Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Illusions

The Illusions of Management and Leadership

Over the years, I have led many sessions on involving and engaging people and I have had a continued interest in brain function and thus the whole issue of illusions and how they work.

Illusions are interesting and they take many forms and operate in a variety of ways. Some simply trick the brain into looking for common and obvious patterns or they hide patterns in the background noise. The brain is wired to find meaning in things:

dog spot

and the brain makes assumptions that can change:

Good Evil

We also get the brain’s visual centers involved, those areas that process information. Those can be fooled because of “eye fatigue” and such to create motion from stationary images. You can find a lot of these online:

worms

If you stare at any of these long enough, there appears to real movement, which we might think of as progress… (If you do not see movement, move closer or farther away and the illusion will start.)

spinner

smiley spinner

All of these lead me to my Learning Point. A lot of organizational behavior can simply appear to be an illusion. We might think that progress is being made, or that people understand our thinking. We might think that people are involved and engaged or that they do not need any training or that they are not interested in personal development or leadership training for their futures.

Consider this next image as a possibility:

SWs One Illusion of Workplace Improvement

Yep. Illusions are not real.

So here are 8 ideas about what you might choose to do differently:

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

We have toolkits that can support your organizational improvement initiatives, things that are simple to use and really effective for you in involving and engaging people for improved work performance.

Have more fun out there!

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 Note on copyright: I got these illustrations off a Bing search of optical illusions. They were not attributed. I do not assume “public domain” on these so if they are yours, please let me know and I will add the attribution or remove them if you prefer. Thanks. Good stuff!

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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Ideas and Images – The Brain Sees New Possibilities

I’ve been interested in illusions and creativity and brain functioning since the 1970s and have collected a lot of images that look like one thing until you look more closely. Consider this image, for example:

Illusions stimulate brain creativity

It appears to be a tree, until you look more closely. And the more you look, the more you see. (How many faces are there in this image?)

Similarly, one can be shown this image and asked, “How many squares are there in this diagram?”

How many squares in this square illustion and answers

Take a minute with both of these illustrations. (My answers are below)

So, your brain can see a lot of things, if it is given the time to process the information and consider possibilities. A quick peek at the square above will NOT show you all that are there — you need to spend a few minutes on it to get an actual count and you need to think, “out of the box” to find all the squares.

The same things occur in the workplace. People that are hands-on and doing the job will spend a lot more time thinking about the tasks and processes that are involved in that job. Their level of analysis can be pretty high, especially if they are motivated by thinking about possible improvements.

And this one is new, as I update this older post:

color-us-confused

What do you see? The parrot? Well, take a really hard look at this painting. The painting and picture are called, “Color us confused.” (Courtesy Johannes Stotter Art) and it came from this website and this article on how illusions confuse the brain.

The parrot is a woman, posing. Her left foot and leg are the tail. Her other leg is raised up and her elbow forms the top of her head, with her hand being the beak! Yeah, it took me a long while to see that one, too! Artists see things differently, and they often understand how to fool the brain. Magicians take it a step farther, even, but that is outside the scope of this writing.

In practice, our Square Wheels One illustration accomplishes many of these same kinds of brain challenges, getting people to consider possibilities and opportunities for improvement. But more than a simple cartoon, our illustrations can provide a context for facilitated discussions about implementation of these ideas. Implementation is the key to getting things done.

Square Wheels One How Things Work ©

Illustrations and illusions are great tools to play with how people think and to generate some creative energy about identifying and implementing improvements. They can generate teamwork, innovation, and intrinsic motivation to improve results.

(Answers – I see ten faces in the first illustration, 5 on each side and you can count forty squares in the second — see this page to see an animation of the answer: http://media-geeks.com/special-features/how-many-squares-indeed/ )

We sell simple to use toolkits to actively involve and engage people in the workplace to use their brains and the collaboration process to generate new ideas. Simple and easy. Bombproof, too!

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

You can find another article that shares other illusions by clicking on the image below:

escher ring

For the FUN of It!

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

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