels stupidly simple reality posterSquare Wheels hands-on senseWorkplace Happiness and Square Wheels

It has been nearly 25 years since I started using Square Wheels as a metaphor for organizational improvement themes and it has been an interesting journey forward. I hope you like the approach we take, and that you will take a look at our actual learning tools,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

#squarewheels #morebetterfaster #thesquarewheelsproject.com #innovation #engagement #motivation

 

 

The Neuroscience behind Square Wheels: Behavioral Neurobiology

The Science of Brain and Behavior, explained through LEGO and using Square Wheels images for anchoring ideas and concepts

Neuroscience is “hot” right now in the leadership development and organization improvement literature and I got one of those “doctorate thingies” in behavioral neurobiology* from UNC-Chapel Hill a long time ago, before this “brain science stuff” became popular as a solution to business and training problems. The basic reality and an insight to some training people is that the brain is actually involved in learning and memory and a variety of other human behaviors. We have actually known this for a long time… 😀

Scott Simmerman quote on neuroscience (grin)

Wikipedia defines Behavioral Neuroscience, as the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. The American Psychological Association publishes Behavioral Neuroscience®  for original research articles as well as reviews in the broad field of the neural bases of behavior. They are seeking empirical papers reporting novel results that provide insight into the mechanisms by which nervous systems produce and are affected by behavior.

Me, I don’t publish many empirical papers these days… I design team building games and use cartoons and I blog and try to publish readable, actionable thoughts on people and performance issues. But I DO study behavior and I do know about the brain and so I thought to elucidate a couple of understandable pedagogical conceptualistic  frameworks that underpin my use of stupidly simple illustrations and how they relate to things like communications, engagement, learning, facilitation, creativity, change and quality. My one word to describe the underlying key principle is “perspective.” Change perspective and you change a lot of things.

Generating change is a complicated thing to accomplish and there are some great books written about it, with “Immunity to Change” by Kegan and Lahey (2009) being a really solid work and a good read. I think that perspective is also key to Daniel Kahnemann’s book,”Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And I still like the elegant simplicity of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence.” All these books (and so many others) work by generating a more objective view of behavior and the working environment around it, much like what behavioral counseling is designed to accomplish (“Please, tell me about that…”).

Let me use LEGO to show you how the brain works:

First, we have a whole big bunch of input from all of the senses, information that comes in all at once with little structure or organization. It looks a bit like this:

LEGO Neuroscience 1 - How the Brain Works using LEGO

If that looks too complicated and confusing, maybe flipping it upside down will make it clearer?

Scott Simmerman LEGO Model of NeuroscienceWhatever…

Anyway, what all that electrical activity you have heard about really does is to allow different areas of the brain to add some structure and pattern and “brain-shape” to the information, prioritizing some information and ignoring other input. It uses the brain’s learned preferences, along with some innate / cognitive biases, for putting things into categories and cubby holes and relating one thing to another, something we call categorization and association. Memory storage is based on link new information to old and creating some blocks.
(Note: biases and storage link to lots of explanatory info on Wikipedia, if you want to click through…)

Structuring looks like this, which is not so confusing:

A LEGO Model of how the brain sorts information

Once the brain has learned a few things, which actually happens pretty early in life and which continues for most people their entire lives  is that we begin to see some patterns in things. Alzheimer’s, dementia and some other cognitive disorders are generally disruptions in information storage and retrieval, where these processes no longer work smoothly. Over time, more and more gets linked and related based on personal experiences and memories. This is normal learning; over time, more and more things get linked and the flexibility of sorting information decreases as these biases filter out more and more. Their behavior becomes more rigid and some tunnel vision can affect their perceptions.

If people start using a new model or framework through which to filter information, we can change how things are viewed and sorted. If they learn the metaphor of Square Wheels, for example, new information sorting can take place. Square Wheels can be framed in a metaphor about things that work but that do not work smoothly. Now, you can see them scattered among the blocks below, representing some new categories for how information can be filtered:

Square Wheels LEGO model of brain functioning

For those of us that are focused on process improvement and doing things more better faster, we will also look to identify some best practices or other choices that we might then label Round Wheels. Generating peer-level discussions of issues and opportunities and resorting and re-categorizing can refresh the learning process and generate more active involvement and engagement.

When there is something that is thumping and bumping along as a Square Wheel, most of us will think about ways to improve it. Seeing the gap between the way things are and the way things could / should be is motivating for most people, who will consider ways to close that gap. Leon Festinger discussed this kind of approach in his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. That might then look like this as they begin to consider some Round Wheel possibilities:

Round Wheels already exist

Now, obviously, your brain is not built from LEGO, at least for most of us, and I am being relatively simplistic in my descriptive model of basic neurophysiology. There are underlying structures in the brain that handle information in different ways, adding speech and comprehension and motor skills and all other sorts of output processes to the input of information.

But the basics DO apply, in that people’s brains focus on repetition and patterns and things that mesh in with past learnings are more readily integrated into what we know — ideas that are radically different are paradigms that are simply ignored. (See Joel Barker’s work video on Paradigms (from my pals at Star Thrower), based on the research of Thomas Kuhn and published in the 1960s.

Okay. Enough already on The Brain. How about some ideas on people and performance and how all this applies to the workplace!

Okay. The use of my Square Wheels images is really well-grounded in a variety of principles of learning and thinking that you might find interesting. So, I will try to share some of the underpinnings as to why such a simple approach can be so powerful and effective. Think about it!

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool that helped me understand more of the links of behavior to how the brain handles information. My training took me to the Master Practitioner level and I led ASTD’s NeuroLinguistic Network for a couple of years a long time ago. It shares some interesting tools, like the Information Sorting Styles approach to thinking patterns. NLP focuses heavily on using dissociation as a tool to generate perspective. I call it, “stepping back from the wagon” in my simple approach and frame the concept of collecting ideas and generating participative involvement like this:

Don't Just DO Something, Stand There

Only by stopping the action and looking at how things work can you possibly identify new or different ways of doing things. By dissociating from the current reality, it is possible to see new relationships and gain new perspectives. Plus, if this is done with a shared approach, with more than one person adding ideas and viewpoints, the impact can be more better faster and the ideas can have more breadth and depth.

Dissociation and perspective also serve to decrease the emotional aspects of managing and leading change. In counseling, being able to simply view the situation without all the heavy emotional hooks is a desired outcome. The same thing occurs in the workplace. Talking about the THINGS that do not work smoothly is much less emotional than addressing issues that might be taken as a personal attack and thus generate defensiveness and active resistance. This is another reason why using Square Wheels as a metaphor is so effective.

Most of you are familiar with inkblot tests, properly called Rorschach tests. The visual has no reality but people will project their ideas onto that image based on their own information processing. (Look, a squirrel!) A related psychological test is the Thematic Apperception Test, which has situational drawings and people are asked to tell a story based on what they see happening. Both of these tools push people to put personal viewpoints and frameworks onto the images, which have no “internal construct” of their own. They are not pictures, but images that allow for differing perceptions and interpretations.

We do the same thing. Heck, this LEGO block is not even a wheel; it is actually a window! But it works for us as an image to use on the wagon, and if we calONE Yellow Square Wheel SWs LEGO 70l it a wheel, it must wheely be a wheel, right? (And I remember the time when I presented the illustrations to a software development group, who identified the Square Wheel as the Windows platform they were programming on! That was a hoot, as well as a surprise…)

Perception is a key to understanding. And people benefit by having a language on to which they can hang ideas. If the word for it does not exist, it is really hard to categorize it. That is another reason why Square Wheels work in the workplace, since they give everyone a common anchor point against which to pull and push around ideas for improvement. By its very nature, it could and should be improved and something that gets labeled a Square Wheel sets itself up for improvement.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” is a relevant quote from Henri Bergson. Having an image against which to overlay systems and processes allows for a better understanding of the issues around performance improvement.

There are two other aspects to perception that link to the theme of motivation. One is that having some vision, preferably shared with others is important. Knowing where you are going is beneficial. The second is ownership, in that having a sense of active involvement and engagement is important. I can illustrate with another of the Square Wheels images along with one of my most favorite organizational development quotes.

The View at the back of the Square Wheels wagon

The View at the back of the wagon is not motivating

and

SQUARE WHEELS LEGO IMAGE OF MOTIVATION 

Metaphors such as the Square Wheels / Round Wheels dichotomy are easily remembered and incorporated into workgroup language. The simple basic concept of a Square Wheel, something that works but that does not work smoothly, combined with the perception that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon sets up a motivation for continuous continuous improvement **

Stepping back from the wagon allows a sense of decreased emotion while expanding perceptions, and often “considered alternative choices.” The latter are critical in order to conceptualize a different future. If you cannot see alternatives, you cannot choose from them. Simple.

Daniel Kahneman Illustrated Quote with Square Wheels and LEGO

and

Square Wheels LEGO image ALl of us know more

My goal was to present our simple concept of organizational involvement and transformation, the Square Wheels theme, which is general and flexible and adaptable to a wide variety of personal and organizational development situations. People have a generally favorable memory of LEGO and play, and the links to the issues of combining different perspectives on issues and opportunities lend itself to improved communications.

I will switch to this metaphor to close this out:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

I think we can all improve all things if we just take the time to lighten up and look at things from a different perspective,

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

* back before we became enlightened, we called it “physiological psychology.” Heck, the whole department is now called, “The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience” even though the website is still psychology.unc.edu so go figure… I might as well try to move into the mainstream of popularity.

** Idea from the Department of Redundancy Department and the concept that the Round Wheels of Today will, invariably, become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Failure to continuously improve is a design for disaster. Think of land-line telephones and MySpace.

 

Square Wheels – A Great Engagement Tool

Recent discussions about including Square Wheels into a leadership development eLearning course got me thinking that I have not really explained the underlying rationale for why these images and approaches work so well to involve and engage participants in learning and development situations. After all, they are just cartoons, right?

Well, playing with these images and ideas in 38 countries over the past 22 years has generated a bit of understanding about why these learning tools work so well. Audiences of all kinds get very involved and engaged in discussing issues and ideas about their workplace, the world at large, and even about their personal development, and there are a number of solid psychological underpinnings as to why.

My goal here is not to get into the neurophysiology and behavioral psychology * of how all this works within the brain, but to try to offer some simple thoughts on different aspects of learning and behavior.

As some people know, we first used the line-art versions of these illustrations. Here is the original Square Wheels One illustration, used back in 1993:

square wheels one 1993

More recently, I have been working to add a more colorful and interactive approach, using LEGO blocks and building on the above theme:

Square Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Fundamentally, the Square Wheels images work in a way similar to a Rorschach Test (or Inkblot Test), where individuals are shown images and asked to respond to them. These images are called “projective psychological tools” because people will project their beliefs onto the images, which have no reality in their construction. A typical inkblot might look something like this:

typical Rorschach inkblot imageDifferent people see different things. Their personal history comes into play.

With the Square Wheels tools, we focus more on organizational issues and opportunities, working on themes of teamwork and continuous improvement and other workplace themes.

The approach is very simple: we encourage a group of people to consider the image individually and generate their thoughts on, “How might this represent how things really work?”

After some silent contemplation, we then engage the tabletops to share their different perspectives and ideas, so we generate both an active involvement by the individual as well as a collective group consensus as to what the image represents. If there are more than 6 people in the group, we will engage them in small groups and there are approaches for actively involving and engaging even VERY large groups of 100s of people in highly interactive participative ways.

The anchor points are simple:

  • Square Wheels represent things that work, but that do not work smoothly
  • Round Wheels represent ideas for improvement that already exist and that could be implemented

Simply put, we will generate Cognitive Dissonance between the way that things are right now (as perceived by individuals or small groups) as well as potential solutions to close that gap. People are motivated to close the gap and we have developed some team / tabletop support for working to address that issue. Some of the overall impacts are as follows:

  1. We get people actively involved in generating ideas for improvement that can be anchored to organizational development or quality / process improvement.
  2. We get individual as well as collective tabletop ideas about issues and opportunities.
  3. We generate discussions about what might be done differently, giving participants an active involvement that generates engagement and ownership.
  4. We generate a collective broadly-based set of perspectives on issues impacting performance.
  5. We generate individual ideas, anchored to best practices, for what they might do differently to make improvements.
  6. We get a collective discussion and generate peer support around certain ideas that have “weight,” that are substantially impactful and the deserve to be addressed and implemented.
  7. People LIKE being involved and engaged in generating team-based ideas for improvement, much more so than they like being simply told what to do. Change is often resisted when forced on people, while active involvement generates motivation and engagement.

We can readily link the issues of Square Wheels back to the organizational or work group mission and vision, helping to readily impact the peer support for alignment and generating discussions as to where expectations and measurement / feedback systems do not align. You can read a short article on assessing feedback systems by clicking here.

We can open up discussions of best practices by sharing ideas for Round Wheels. And by requesting that 3 Round Wheel ideas be generated for each selected Square Wheel to be addressed, we can force more creative thinking for solutions to common problems.

Are these illustrations too silly or too simple? My thought is that they ARE simple and that is one of the reasons that they are so engaging. You will look at the illustration and have only a few thoughts, but once the ideas begin to be shared with others at the tabletops, the ideas will flow and the perspectives will shift significantly.

At that point, the general cartoon of issues is often transitioned back to the actual workplace, as people begin to see the issues they face in the context of the image. Problems take on a Square Wheels label, and once something is labeled a Square Wheel, it will always exist as something that NEEDS to be addressed and solved; after all, the Round Wheels already exist.

The simple concept and image is a powerful tool for brainstorming and creative problem solving, also, since it detaches the issues of ownership and politics from the issues of performance. Calling something a Square Wheel is not viewed as a personal attack on the person or originating department; it is merely something to address and improve.

It also links beautifully to ownership engagement for problem resolution. A reality is that:

Nobody ever washes a rental car

and that active involvement generated by the process links neatly to the issues of active workplace engagement.

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

Let this blog represent a starting point for addressing why Square Wheels images work so well in situations to generate active learning, active involvement, teamwork and pragmatic ideas for organizational improvement. Performance improvement is a difficult thing to accomplish, in so many situations, and these very simple tools and a simple approach to involving and engaging people works seamlessly and elegantly.

What are YOUR thoughts on why this works or some thinking
about the issues that using it might generate?

You can find out more if you purchase my simple “Icebreaker” toolkit. Cheap! And I am completing a full-blown Facilitator’s Toolkit focused on sharing more of the tools and approach for workplace performance improvement.

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 * Please note that I actually have a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and have completed NLP Master Practitioner certification, along with being a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) from the International Association of Facilitators and a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) from the International Association for People and Performance. So, I do have both an educational background for understanding the neurophysiology of learning as well as the professional experienced in changing organizational behavior.

A Dance of Change – something new?

It was funny to read a little blurb in the ASTD Training & Development magazine about an article to appear next month. The abstract said that 70% of change initiatives continue to fail (which is on par with how many strategy improvement initiatives are not really successful) and that the existing change models are all pretty good.

What is suggested is that The Missing Component is now Emotional Intelligence, and that thoughts and feelings that emerge from the understanding for the need to change are all that needs to be changed. “When emotional intelligence is applied to change, we can think of it as change intelligence.”

I won’t mention the author of this, since I am basically panning this solution — Emotional Intelligence is not an easy thing to grasp, much less implement since it has so much to do with personal growth and personality. We’ve been fooling with EI concepts for 20+ years, just like we’ve been proposing 7 Habits and all sorts of other silver bullets to solve the problems of organizational improvement.

I’m one who very strongly feels that we just need to forget about so many complicated models of how things work and how things need to have some new Training Solution proposed by a cadre of consultants who will retire on these efforts.

The DATA say that not much has improved on the basic issue of employee engagement. The DATA say that lots of things are supposedly important, like Innovation (rated important 98% of survey respondents in another ASTD article (Patty Gaul, April 2014) while also finding that only 33% of organizations currently focus their innovation on small improvements and change. That article predicts a BIG shift toward radical changes / innovation — 66% in the future. (Right… Remind me to look back in 10 years… )

People suggest that we do all kinds of expensive and complex kinds of training on emotional intelligence or on innovation and creative thinking skills but I STILL think that the basic organization works like this:

Square Wheels represent how things really work in most organizations...

How things really work in most organizations…

and that what are needed are really simply solutions. Here are my 10 steps for improving motivation and organizational performance results:

ask

How do you implement change? Identify the Square Wheels and ask for some Round Wheel solutions. Do this in the context of moving from where we are now to where we want to go (in the near or far future). Celebrate small successes to generate continuous continuous improvement and allow people to work together in simple teams (with necessary resources of time and funding) to actually implement such changes and improvements.

Four Simple Factors for Implementing Change

Four Simple Factors for Implementing Change

The actual end result is also pretty simple to conceptualize:

Square Wheels and Intrinsic Motivation Celebration LEGO business image RW

I mean, this whole thing about involving and engaging people in workplace improvement is really the simple task of involving and engaging them in workplace improvement. Where is the rocket science in all this? Why do we keep adding so much complexity — other than for profit motives and self-aggrandizement — when the reality is really easy to accomplish.

The other key is also simple:

Square Wheels image of Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 2

This concept is also simple: Everybody needs to feel like they have an ownership stake in the ideas and the outcomes, even the management team.

So. Keep it Simple. And Just DO it!

We sell simple tools for involving and engaging people for performance improvement. Give the icon a click and check us out,

Performance Management Company and Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Elegant SolutionsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

 LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

 

Square Wheels – NOT some simple model of organizational performance

An interesting telephone conversation this morning got me thinking that it might be a good thing to add some reality to my stupidly simple but effective model of

How Organizations Really Work

Many people have experienced a presentation using my Square Wheels One illustration, either something I have delivered or something from one of the purchasing users of my toolkits. The main anchor point is this illustration:

Square Wheels One image

What we suggest is that the presenter show the illustration and then allow people to play on a worksheet that asks them for their ideas on how the illustration might represent how things work in most organizations. We use “most” to keep it arms-length, but many people will use the drawing as an inkblot test and project their ideas about it onto the worksheet. We allow individuals about a minute of “silent refection” prior to working and sharing their ideas with others at a table for 5 to 6 people.

It all seems really simple. But using it over the years, I will admit to being shocked and amazed at how well this works as a projective instrument to help diagnose organizational issues. The very nature of the group interaction also lets other people frame and reframe ideas until the collective work is nothing short of amazing.

What we generally suggest is to allow the tabletops to select on relevant Square Wheel and then work on generating 3 round wheel potential solutions for consideration, with the idea that we will force some additional considered alternatives rather than the first thing that comes to mind. Those ideas can then serve as the basis for a strategy for implementation.

How surprising are the ideas generated? Well, I actually collected about 300 different ideas about the above illustration before it became impossible to sort the list; my guess is that I have heard 500 or so different thoughts on the cartoon. Some of them include:

  •  We’ve always done it this way
  •  Determined to use the old ways
  •  Organizations don’t think
  •  Solutions are in the wagon, already
  •  The solutions are available but not being used
  •  Old processes and information
  •  No trust in the people behind you
  •  No trust in the team
  •  Lonely at the front
  •  One person sets the direction
  •  One person has the vision
  •  Leadership is deaf
  •  Leaders see only what’s ahead
  •  There is no idea of where they are going or where they have been
  •  Support people are blind
  •  All of them are blind to the possibilities
  •  They can’t see the forest for the trees
  •  Round wheels belong to someone else
  •  We don’t use the tools that we sell
  •  Changing directions is very difficult
  •  We need to se the problem to find the solution
  •  Traditions die hard
  •  Inefficiencies are everywhere
  •  Need to change our paradigms
  •  People aren’t resisting change, they aren’t aware of possibilities
  •  People are choosing to be unaware of possibilities
  •  People work hard, not smart
  •  No mechanism for steering or changing direction
  •  Continuous improvement is possible
  •  Some work is just not much fun
  •  Don’t just do something, stand there
  •  We need to step back from the wagon to discover possibilities for improvement
  •  Resources are always available
  •  No vision of what is ahead from the back
  •  No use of resources
  •  Poor planning for resource utilization
  •  Lack of commitment to make real progress
  •  The rope is loosely tied, management may choke itself
  •  The answer is in front of us, we just can’t see it
  •  If only we mirrored our reality occasionally
  •  People need to step back every so often to look around
  •  Push, or get left behind
  •  Working together can get it done
  •  Jobs are designed harder than they need to be
  •  Human capital isn’t valued
  •  We like to overpower rather than reduce obstacles to get things done
  •  Not all technology works for you
  •  Not all the ideas are usable immediately
  •  Progress isn’t simply about working harder
  •  Tried and true still works — the Square Wheels still work
  •  Internal resources for improvement are always available
  •  Leaders get isolated from the realities of the wagon and the journey
  •  Workers have no vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to get a vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to make improvements
  •  Square Wheels are the status quo; difficult to change on the fly
  •  The team will probably meet its goals for productivity and cost
  •  Communications are always difficult when people are busy
  •  The manager may be too close to the work to see the possibilities
  •  The wagon is hard to start and easy to stop
  •  Stop. Think!
  •  People make things work no matter what
  •  Too busy with the work to focus on what will work
  •  A few people are doing all the work and others are going through the motions

The above bullets represent less than 2 of the 8 pages of thoughts and ideas that I have captured while showing the illustration. You can see from the above that there is a great diversity in viewpoint over something as simple as a line drawing. When you consider the complexity of the actual workplace, there are no simple views that are most correct.

And there have been a bunch of great one-liners, jokes and quips from session participants, including:

• Those who do have no clue, and those who lead can miss the need.

• If it didn’t go thump, thump, how would we know we’re making any progress

• We’re not like that! We push our wagon uphill!

• You should have seen what we did Last Year!

• The Pushers may have a wheely bad attitude

• Triangular wheels would be an improvement:
– You know, “One Less Bump per Revolution!”

• The Square Wheels may have been invented by a woman…
– but the men are stupid enough to push it that way!

The illustration is a wonderfully simple and unexpectedly powerful tool to generate involvement and engagement in identifying workplace issues and opportunities. The recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman attests to the need to anchor thinking and allow for group participation to generate the optimal understanding of opportunities. I reframed one of his key concepts thusly:

Square Wheels image of Daniel Kahneman

 

Our perceptions can be extremely limited, especially when one considers John Le Carre’s quote about a desk being a dangerous place from which to view the world. What we really need to do is actively work to involve and engage people in discussions about what things in the workplace need improvement. That engagement works wonders when some of those ideas can be implemented, as they usually can.

I have written extensively on the statistics and benefits of improving the active involvement of people. My blog is full of different articles around un-engaged and unmotivated people and ideas for making improvements. There are even articles on the issues and realities of sabotage that the actively dis-engaged people may take.

If you would like to read more about the Square Wheels tools for actively involving people and facilitating workplace improvement, click on the link below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

What does a Russian Lyrical Poet have to do with Workplace Motivation and Engagement?

In this post, I wax philosophic about a suicidal Russian poet and depression and share some thoughts on workplace motivation and issues of involvement. It starts out tough but, hopefully, you’ll find the ending more uplifting.

———

Sergei Yesenin 1922 Sergei Yesenin was a lyrical Russian poet around the turn of the last century, who wrote about the depression and difficulty he saw in the world around him. He might be the best known of all the Russian poets based on a couple of websites. I saw this reference to him in a poem in a novel I read this week:

The moon will float up into the sky,
dropping the oars into the water.
As ever, Russia will get by,
and dance and weep in every quarter

and that got me looking up information in Wikipedia and TheInkBrain, which has an extensive biography. His last poem, “Goodbye my friend, goodbye,” was written at age 30 and done in his own blood just before he committed suicide in 1925. They are beautiful but often sad writings and the view of the world of which he writes is engaging– he starts with writings about love and the meaning of life while his latter works take on a much less positive view of the world around him. Depressing and hopeless…

But no longer wake me up at sunrise,
As you used to do eight years ago.  
Do not waken dreams no longer precious,
Hope never fulfilled do not excite.

Somehow, my thoughts around this led to my thinking about the new, involved and enthusiastic employee who is often found to succumb to the dreary realities of so many workplaces and whose motivation and energy eventually tends to norm downward — regression to the mean, the average of that workplace. For me, it is about the existing opportunities that are there to be realized and what might be possible versus the sad reality of what too often happens for so many people in the workplace in that they don’t continue to feel involved and motivated. We can do things differently; we can make better choices.

One of the biggest challenges we face as managers in organizations is the mental health of our people and their ability and desire to work in teams and to be productive and innovative. If they simply drift toward their perceived reality of few real opportunities for personal improvement, we will not see the impact that I think we want. Lots of people have difficulties working and being involved and engaged in the day-to-day opportunities, based on many studies done around issues of engagement and motivation. Why do we keep doing things the same way?

In a relatively recent study, The Ken Blanchard Company found that while 70% of employees wanted to converse with their manager about their goals and tasks, only 28% of leaders actually tended to have those kinds of conversations with their people. This same study also found that more than 80% of leaders don’t listen to their employees, something that we have read in the literature since, well, the turn of the century! Some things just do not seem to change. The study found that 64% of employees want to use meeting time with their bosses to solve workplace problems while 19% report that they rarely or never have those conversations.  Sixty four percent wish they could talk with the boss about problems with colleagues but only 8% actually do.

Is it that there is simply no time to listen? Are people afraid? Is the depression of ideals and morale just that pathetic in the workplace today? Do we not have all the technology we need such as smart phones, email, texting and other kinds of communications? Or is it that managers just do not really care about people and performance. I am befuddled. I see the world operating like this day after day and year after year and decade after decade:

square wheels image of how things work

Can’t we just talk about things? The Round Wheels are already in that wagon! Every time and always. Let’s choose to do things differently in 2014 and make a big difference in people and performance.

Why bother? Lots of reasons including these business ones:  Sirota Research found that high-morale companies greatly outperformed their industry competitors in 2012 when considering year-over-year stock market returns.  Sirota found that companies with high morale (those with scores at the 75th percentile or higher who ask “overall satisfaction with their company” on their annual employee attitude surveys) had stronger year-over-year stock performance than their industry counterparts.  

High-morale companies averaged a 15.1% improvement in their stock price while their matched industry comparisons averaged only a 4.1% year-over-year improvement (a difference of 11 percentage points or 368%!) Moderate-morale companies (companies scoring between the 25th and 75th percentiles on employee attitude surveys) matched their industry counterparts  with only a 0.8 percentage point difference, and the low-morale companies were 166% (or 13 percentage points) lower than their industry counterparts.

“We’re Not So Bad” is apparently not so good, either!

There is also an interesting post on worker-owned businesses (link is here) and it says, in part, that even without transitioning to a co-operative structure, we can learn from democratic workplaces and adopt the way they function. The author adds her thoughts to a recent article by David Brodwin in US News and World Report that made the case for why more employee-owned businesses are needed. Brodwin compared cooperatives and top-tier professional firms run by partnerships, stating that each type of business is more accountable, resilient, and flexible. The number of these worker-owned business in the United States is growing around 6% per year and now account for about 12% of the private sector workforce.

So, some changes are occurring in organizational structures that support more employee involvement and ownership. Since we can each choose to do things differently, maybe that poem used to start this article should become:

People can fly high in the sky,
And cause great ripples in the water.
Companies can do more than get by,
And see so many impacts every quarter.

 Square Wheels and Butterfly - Choose to Fly

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Bad Dream and Reframing – Improving one's outlook on things

I had written this down on a scrap of paper:

“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams.”

I had no idea as to where it was from, but guessed that the water drop marks on the paper might have indicated that I had written this down while sitting in a hot bath, reading and listening to music, which I try to do a couple of times a week.

Maybe it was from a Pearl Jam or Counting Crows or Led Zeppelin song or something like that, since they write good lyrics. So I went online and looked up song lyrics and part of the quote and found that the group Scuba has a rock and roll song called, King of Infinite Space (and you can hear a 30 second preview). I also found that Dream Machine used that lyric in Lilac Time, but they are not on my music list.

So, I did a general search and found a really surprising source:

Act 2, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

ROSENCRANTZ
Why then, your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow for your mind.

 HAMLET
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

HAMLET
A dream itself is but a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.

And THAT reminded me of The Shadow by T.S. Eliot:

“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”

That was always a good quote to use when talking about the implementation of ideas and the concept of Murphy and his various laws and corollaries.

Square Wheels Image and Murphy's Law

You can find my blog on the origin of these Laws and thoughts on their relationships to organizational performance at this blog post of mine and at this post on reframing situational performance improvement.

Yeah, this post rambled a bit.

But I am guessing that it must be bad dreams or shadows or something, ya think?

Hope that all goes well for you,

For the FUN of It!

————

bummed out guys

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Snobbery and the Perception of Competence – Thinking about Thinking

It’s not too often that I go off-tangent but I really liked this article by Alex Mayyasi at http://priceonomics.com/the-science-of-snobbery/ and the research it offered on how we evaluate things. I would be sure that a lot of it will apply to how we evaluate ideas for innovation and impact a lot of executive decision making. To that, I will ask my readers to comment and embellish.

The research discussed was found in two threads, the inability of people to evaluate wine and the lack of correlation in results between price and taste — as Mayyasi says,

“…Priceonomics had recently posted an article investigating The Price of Wine, part of which reviewed research that cast doubt on both consumers’ and wine experts’ ability to distinguish between quality wine and table wine or identify different wines and their flavors. It seemed a slippery slope to the conclusion that wine culture is nothing more than actors performing a snobbish play.”

So, he started looking at the research on how people evaluate classical music and whether the same kind of results might be found.

Chia-Jung Tsay was an extremely talented young pianist. But she is now a psychologist and an Assistant Professor in Management Science and Innovation at University College London, so she set up an experiment to examine the role of visual cues in judging musical performances.

emerson-string-quartet-credit-richard-termine-new-york-times-redux-eyevine

The article and the research are about decision-making and how people judge “performances” of all kinds. It is not simple.

In a famous experiment, participants viewed 30 second silent video clips of a college professor teaching a class and asked them to rate the effectiveness of the professor. When these ratings were compared to the end of semester ratings of real students, participants had done astoundingly well at rating the professor off an initial impression – there was an extremely strong correlation of 0.76.

Participants were just as effective when watching 6-second video clips and when comparing their ratings to ratings of teacher effectiveness as measured by actual student test performance. SIX SECONDS!!

The power of intuitive first impressions has been demonstrated in many other contexts. One study found that people predicted the outcome of political elections remarkably well based on silent 10 second video clips of debates – significantly outperforming political pundits and predictions made based on economic indicators.

Mayyasi also cites a real world case where a number of art experts successfully identified a 6th century Greek statue as a fraud, even though the statue had survived a 14 month investigation by a respected museum that included the probings of a geologist/ The experts instantly recognized something was off but they just couldn’t explain how they knew.

But this is also to say that these impressions can also be WRONG, such as in the experiments cited by Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. (You can see my thoughts on it here. You can find Lucy Freedman’s thoughts on thinking here.)

Square Wheels image of Daniel Kahneman

Cases like this represent the thinking behind the idea of the “adaptive unconscious,” a concept made famous by journalist Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink. The basic idea is that we constantly, quickly, and unconsciously do the equivalent of judging a book by its cover. After all, a cover provides a lot of relevant information in a world in which we don’t have time to read every page. Watch how people select books to read from the New Release shelf at your public library!

I find this stuff really interesting. Hope you do, too.

Your comments and thoughts about how these themes might affect engagement and involvement and teamwork in your organization would be most interesting.

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Thoughts on thinking about decision-making

Decision-making and motivation, two related but pretty complex issues. If you read some blogs, you might think that there is some silver bullet to get a grip on these thing. But in my thinking,

It is Dangerous to Know The Answer.

Dangerous only because once you think you know, then you will stop looking… (You can see a lot more about this paradox in my article on managing and leading change, along with a joke and a surprising set of punchlines. Click here to see that article on change and thinking.

And sometimes, it is simply hard-headeness and stubbornness that gets in the way of making better decisions about things. We select ideas from “considered options” and if we already know the answer to something, we are not often willing to spend the time and energy looking for alternatives.

A blog I read recently said,

Over fifty years of scientific research has revealed that there are three distinct styles of decision-making. Each of us can make decisions in all three ways, but we tend to develop a preference for one more than the other two. This preference becomes a subconscious force, affecting the decisions we make on a daily basis and shaping how we perceive the world around us and ourselves. The three decisional styles are personal, practical, and analytical.

Well, that sure seems like a simple answer. Gee, only three styles… And there may be some truth in that. (You can find the blog post here.)

My experience lends me to believe that things are a bit more complicated than that. In a LinkedIn thread on this subject, I responded with this:

There are a variety of patterns of decision-making and I will take a position that no one assessment would possibly cover them all, but that it might give some clues as to patterns and preferences.

From the NLP literature, there are different “convincer systems” that operate to confirm a decision prior to action. I am a kinesthetic decision maker — I gotta feel that it is right “in my gut” before doing things. But I am also an auditory processor of information, so that my self-talk about it is good.

We all have different sorting styles for dealing with information, which is another thing I like from the NLP literature. I prefer fast, big-chunk, random possibilities sorting, which others would prefer to sort things in a slower, smaller unit, sequential way looking for outcomes. (There are 7 other patterns that are used, like sorting for I, You or Us, for example.)

From the old Kepner-Tregoe literature, there is a flow chart for decision making. (It is now called something else) but there is a logical and “scientific” framework for dealing with information.

From the work of Ned Herrmann is the HBDI tool, which gets into how individuals and teams think.

You have the Six Thinking Hats of Ed DeBono, which is really easy to teach and to do and which generates a variety of different teams.

LD Thumbs Up teamwork poem

Some organizations, like the Nuclear Power Institute, teach their teams to always appoint someone who functions as Devil’s Advocate, whose role is to ALWAYS challenge every decision from different viewpoints and positions, to insure that people have thought about it from all sides.

Gene Calvert wrote a book called High Wire Management years ago that looked at decision-making from a risk management viewpoint, and how most really successful managers look at and deal with risk (with some surprising findings, actually).

It is a rich literature about how individuals and teams make decisions, one that will insure that you will want to use a team process for so many complex decisions about things. And that is just the decision-making side of all this.

The “motivational” side of things gets even wilder. I have a doctorate degree in that kind of stuff but will basically say that if anyone give you, “The Answer” to all this, run yelling…

Dan Pink’s stuff is pretty good. You can see a great video, one that animates the key points and is 10 minutes long, by clicking here.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, is absolutely the best thing I have read in a long time. I will be writing a lot more about his work and how it impacts performance in other blogs – I exchanged my library copy and purchased one for myself.

Lastly, don’t get confused. Just understand that you don’t know how all this really works and that you don’t need to. Work to involve and engage other people, give the process some time, and realize that you do not need to be either a Hero or a Victim in all this!

SWs One - things you will see border

Yeah, there are a LOT of models out there and they all serve different purposes. As that statistician George Box (who was repeatedly quoted by Deming) said,

All models are wrong.
Some models are useful.

And I like the Kahneman model, which I adapted as follows about “What I see is all there is.”

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

I think any framework can be useful as a way of understanding the things that operate around us. I will just repeat myself and say that when it comes to people and brain functioning, it gets a bit more complex…

Thinking Hats green

We’re made up of a lot of different individuals and there will soon be FIVE different generations of workers in the workplace, as I write about in this post. You can rest assured that decision-making and motivation will continue to increase in complexity.

What I see is a continuing need in the workplace is for simulations like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and the different Square Wheels games like Collaboration Journey, tools that get people into a decision-making mode and where teamwork and interactions lead to opportunities to discuss decisions and thinking and collaboration and all those things that are necessary for top performance.

Find out more about our simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit at this link:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

People perform better when they are aligned to shared goals and common visions and where they have some trust in each other. Our programs are designed as tools for that kind of team improvement process,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Two

This is Part Two of a five-part post on issues surrounding people and performance and managing and leading change. Included are some ideas about:

  • managing change and personal growth   
  • assisting change management initiatives
  • developing individual and organizational potential

You can read about Part One by clicking here. 1heliconiuschari

In Part 1, the caterpillar/butterfly story about change was used as an example of the paradox and danger of, “knowing the answer.” Here, I’ll continue to illustrate this thinking on change with a few facts and another useful story.

In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) since having used them in a story in my training programs.

You may also find these factoids of interest:

  • There are roughly 150,000 species of moths and only about 19,000 butterfly species. One might think butterflies more common but we simply see butterflies more often because they are commonly brightly colored and generally fly during the day – moths generally fly only at night.
  • One difference between a moth and a butterfly is in the nature of their antennae. Moths have “feathery” antenna and butterflies have a bulb on a stalk. Their wing structures are also different.
  • Most moths have tremendously sensitive antenna that can sense minute quantities of their sexual attractant pheromone, in the parts per billion quantities.
  • The Monarch Butterfly of North America migrates great distances to areas slightly West of Mexico City, where they gather in the billions to reproduce. They then migrate back as far as the Canadian Border. They often feed on milkweed, which also serves to protect them — birds find their taste aversive and will avoid eating them.Caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail from Didier Descouens collection
  • Some caterpillars eat as much as 27,000 times their body weight to support their lives as flying insects.
  • The big green adult Luna Moths lack a mouth and actually live only on the energy stored during their larval stage — their sole focus of their adult lives is reproduction.
  • Like some people we know, certain caterpillars like the Crystalline Limacodid, have bristles that dispense toxic chemicals. Getting too close to them can be a very painful experience!
  • Many moths, butterflies and caterpillars use camouflage as a way of protecting themselves in an attempt to hide from predators — we see these same behaviors in organizations.
  • One moth native to South America has a foot-long proboscis that it uses to sip nectar from deep-throated flowers while another moth has a proboscis that pierces the skin and can drink the blood of animals.

Thus, if you’ve read through the above list, you may have learned more about caterpillars and butterflies than you knew previously. (You can find a LOT more information on wikipedia) So, my challenge was to find some simple and straightforward ways to continue to apply this metaphor to managing issues of change in the people in our organization.

Then this happened. While working on this metaphor, and in a telephone conversation, Ted Forbes, then at UVA’s Darden School of Business asked me,

“Do you know about caterpillars and butterflies?”

Feeling as somewhat an expert on the subject and knowing the key learning point of Part One of this article, I, of course simply said,

“No.”

 (Remember the paradox of knowing The Answer?)

Ted then shared a great quote and training punch line and it makes a wonderful transition to any discussion about the issues of personal and organizational change. Ted said:

“In the change from being a caterpillar to becoming a butterfly, you’re nothing more than a yellow, gooey sticky mess.”

All of us need to continually deal with the gooey glop that most find uncomfortable. But you have to metamorphose in order to change yourself and that process will involve going through the discomfort of being less and less of a caterpillar while you are not yet a butterfly. As mentors and coaches, we need to expect that most people will have a degree of discomfort going through the change / improvement process.

Expect any transformation process to be somewhat uncomfortable — and note that it takes some level of commitment to go through the change process and actually implement something. So, one key is to better understand the change process and the realities of how to support change to create a somewhat different future.

Understand that we are incredibly perceptive. Our natural senses give us perceptual sensitivity that is nothing short of amazing. If your human physical senses are working normally, you can:

  • See a burning candle from 28 miles away (if you are totally dark-adapted)
  • Feel on your fingertips a pressure that depresses your skin .00004 inch
  • Smell one drop of perfume diffused through a three room apartment
  • Taste .04 ounce of table salt dissolved in 530 quarts of water
  • Feel the weight of a bee’s wing falling on your cheek from less than half an inch away
  • Distinguish among more than 300,000 different colors
  • Gauge the direction of a sound’s origin based on a .00003-second difference in its arrival from one ear to another

Thus, we have the sensitivity to be extremely perceptive. But we typically block our sensitivity and it goes unrealized and underutilized, just as do most of our other capabilities and potential for performance. (See an article about managing teamwork and performance by using Flow by clicking here)

Applied to personal change, we will often limit ideas and possibilities for improvement because we already know the answers. By constraining our thinking, we are limiting our possibilities and innovations as well as limiting the self-esteem that comes from successful accomplishment of change and the rewards of self-improvement.

It is often our beliefs that make it difficult to see what is obvious and those beliefs and perceptions prevent us from improving.

So, step back from the wagon and look around. See what Square Wheels are operating and what choices you have made and could be making. Be perceptive. And look for opportunities to change yours and the perspectives of others. It is Dangerous to Know THE Answer, so keep asking questions.

Stay tuned for Part Three

See the sidebar comments below the signature field for a few more thoughts on lepidoptera.

For the FUN of It!

Scott and Caterpillar Picture

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Sidebar Comments:

I will admit that I love reading and learning about these lepidoptera creatures, since there is just so much fascinating information available. I went back and reread the Wikipedia article listed above and followed a few other links. So, I thought to add a couple of things.

The development of the wings are interesting. You cannot open the crysalis or cocoon to help a “struggling” emerging butterfly, since that activity is important for wing development. (You cannot “coach” them out!) Near emergence, the wings are forced outside under pressure and although these tissues are initially quite flexible and fragile, by the time the pupa breaks free of its confinement, they have firmed up. Within hours, the wings form a cuticle so hard and well-joined to the body that pupae can be picked up and handled without damage to the wings.

The glitter of a butterfly has to do with scales and these form during the change process. Caterpillars do not have them. Butterflies do. And they are pretty amazing things; they reflect light differentially to give the animals color. Below are electron microscopic pictures (from Wikipedia) that show the details with increased magnification from left to right. Amazing. And these little differences give the species is unique coloration.

butterfly wing scales

The species differences are interesting. There is a lot of mimicry in coloration and body adaptations to fit to their environment.

170px-Heliconius_mimicry

And some of the patterns are really interesting. The one below is a common one for people getting tattoos these days – it is of the Death’s Head Hawk Moth, a creature that really exists:Death's Head Hawkmoth 1

So, I hope that you find this stuff interesting. People are like caterpillars in that they want stability and grounded-ness. Many see flying as dangerous and risky but they find it less difficult after that first takeoff! Remember that flying is easy and lots of creatures accomplish it. What most need is just a little support and a little coaching and modeling. Some do it naturally.

Have FUN out there!

 

Psychopaths tend not to “procrastinate or take things personally”

The title comment was a one-liner in a SmartPlanet post by Charlie Osborne entitled:

The key to business success: Becoming a psychopath?

It is an interesting thought. You can read her whole article here.

The basic idea covers some research by Oxford University psychologist Kevin Dutton and his work on success and behavior. He argues that adopting some psychopathic tendencies could be beneficial to your success in life. But remember, this leadership stuff is all about balance!

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz001

Ruthlessnessfearlessnessself-confidencefocus,mental strengthcharm and charisma are all traits of a psychopath according to Dutton and the reality is that these factors are also all competencies for a successful business career.

The tipping point where you become a problem is when, “all these traits are turned up too high, and that’s when you start getting individuals who are dysfunctional.” It then can become an issue of control:

iTunesScreenSnapz001

Adopting certain psychopathic characteristics can help many managers improve their performance. Psychopathics, for example, tend not to, “procrastinate or take things personally,” and don’t wallow in regret or sorrow if something doesn’t go according to plan. A lack of empathy can also be useful in certain jobs such as surgery and Human Resources!. (Just kidding about that last comment, I think!)

Dutton believes that many people with these characteristics in balance are suitable for high-profile careers, including CEOs, medical professionals and lawyers — they are necessary for demonstrating confidence and making hard decisions are key to the role. But not everyone goes along with that concept and these people tend not to be good team players as a general rule.

The full article that Charlie references can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22488328

And the picture the BBC uses is this one:

BBC 67648885_135159603

with the comment: “If this is your manager’s normal behaviour, you may want to consider your career options”

My view is more like Dutton’s in that balanced sociopathic /psychopathic is not that unusual in society, and that some of the more manipulative and power-hungry people DO demonstrate some of these same behaviors though slightly less “enthusiastically.” People normally expressing these kinds of behaviors just have a different way of looking at things and reacting to events and others. They can be “highly functional” in psychological terms — but just not “normal.”

“Successful” politicians will display these sociopathic traits, as these “elected representatives of the people tend to be remorseless at implementing policies in the face of reasonable judgement and doing things like preventing universal healthcare or cutting food stamps or Medicaid benefits to the poorest Americans. Cutting social security, given that more than half of the elderly get most of their income from that program? Not allowing an increase or even eliminating the minimum wage? You be the judge if the discussions of Benghazi (and Clinton) are more important than focusing on improving jobs and the economy.

If you have ever read a text in abnormal behavior, understand that most of us see ourselves as mostly everything crazy. Guess that is only normal. It is only when these kinds of behaviors move to the extreme that there tend to be problems.

Are you hearing voices yet? (grin)

My suggestion is that teambuilding and group processes are very useful in building more normative behaviors and commitments to overall workgroup performance. We offer some of the best team building exercises in the world focused on shared visions, shared goals and collaboration among individuals and workgroups. Check out The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for example, at our website.

I guarantee you will find it to be a powerful and effective tool for your organizational improvement efforts,

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Scott Simmerman, Ph.D. — a psychologist by degree — is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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The Illusion of Innovation – Some ideas about creative thinking

Like everyone I know, I love to see those different illusions and to see how people so cleverly trick my brain. There are a lot of different styles and frameworks, not including the really neat stuff about how magic works and how the brain can only process one thing at a time because of its hardwiring. We have the different “gorilla walking by” and all sorts of slights of hand that are truly amazing.

But for me, it gets more pragmatic. How can we use our knowledge of how the brain works to improve the workplace, generate more intrinsic motivation and impact people and creativity. These things are all related, after all.

First, a bit of trickery and eye-foolery, since our world is often not how it seems:

circle and dot 1

Focus on the dot.
Then. move your head forwards and backwards.

I mean, we get movement in the above from what cannot be moving. (Maybe this is what is preventing senior managers from doing things, since they think things are moving, ya think?) Or maybe we can continue to do the same thing but have others think that we are actually making progress as we show both above as well as below!

Circles not spiral

And, similarly, take a good look at this one, above. Think things are spiraling forward toward the center? Think that things are getting closer and closer to The Singularity? Well, things aren’t. Those spirals are actually circles and it is the alignment of them that makes things appear differently. It is the same kind of paradox that happens when we set up Divisions and then expect collaboration. Ya think?

And here is one on headcount. The black dots represent people performing!

count the black dots

Yeah, those darn things just keep appearing and disappearing. Some things are just not easy, and HR often seems to have a hard time with this one. If performance is counting the black dots, go ahead and perform!

We can have some really good performers in our workplaces. And we can also have a lot of people who simply disappear. Finding and motivating people to perform is often a tough task, as shown below:

dalmation

or

mottled horses

It is often the case that motivating and engaging people to perform is a pretty tough task, even though the boss says it is pretty straightforward, like eating an elephant, you know that old, “One bite at a time” one-liner. But finding that elephant and making sense of things just isn’t all that easy… Take a look and see what I mean:

elephant legs

And it is even tougher figuring things out if you have more than one elephant to manage:

elephant legs - multiple

Let HR do all that stuff. But, I digress:

What is that old joke, Managing things  here is a lot like mating elephants:

— It is accomplished only at high levels.
— It is accompanied by a great deal of stomping around, trumpeting and other noise.
— It takes two years to produce any results.
—   And then you have a baby elephant to take care of…

(Elephants, by the way, are the only mammal that cannot jump. Do not ask me why that is important, but it just is…)

Sometimes, we just think or simply hope that we can sail away from the problems of the workplace…

escher boat arch

A look back would indicate that we are pretty solidly anchored to the past. But, if only we could build our workplace world to be more circular:

escher ring

Yeah, just go ahead and build it! We can focus on doing the following, though when it comes to people and performance,  it takes some perspective and coaching to really accomplish:

LIFT black white

But for Me?

In reality, I use a very simple illusion to get people talking about what they perceive is happening in their workplace. I use this inkblot kind of reflection about how things really seem to be working and ask them to generate their ideas and thoughts about how things work and what Round Wheels might exist that might be implemented. It looks like this:

SWs One - How Things Work

The human brain is an amazing tool, one that can be incredibly creative and innovative if we allow ideas to flow and provide an environment of support and encouragement.

You can find another blog of my thinking on thinking here.

If I can get them thinking and talking and involved and engaged in creatively thinking about how things work and what might be done differently, I can generate the cognitive dissonance and the motivational thrust to push things forward more effectively.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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How Gullible are we? Why education is important for our society.

My inclination is to make this a political post, one that focuses on the importance of education and information. And I am really pleased to note that I read that the State of SC’s Ways and Means Committee just agreed to increase funding by $149 million for next year, what everyone thought was an impossible task.

Over 1600 emails and 500 phone calls caused those on this committee to consider this refunding. South Carolina has “led the nation” in cuts to education over the past two years (even exceeding Mississippi, supposedly!). We need to educate people so that they can make better decisions and contribute more to our society, their work, and those around us.

Anyway, I came across this work in some old files, went and researched it, and it stands up. So here is the Study on Gullibility, along with the proof that we need to educate more people on more things to allow us to make better decisions on things like climate change, genetic engineering, and environmental science in general:

A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair in 1997.  He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. 

In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical DHMO or “dihydrogen monoxide.”  And for plenty of good reasons, since it can:

  1. cause excessive sweating and vomiting
  2. it is a major component in acid rain
  3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
  4. accidental inhalation can kill you
  5. it contributes to erosion
  6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
  7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

 Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

DHMO is used as an industrial coolant and solvent, it is found in nuclear power plants, it is used in producing Styrofoam cups, it is a fire retardant, it is often used in animal research and drug production, it is used for distribution of pesticides and it is additive in many junk food products.

Nathan Zohner, then 14, asked fifty 9th grade students if they supported a ban of the chemical after describing the above conditions.  Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was water.  The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?”  He feels the conclusion is obvious.

In March, 2004, the California municipality of Aliso Vieho (a suburb of LA in Orange County) nearly fell for this hoax after a paralegal there convinced city officials of the danger posed by this chemical – it got so far as to having a vote be scheduled for City Council for a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at City-sponsored events because they contained DHMO, this substance that could threaten human health and safety.

(Check it out for truth at http://www.snopes.com/science/dhmo.asp)

If you haven’t quite figured this one out, DHMO or dihydrogen monoxide is also known as H2O or something we commonly call water!

And it surely does all those things listed above and many many more. It IS one of most powerful solvents known, since it is able to dissolve so many things, many more than chemical solvents like gasoline or alcohol. It is one of the very few substances that expands when frozen (converted into its solid state) and it is also one of the few solids that will float.

We also commonly see it in all three of its chemical states, a solid (ice), a liquid (water) and a gas (water vapor or steam). Life as we know it could not exist without water (although we are just now discovering some life that does not require oxygen to survive, all need water).

We can convince people that water is dangerous by telling them SOME of the information and presenting it in a particular fashion. It is the same way we can rally people around being against gun control legislation or being for “clean coal” or for objection to more available healthcare for people.

We can share data that says that Social Security or the Post Office are damaging our country’s existence. The list goes on and on. Only education and critical thinking will help us battle those who have their secret agendas or their claims that Austerity or tax reductions for the rich will boost the economy.

 Get all the facts. Make good decisions for yourself, your family and your people.

rushmore

Scott’s image is not up there yet!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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