About Atma

An organizational psychologist and intellectual visionary, Atma is a provocative, colorful personality whose commentary on the subjects of wellness ranges from opening yourself to compassion and empathy to the absolute need for personal discipline and courage. As a leadership mentor his methodology derives from his study in India of the ancient Vedic teachings to post-modern, high-tech, street level savvy. Atma brings a unique and cutting perspective to the little-understood world of yoga psychology.

How to hack a management system [brief talk]

[A 5 minute talk given at LA Hackers on April 23, 2011 at Coloft]

My name is Atma

I am an industrial psychologist

That’s kind of like a project manager on academic steroids

I specialize in the psychology of organizations and am currently working on my PhD in this topic

Part of the power of organizational psychology is that it leverages emotional energy.

Emotional energy comes from human desire, those things you want deeply or strongly, and it is a pervasive phenomenon.

Put another way I traffic in disruptive ideas that can make people better, higher functioning, and happier

I do this by focusing on changes in the work environment rather than singling out the individual

Better environments create better humans; better humans create a better society

I believe we can create a better world by changing the way we interact in daily life.

My goal is to teach whoever is ready to re-engineer their business, startup, or organization.

The suite of solutions I work with can be used to make any business or team more effective (consequently more profitable)

Some of the tools in this suite include:

  1. Screening partners, and hires with face reading and other cutting edge profiling techniques including clique psychology
  2. Wiring in innovation as a cultural behavior
  3. Game theory applications – tapping into mutualistic dynamics
  4. Training for charisma, confidence, and presentation skills
  5. Human centric design based on my model of generative grammar in organizations
  6. Hacking your management system
  7. The role of discipline in forging leaders
  8. Training to be comfortable and confident in any social situation
  9. Repurposing stress – training to thrive amidst chaos
  10. Super Group Networks
  11. XY cluster companies – a new  type of agglomeration
  12. Changing the communication model,

Here is a simple example of one way to hack a management system…

To make a meaningful change in the way an organization functions you need to figure out what is the generative grammar of that business or group. It’s like understanding the nature of code at the deepest structural level in a massive program written 30 or 40 years ago. You can similarly assume that your work environment is like an antiquated system riddled with legacy code. Only instead of the byzantine application of a formal language you are dealing with emotional needs, cultural expectations, societal mores, all operating in an invisible and impossibly complex array.

But if you can change the underlying grammar or code you change the way humans behave. This is partly because humans have enormous plasticity or capacity to adapt.

For example say we all worked together and somebody came in and said I will pay each of you a significant bonus for every month you show a demonstrable positive change in your health stats. Now I know from previous studies about how many of you would take advantage of that offer. Often it would be those of you who need it the least.

But let’s say I came in and said I will pay each of you the same bonus for the improvements shown by a randomly assigned coworker, as opposed to your own improvements (which would be tied to someone else’s bonus.)

What kind of shift do you imagine would occur in the way we all interact? Suddenly I have a vested interest in your well being. I will be paying attention to what you eat, encouraging you to be more active, maybe invite you to my gym 3 times a week. And you might be inclined to respond because you are equally concerned with getting your assignee on the right track.

So you see in making one simple adjustment I have altered the generative grammar of our environment and consequently we are all behaving differently.

I am currently involved in a private research project, where I come into small businesses and observe and collect data on the organizational dynamics. It’s free to the company and I always share my findings with them, which is always eye-opening and instructive. If you know any companies that would like to apply for participation please let me know.

My contact information is on the handout I have provided.

Thank you

3 stages of increasing creativity in the workplace

Stage one: The approach

Theater of Constraints: great creativity and design flow from an accurate understanding of your limitations. By limitations you should distinguish between personal and material. Personal limitations are meant to be challenged and tested (at least within reason.) Material limitations are about the resources you have available. Material resources include, time, capital, space, and ability. Understanding material limitations can require a surprisingly large amount of individual and institutional honesty. But this rigorous honesty is the first discipline of the Theater of Constraints.

The second discipline is designing and developing within those constraints. For example say you have an idea for an application/production that will cost $1000 and take two weeks. But you only have $500 and one week. Don’t ignore these limitations and say, “let’s do the best we can!” and push forward with your original plan. Most of the time if you do, you end up with either a crappy execution of the $1000 version (a $500 version), or an over budget project and someone should get fired.

This of course is an extreme simplification, but the idea is missing from many project management cycles. If you use the limitations of your resources as a design criterion you can often engender a whole new dimension of innovation. You can also avoid the type of scope creep that is usually generated by unseen psychological factors related to the aforementioned need for honesty.

Apply the discipline of learning to design backwards from an honest understanding of available resources to software development, product development, media creation, event planning and many other types of productions.

You can even apply this discipline to aspects of personal life, like goal setting. Let your motto be, “Dream forward, design backward.”

Stage two: Stimulating creative thinking

Regular once a week free association session: one person takes the lead by providing an idea or a scenario that is seemingly farfetched or unlikely in your industry. Others begin to riff or explore on the possibilities. It is like a big “what if?” conversation, the trick is that it has to hew to some level of reality and at the same time goes well past the boundaries of what has been thought to be possible in your particular industry.

Cross disciplinary training and stimulus: Whatever field you are in, once-a-month take your team on an educational/cultural outing to something that has nothing to do with your work. E.g. take a team of developers to tour an abattoir, take the human resource team to museum exhibit on ancient Egypt, or take legal on an outing to a flower show. It is important to make it a regular outing, and to really explore intriguing albeit unrelated subjects as a group.

Show and tell: one morning a week have team members or co-workers bring in an example of counter-culture that they have unearthed. Examples could come from art, comics, film, music, architecture, economics (weird black markets), music, media, etc…

The drift (le Derive): Take a work group or team on a once-a-quarter exploration of the city using no agenda whatsoever. Begin the day by walking or catching a bus in a direction based on the flip of a coin. If you are on a bus or a subway get off on a stop chosen by the roll of a pair of dice. Or use a single die to determine the number of block s you will walk. Follow somebody walking out of a coffee shop for 60 seconds see where it leads you. Visit buildings based on the salience of their architecture i.e. that means which building sticks out the most? Doing the derive right takes practice and a real sense of adventure. The goal is to learn to let the environment direct your next move rather any personal agenda.

Stage three: Improving brainstorming

Throw away good work: if you are brainstorming or creating various version of products or services to offer the public you have to go far enough in the brainstorming to so many ideas that you must discard some good ones if you are not throwing away good work you are not assured that what remains will be excellent.

Distance thinking: review current and future projects from a distance. For example imagine that the work you are doing is going to be placed in a time machine and sent 10 years what would you do different? Or imagine your work is going to be transported to an aboriginal culture on some faraway island how do you make sure it works? If your clients are geographically close to you imagine that they are in offices halfway around the world? How do you improve communication and help keep a sense of connection? Whatever the reality of your client relationships imagine something either opposite or radical and imaginatively different. Clients from another galaxy anyone?

Purposely do bad work: gather your team together and create the 10 worst ideas for moving your company forward. Have a vote for the winner or worst idea possible. Know go backwards through the list and talk about what it would take to make each idea actually work.

No brainstorming without solo prep work: Brainstorming in a group from an empty slate can be counterproductive, and cause people to fixate on the earliest ideas. Before every brainstorming session send out a memo explain the agenda or purpose of the session and tell al participant to come up with 12 distinct ideas to begin the session. This gives everyone a chance to work alone in their own heads before coming to the group environment and will increase dramatically the number of ideas being discussed.

[Bonus thought] Evaluating best efforts: an easy way to determine the value of an idea (that isn’t yours) is to look at it and see if you can honestly say, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

And finally remember that these practices won’t be deeply effective if they are applied piecemeal to a poor overall work environment (new patches on an old garment and all…). Be sure to evaluate your entire environment with ruthless honesty. See this article on simple ways to assess your organization.


Seven ways to assess the organizational fitness of your business

One of the keys to developing a lean (highly effective and efficient) management process in your company is by making regular assessments of its psychological infrastructure. Think of it like getting a regular check up of your company’s mental well-being.

Here are seven simple steps to you can apply to your own business based on principles of industrial/organizational psychology:

  1. Move about and observe your business as if you were an outsider.
  2. Question the why and the psychology behind all the behaviors that you see
  3. Take a survey of employees about work satisfaction, concerns, wishes, complaints. There are easy to use web-based tools like www.formstack.com that make setting up surveys easy and you can look at this simple pdf  for instructions on how to design a simple survey
  4. Look for patterns of dysfunction or disruption, record the frequency and intervals
  5. Look for the underlying mechanisms (psychological states) that create these negative patterns
  6. Explore alternative workplace dynamics in small 2-3 people discussions and then as you generate agreement increase the size of the groups.
  7. Develop a means of measuring and changes that you are going to make. Be clear about establishing baselines, benchmarks (goals), and the criteria for evaluating progress.

Eventually you will want a social scientist to come in and aid you in your organizational development. It takes an experienced industrial psychologist to properly help with something as complex as organizational development and you don’t want to tax your company resources doing a job that is better done by an outsider. Even so, these are some of the valuable steps you can take toward assessing and addressing organizational issues.

Please use the comment space below to share experiences you have had with assessing the effectiveness of your organization or post comments and questions.

 [photo credit]

Facial Analytics: a management 3.0 secret weapon (part 2)

Part two: The Origins of Facial Analytics (part one is here)

Descriptions of  a pseudo science known as face reading exist in the ancient literature of Greece, China, and Europe. While those ideas have been largely discredited by science, a new practice of facial analytics is emerging as a progressive science for psychological assessment.  Here is a brief introduction into its modern origins and potential applications:

In the 1960’s western psychologists considered the face a meager source of mostly inaccurate, culture-specific, stereotypical information (Bruner & Tagiuri, 1954). But things were about to change and new research on this subject of facial emotions would have a dramatic impact in developing the science of facial analytics.  Silvan Tomkins, a well-known American clinical psychologist and personality theorist was instrumental in convincing two of his mentees, Paul Ekman and Carroll Izard to pursue research independently of each other on non-verbal communication of facial emotions. They discovered that humans, across varied cultures, both literate and preliterate, shared agreement between emotions and the corresponding facial expressions (Ekman & Friesen, 1971 and Izard 1971). In other words,  an innate grammar of emotional expression links all humans.  This research has had many implications in developing the practice of facial analytics and taking it out of the realm of the mystical and into the empirical. For example, this evidence of universality both required and justified nearly a decade of work to develop methods for measuring the movements of the face. Ekman and his partner Wallace Friesen developed the Facial Action Coding System, which was the first and most comprehensive technique for scoring all visually distinctive, observable facial movements.  A few years later, in 1979, Izard published his own technique for selectively measuring those facial movements that he thought were relevant to emotion.

Universality of emotions is the key

According to Ekman a universal emotion requires a distinctive expression so another human from any culture can know instantly from a glance how a person is feeling. By that measure one would only have to look at the evidence on how many emotions have distinctive expressions to determine the number of universal emotions. Originally distinctive universal expressions were identified for anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment. Overtime Ekman added:  contempt, surprise, amusement, embarrassment, guilt, pride, contentment, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame.  So far, this brings the list of emotions that have a universal facial expression to fifteen.

Fifteen universal emotions may not seem like a very complete system for describing the richness of human emotions. If you remember, however, that there are anywhere from 40 to as many 196 muscles in the face(depending on how you enumerate them) and each muscle can take from two to nine different positions; you end up with an astronomical number of possible muscle movements or nuances of emotional expression. If you add to these to the potential permutations and combinations of emotions such as a happy configuration followed by a sadness configuration, which is very different from a sadness configuration followed by a happy configuration-you can see how the possibilities approach infinity.

Given the complexity of possibilities, the fifteen fundamental emotions serve as templates and organizing principles for interpreting an otherwise overwhelming amount of data.  Fifteen universal emotions give a meaningful and sufficiently discrete set while at the same time allowing a range of expressiveness so vast it gives weight to the idea that the face the most sophisticated information system on planet Earth.

FOX TV jumps on the bandwagon

Famed film and television producer Brian Grazer created a show based largely on Dr. Ekman’s work. The show “Lie to Me” has been running on the Fox network for several seasons. The show however tends to focus on facial analytics as system for deception detection, which is only a small part of face reading’s potential.

Dr. Ekman studied the changes in human emotional expression in the moment. Consequently Dr. Ekman only presented part of facial analytic’s bigger picture.  What were missing were the long-term implications of persistent emotional states and the ability to see the face as an index to the mind.

A breakthrough uncovers a new science

While Ekman focused on the easier to quantify facial data called micro-expressions, it was the work of Dr. Michael Lincoln that led to the psychologically holistic applications of facial analytics.

Michael J. Lincoln was born in Berkley, California in 1933. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Oregon, where he spent several years teaching, research assisting and working at mental hospitals. He was one of the first psychologists successful in the integration of behavioral and psychoanalytic approaches. Along with all this clinical work, he served as a professor of psychology at the University for several years, where he trained students in professional clinical psychology, conducted research, and taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s in the midst of this extraordinarily intense career work and the accompanying high case loads Dr. Lincoln uncovered the holistic face-reading process based upon modern psychological assessment approaches. The unimaginably massive amounts of data from Dr. Lincoln’s case load may have contributed to the realization after a time that he was able to predictively complete the patient’s case file with nearly 100% accuracy, without having done the interview.  Naturally, he found this fascinating and unusual.  So he began systematically studying the phenomenon. Over time he unearthed literature from the East and the West about the process and integrated that which could be empirically tested and added to his understanding of facial analytics.

What makes it possible (the face as index of the mind)

Let’s take a closer look at the potential for facial analytics. Consider the intersection of face reading and human emotional and psychological development from birth.

As each human child develops, many factors will shape and influence their personalities, perceptions and experience of life. How the growing human interacts with her or his environment definitely registers on their face.  Infant studies have all built a case for the impact of maternal facial expression on the child (Stein et al, 2009, Klinnert, 1983). For example adult behaviors such as being withdrawn or people avoidant are sometimes traced back to sensing as a child a contradiction between words and facial expressions. (Lincoln, 1989)  According to Dr. Lincoln, the developmental process is like an inverted pyramid. In this respect, seemingly small and insignificant events can have a cascading effect on the child’s development well beyond the proportion of the original interaction.  For instance if the kid gets the message from the mother’s face, “I wish you weren’t here,” that is tantamount to getting a message from the in loco deity that “I don’t belong here, God says so!”  From here one can see patterns of shame, guilt, frustration and a host of accompanying scripts, especially in the area of self esteem. The child translates the original facial expression-exchange as, “I am not worthy of love.” This in turn initiates thought patterns and behaviors that reinforce the feeling of not being worthy.

To complicate and place even more importance on the developmental years is the intensity and speed at which human interactions occur.  Import research and discovery on this subject was done by William Condon in the 60’s. Using motion picture film Condon noticed blurs in the single frames of film shot at the normal 24 frames per second.  By speeding up the rate of filming (which slows everything down during playback) he was able to prove that human behavior can occur at rate of 64 pulses per second. Each pulse involves a different pattern of subtle moving in muscles and body parts. In addition to this Condon was able to demonstrate that humans interact as fast as 16 times per second. This means an unimaginably rapid and potentially dense amount of information is being shared from person to person. (Edward T. Hall Beyond Culture Anchor Books, 1977)  This subtle and high speed interaction had been given the name, Kinesic Dance, by Ray Birdwhistle.

In addition, research has shown an extraordinarily high amount of shifting influence of the mother over the child In respect of punishments that are particularly effective in socializing guilt (which leverages fear). According to Kemper in his 1987 paper on the number of emotions, “Sears, Maccoby, and Levin (1957) found that the most important was withdrawal of love. Hence, the most potent fear aroused in the punishment situation may be fear of loss of love. Where there is no love to lose, the fear would ordinarily be considerably less; the likelihood is then much reduced of linking the several elements of fear, forbidden act, punishment, and label.

Hoffman noted that the “available evidence suggests that in the 2- 4 year-old range children experience pressures from mothers to change their behavior on the average of every six to eight minutes throughout their waking hours, and in the main they end up complying” (Hoffman, 1977, p. 93). Demos (1982) also observed a change over time in the pattern of mothers’ evaluations, comments, and voice tones. When their infants were 9-15 months old, the mothers’ vocal productions were mainly positive. By the 21-month period, mothers had shifted to a more irritated, perfunctory, and didactic tone, oriented, as in the materials reported by Hoffman, toward obtaining behavior change. Certainly, the high rate of behavior change parents require of their children by the second year is not achieved in most cases without punishment of which the child ordinarily develops some fear. Indeed, before gaining the ability to reason through the grounds for a behavior change, children must necessarily control their conduct largely through fear of the aversive consequences learned through previous punishment.”

Because every emotion experienced ends up being repeatedly expressed on the child’s face a history of the dynamics, and character of the these interactions is trace into each human face.

A graphic anecdote about child rearing

The most graphic example of this phenomenon was the film footage of a mother holding twins (Condon, 196?). In the five-minute film one twin start to fuss and cry while the other remains calm. When they ran the film in slow motion it came out that the mother and her preferred twin were involved in a mutual validation experience sixteen times a second while she and the other twin were involved in a mutual rejection pattern sixteen times a second. By the end of five minutes he had received 4800 rejections. When seen in slow motion, the impact is overwhelming and the implications staggering (Michael Lincoln, 2007).

This type of interaction should give you a sense of how the face is able to record these patterns of behavior, like grooves cut into a record; emotions become behavioral traces which become part of a permanent index of the mind. As muscular reactions to the environment repeat over and over they even begin to mold the bone and cartilaginous structures of the face.  This constructed legacy becomes a part of what a face reader identifies when reading a person’s history as it has been recorded on their face.

Conclusion (and caution)

Learning facial analytics sets you apart from others. Knowing more than the person you are dealing with knows about you is power, and with power comes responsibility.  You become part of an élite sect with a clear advantage over others. It is up to you to use this advantage for good and humanitarian purposes and not selfish ends.

Are facial analytics the newest tool for management 3.0?

Facial analytics can reinvent the way you do business –

I have been a practitioner of facial analytics for 12 years and it has been an invaluable skill to me in many areas of business.  I have used it to find business associates and partners.  I have consulted for corporations giving feedback on important hires. I used my skills on television to help someone who had a 14 year memory loss. I have even helped private detectives on the trail of dangerous criminals.

Who’s got your back? Do you know who is a friend or foe?

True Story: I had a friend who took a job as CEO of a hundred person corporation.  Let’s call him William.  Everything was going great until the parent company sent in an executive as part of William’s team. This guy (call him Dick) was trouble. If William had been able to face read Dick he would have been able to analyze the newcomer and recognize that Dick had several challenging and potentially trouble-making traits.  As it turned out Dick was highly problematic because he had close ties to several board members. A fact William would have discovered because the red flags from his facial analytics would have prompted William to dig deeper into Dick’s background.

Armed with this knowledge William could have taken steps to protect himself from Dick’s eventual treachery. But William missed the warnings and being a decent person gave Dick the benefit of the doubt and failed to follow a defensive course.  Consequently, Dick began a pattern of undermining William’s position and when things came to a head a year later, William, who had grown the company measurably as CEO got the boot and lost about $600,000 in bonuses. William’s frustrating and bitter outcome could have been avoided if he’d had more information from the beginning about Dick’s nature. Through facial analytics it was available.

Facial analytics improves relations in the workplace:

Facial Analytics can give you 4 decisive business advantages in the workplace:

1) Knowing who to hire – According to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one bad hire can lead to a domino effect of more bad hires and decisions costing a company millions. He estimates his own bad hires have cost Zappos “well over $100 million.”

Imagine the increased effectiveness of hiring practices that help screen potential hires with problematic personalities that could lead to avoidable interpersonal conflict or caused major workplace disruptions. Standard hiring techniques like a résumé and interview can hide important weakness and in some cases relevant strengths.

2) Managing expectations makes one a better manager– facial analytics helps a manager avoid the stress that comes from either over or under estimating the psychological needs of the people they work with. These misplaced expectations create stress for both the manager and the employee and affects everybody involved’s ability to perform optimally and with satisfaction. In fact, whether a coworker is above or below them in the chain of command, understanding a person’s psychological boundaries and emotional capacity would help a manager develop better interpersonal skills.

3) Becoming expert in delegating workload and putting together teams –  facial analytics gives insight in to an individual’s propensities, strengths and weaknesses. Having this information would help you to make better decision about how to utilize and engage others, whether you are putting together a team or have to manage any group of people.

4) Executive training windfall – an executive trained by an expert in facial analytics is better equipped to manage challenging personalities, competitors, antagonistic board members, investors, etc…

3 more ways to gain Insight into all relationships

Knowing strengths and weaknesses:  facial analytics  can positively impact relationships both inside and outside of work. Relationship issues like new friendships, romance, guiding children, meeting potential partners can be improved by the increased insight to the person’s psychological profile. When looking at a person the face reader can quickly surmise character, personality traits, strengths and weaknesses.  This goes a long way toward answering the first issue, “Should I be involved with this person?”

Relationship compatibility: Going further into the potential of a relationship you may want to know, “What is my compatibility with this person, or how can I best interact with them?”  At this stage you can become the subject of  facial analytics. You can use face readings to develop a clearer picture of who you are and what your principle roles in life might be. This process teaches you to be both constructively self-aware and mission oriented.

Better communication:  Facial analytics can also help in a crucial aspect of developing and maintaining relationships: dialogue. The key to dialogue is your ability to ask questions, and good questioning requires being able to gauge the responses you get and use that feedback to dig deeper into the psyche and emotional needs of the person you are communicating with. Better communication skills mean more effective relationships.  Face reading gives you the opportunity to become even more than an empathic listener. It allows you to become an insightful listener. In terms of communication skill sets, this is like the difference between being an average interested person and being Sherlock Holmes.

Never again say, “If only I’d known that…”

Learning how to read faces takes time but I feel that it is an innate capacity for all humans. Among other things  facial analytics takes the natural capacity for intuition or gestalt perception and refines it. It seems reasonable to assume that humans uncovering or regaining  their ability to read faces coincides with the advances we are making both technologically and politically as a civilization. Those that take the time to develop this skill could avoid costly errors of judgment like my friend William. There are many implications for face reading from the aforementioned hiring to the ability to better select and manage corporate and non-profit boards. I would love to hear from you how it could improve your business environment

Where do I find an expert in facial analytics?

Right now there is a shortage of people with this skill.  Certainly Dr. Lincoln (you will learn about him in part two of this article) and myself are capable. But a great many more are needed. I am currently developing research projects that will also serve to train people in this practice. As grant money becomes available these training projects will become a valuable resource. In the meantime you may ask me questions and I will do my best to answer them. (Many people ask my rate for consulting and it is $175/hour.) And I am always interested in hearing ideas about integrating this process into technology based ideas.

Stay tuned for part two: The Origins of  facial analytics. If you like this article please tweet and post, and if you want to get more like this in your email box please subscribe using the function in the right side column

Update: Some people have asked for an example of what you see in a  facial analytics. I did a quick study of pols and CEOs last election here.

Call for research participation – how functional is your workplace?

You can’t fix what you can’t see

Think about how cool it would be to have insight into the psychological dynamics present in your workplace. Psychological and operational insight can give you, as a company owner or CEO, fascinating and practical information that can be used to increase productivity, employee loyalty, retention, cooperation, etc…

As an industrial/organizational psychologist, working on my PhD, I am currently gathering data for a larger research project on productivity and employee interaction. I am looking for companies that will allow me to come in and analyze your culture. I would share my findings with you.

To take advantage of this chance and be part of this study you need to have a physical office space with at least 15 employees* under one roof. (There’s no limit in the other direction but if you’re a huge company you should consider a supporting grant 🙂 .) Your company should be in the tech, information services, or media sectors. You must also be located in either in greater Los Angeles, or the Bay area. (Use this formif you want to ask about eligibility).

Throughout this process your privacy and company trade practices will be kept confidential (a non-disclosure agreement will be provided.)

3 levels of interaction

You decide how deeply you are willing to allow me to study your organization.

Level 1: questions and observation – this is simply giving me access to your executives and management for brief interviews and a chance to observe your workplace for two to four days over a period of a couple of weeks. The number of days depends on the size of your company.

Level 2: staff surveys and management personality assessments – this level of data gathering and investigation provides deeper insight into the underlying psychology that controls your company culture. Naturally this requires more time than level one.

Level 3: interviews on video – this includes everything in levels 1 and 2 and additionally involves conducting a number of videotaped interviews and possible group discussions. The video footage provides powerful evidence of underlying dynamics and issues confronting your staff and leadership. This process is especially insightful if your company is experiencing change management issues.

As I said earlier your privacy is secure and data acquired at all levels will only be used anonymously in my research work. If you want this type of analysis done at your company but do not wish to make the findings available for publishing, these services are available as consultation at the rate of $1,400 per day

Knowledge is power.

Upon completion of the data gathering I will sit down with you and present my findings. I believe you will find the process insightful and even inspiring.  Part of my work aims at training and educating employers about the way that social science can inform best business practice. Your support of this research will not only help you but will build a better environment for business overall.

If you would like to be considered for this project please fill out this request form. There is a limit to the number of companies I will select and I can only do this type of work for as long as my present funding holds out (which is mostly coming from earlier projects).

I look forward to hearing from you and getting under the hood of your organization.

Sincerely,

Atma

*We make exceptions to the 15 person rule if your company is a promising start-up that has completed at least one round of funding.

Fill out this formif you want to discuss eligibility and participation

Seven Personal Habits for Failure

The success and achievement you seek become more likely by taking an open-eyed look at personal pitfalls.

An interesting part of my work and studies into organizational and inter-personal psychology is cataloguing and describing how institutional psychology informs individual psychology. This happens when underlying structural dysfunction and the psychological requirements of the organization become part of the individual’s temperament.

To build better organizations and societies you have to look for the consequences in the individual and the antecedent in the organizational structure.

Here are seven initial characteristics that people tend to emulate and thereby perpetuate the already institutionalized dysfunction. Learning to seeing them in yourself is a valuable step towards seeing it in an organization’s psychology.

1) Self deception – lacking the humility and the personal candor or insight to perceive your shortcomings: This problem makes you unavailable for help or guidance even if it is right in front of you. Without the willingness to search for your own blind spots (which are invisible to you) your risk of failure increases dramatically. It is not enough to go to those who are wiser and more experienced unless this is done with a willingness to see things which will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. Facing one’s own shortcomings is the deliberate self-infliction of pain. It takes a strong sense of resolve to subject your self to this process. Developing this resolve requires:

  • Going inside yourself and bit by bit facing those things which you are most of afraid of
  • Seeking out mentors who will be starkly honest and constructively critical of your strength and weaknesses
  • Keeping track of behaviors – listing both productive (positive) behaviors and counterproductive (negative) behaviors
  • Actively observing your interactions with others and noticing the nature of those interactions.
  • Being ruthlessly honest with yourself about your intentions, and digging deeply in to your own hidden agendas, especially as they lead to great awareness of egoism, unnecessary defensiveness, fear based impatience, selfishness, etc…
  • Being honest about your business position. For example: market potential – don’t fail to see when the numbers just aren’t there. Or when you are causing more pain than good to your stakeholders, or if the conditions for your endeavor are just not there, the list goes on.

Do not be afraid to be ruthlessly honest about you and your situation. (Incidentally this includes taking an accurate stock of your assets, material and personal.)

2) The need for certainty – it is a common trait to want to control the outcomes of events and our efforts. But you must learn to accept what you have no control over; and that is almost every outcome in your life. If you accept that life is a complex, dynamic playing field that is constantly in motion and never stable you will be far stronger through resilience and adaptability.

3) Failing to compartmentalize confidence and humility – you must be a citizen of two worlds: experience two distinct realities – an external experience and an internal experience. On the outside you must behave confident and grounded like a mountain. On the inside you must be humble and flowing with the fluidity and resilience of a river.

4) Making kindness and courage mutually exclusive – It is a mystery to me why people can’t see the reason “nice guys finish last”. It is certainly NOT because they are nice. In almost every real or fictional account of a nice guy finishing last what torpedoed him (or her) was not the highly valuable quality of niceness or kindness, but rather the lack of courage. For some reason people have come to think of those qualities as mutually exclusive. They are not. They are both required to be a true success.

5) Battle without reserve but don’t fail to repose with abandon – there is increasing pressure to rest and relax less. This has been the trend around the world, even causing workers to feel guilty for wanting to take breaks.  The solution is not to become less diligent or less determined to take part fully, but rather to remember that R&R is as important to success as hard work.

So, yes, give it all you got. Don’t save enough for the trip back – go forth each day with the idea that it is your last and you have nothing to hold back for the return trip. Make each day and each hour of your working life count as if everything depends on your efforts. But when the day is over or the week-end or month-end break arrives take it with impish seriousness. Really relax and allow you mind and body to recuperate. Also do not forget to feed your soul.  Internal strength comes from humility. Humility means cultivating an awareness of that which is greater than you. This can be God, the universe, nature, humanity, or that which you understand to be greater. You will be empowered by not feeling like it is you at the top of the heap.

6) Fear of failure –If it is worth doing you must be willing to fail and you must embrace the possibility of pain and loss of reputation. You must know the risks and own them. Go into the pitch with full knowledge of the worst possible outcome and be willing to continue forward at full speed in spite of this. People mistake blind optimism with courage and think that fear of failure is having negative thoughts. This is psychological-babble and rubbish. Fear of failure begins with being unwilling to acknowledge the worst and ends with being unprepared for it. There is no daring in delusion. It is looking into the darkness and choosing to advance that makes up courage.

7) Envy and Greed – the unwillingness to see what others have to share, to seek help when it is needed and to reward those who make sacrifices for your success. In the past we valued the time people gave us with monetary designations as if it is possible to put a value on the increments of time that make up a human life. If we look at those who take part in our business growth as contributing their time on earth which can hardly be valued as less or greater than your own then we may have a different consciousness when we decide how to remunerate and reward. There is a beautiful logic and empowerment to being increasingly fair in the way we conduct ourselves.

It is certainly worthwhile to look deeply at the implications and existence of these issues in your personal life. It is even more important to understand how the organizations that we created are not just cultivating these types of dysfunctions but are actually requiring them. Subsequent articles will look at how these unhealthy behaviors can be eliminated from an institution’s deep structure.

Where are you on the management scale of newbie to expert hacker?

Three Levels of Management

Companies and institutions exist at different levels of functionality. It is important for the person(s) responsible for the organization to honestly and accurately assess their state of managerial needs. In other words, are you a “Newbie”, an “Experienced User”, or an “Expert Hacker”?

As a starting place we can look at three general levels or grades of management.

Beginner’s Management [Newbie or Management 1.0]

Fundamentals of managing an organization:

  1. (Forecast & Plan) – Examining the future and drawing up a plan of action. (The elements of strategy.)
  2. To organize – Build up the structure, both material and human, of the undertaking.
  3. To command – Maintain the activity among the personnel.
  4. To coordinate – Binding together, unifying and harmonizing all activity and effort.
  5. To control – Seeing that everything occurs in conformity with established rule and expressed command.

Fundamentals of being a manager:

  1. They ask “what needs to be done?”
  2. They ask “What’s right for the enterprise?”
  3. They develop action plans.
  4. They took responsibility for decisions.
  5. They took responsibility for communicating.
  6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  7. They ran productive meetings.
  8. They thought and said “we” rather than “I”.

And the Fundaments of managing by objectives:

  1. Cascading of organizational goals and objectives, (For example, a top level goal of increasing sales by 20% over a defined period may require a bottom level goal of increasing marketing effectiveness or marketing coverage in order to reach the sales set.)
  2. Specific objectives for each member,
  3. Participative decision making,
  4. Explicit time period, and
  5. Performance evaluation and provide feedback.

(Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives also introduced the SMART acronym for checking the validity of the objectives, which should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic! and
  • Time-related. )

If the person(s) responsible for managing are able to look at the eighteen points above and determine they are more or less in place, they are operating at the most fundamental or beginner’s level of management. If the company management feels it is operating below this standard most of these practices can be self taught by studying them on the internet or visiting a bookstore.

Informed Management [Experienced User or Management 2.0]

While there are many aspects to informed management some of the basics that must be present are:

In depth financial planning and controls: this usually requires someone with a graduate degree in business, such as an MBA or equivalent and is proficient in:

  • Business modeling
  • Business planning (analysis, forecasting, budgeting…)
  • Capital raising strategies
  • Risk assessment
  • Valuation
  • Corporate Taxation

Use of a more dynamic management systems: such as Value Based Management, which tries to streamline and integrate the following into its corporate purpose and values:

  • the corporate mission (business philosophy),
  • the corporate strategy to achieve the corporate mission and purpose,
  • corporate governance (who determines the corporate mission and regulates the activities of the corporation),
  • the corporate culture,
  • corporate communication,
  • organization of the corporation,
  • decision processes and systems,
  • performance management processes and systems, and
  • reward processes and systems,

A Value Based Management System has three principal objectives:

  1. Creating Value – How the company can increase or generate maximum future value; more or less equal to strategy
  2. Managing for Value – Governance, change management, organizational culture, communication, leadership
  3. Measuring Value- Valuation

Value Based Management is dependent on the corporate purpose and the corporate values. The corporate purpose can either be economic (Shareholder value) or can also aim at other constituents directly (Stakeholder value).

The application of Quality Management – the basics of which involve quality planning, control, and improvement. The benefit of this is:

  1. costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, and better use of time and materials;
  2. productivity improves;
  3. market share increases with better quality and prices
  4. the company increases profitability and stays in business; and
  5. the number of jobs increases

One of the best summaries of Quality Management was written my Edward Deming:

  1. Create consistency of purpose toward the improvement of product and service, and communicate this goal to all employees.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy of quality throughout all levels with the organization.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality; understand that quality comes from improving processes.
  4. No longer select suppliers based solely on price. Move towards developing a long-term relationship with a single supplier.
  5. Processes, products, and services should be improved constantly; reducing waste.
  6. Institute extensive on-the-job training.
  7. Improve supervision.
  8. Drive out fear of expressing ideas and concerns.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People should be encouraged to work together as a team.
  10. Eliminate slogans and targets for the workforce.
  11. Eliminate work quotas on the factory floor.
  12. Remove barriers that rob workers of their right to pride of workmanship.
  13. Institute a program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Make sure to put everyone in the company to work to accomplish the transformation.

Customer relationship management (CRM) – a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support.

CRM has three principal objectives:

  1. Acquire new customers
  2. Enhance customer service
  3. Retain and continually engage client base

The benefits of CRM must be defined, risks assessed, and cost quantified in three general areas:

  1. Processes: Though these systems have many technological components, business processes lie at its core. It can be seen as a more client-centric way of doing business, enabled by technology that consolidates and intelligently distributes pertinent information about clients, sales, marketing effectiveness, responsiveness, and market trends. Therefore, a company must analyze its business workflows and processes before choosing a technology platform; some will likely need re-engineering to better serve the overall goal of winning and satisfying clients. Moreover, planners need to determine the types of client information that are most relevant, and how best to employ them.
  2. People: For an initiative to be effective, an organization must convince its staff that the new technology and workflows will benefit employees as well as clients. Senior executives need to be strong and visible advocates who can clearly state and support the case for change. Collaboration, teamwork, and two-way communication should be encouraged across hierarchical boundaries, especially with respect to process improvement.
  3. Technology: In evaluating technology, key factors include alignment with the company’s business process strategy and goals, including the ability to deliver the right data to the right employees and sufficient ease of adoption and use. Choosing appropriate technological solutions is best undertaken by a carefully chosen group of executives who understand the business processes to be automated as well as the software issues

Human Resource Management:  this is the management of the people you have hired

  • Workforce planning
  • Recruitment (sometimes separated into attraction and selection)
  • Induction, orientation and organizational socialization
  • Skills management
  • Training and development
  • Personnel administration
  • Compensation in wage or salary
  • Time management
  • Travel management (sometimes assigned to accounting rather than HRM)
  • Payroll (sometimes assigned to accounting rather than HRM)
  • Employee benefits administration
  • Personnel cost planning
  • Performance appraisal
  • Labor relations

Experts in this study the science of Industrial Relations, which is quite extensive.  Wikipedia had 195 pages listed under the related subject of ‘organizational studies and human resource management’.

Informed Management in summary: If your organization has in place at the very least, some version of these five attributes of management, namely:

  1. Advanced financial planning and controls
  2. Some dynamic management system
  3. A system for Quality Control
  4. A Customer Relationship Management strategy, and
  5. Human Resource Management

then you can be considered an organization at the informed level of management.

If you feel you are not functioning at the informed level of management then you would be well served by hiring a management consultant. There are many capable consultants ranging from one person independent contractors to large multi-national firms like McKinsey & Company.

The standard of informed management is really just the status quo. It is where a company that hopes to remain viable must be. But to go beyond the status quo, to operate at the more elusive, and much desired level of being a remarkable enterprise requires advanced management.

Advanced Management [Expert Hacker or Management 3.0]

To have your management and employees working at a level of exceptional performance, and constant innovation under extreme market pressures requires the input of experts in organizational psychology which is several levels above normal business management consulting.

As described in the previous sections regular business management consultants focus on work flow, productivity outcomes, information systems and other external factors.

Industrial or organizational psychology focuses on the underlying and implicit dynamics that shape and influence the individuals in the organization. These difficult to detect psychological factors set the limits for how well your work force will be able to achieve your business goals. Failure to address the deep seeded dynamics will also suppress individual potential and cause personnel to work well below capacity.

The goal of advanced management solutions is to create a remarkable organization that will outperform competitors. This is done by introducing advanced dynamics that can instigate a companywide chain reaction of individual improvements and new group/ team capacities.

An astute organizational psychologist does this by dismantling dysfunctional dynamic and problematic behaviors and incorporating new roles and perspectives and seeding better expectations and behaviors.  These new dynamics act on the resilience and adaptability inherent in most people and can uncover performance capacities that the individuals themselves might not realize they had.

Industrial or organizational psychology is a management process that knows that both humans and institutions have and underlying psychology. Like humans, institutions are mostly unaware of the dramatic influence of psychological processes. Neither is fully aware of how these psychological forces are controlling them and shaping their outcomes.

The organizational psychologist understands, however, that of the two, the institutional psychology is the dominant force. Change the psychology of the institute and you will change the psychology of the individuals.  Ignoring this and just trying to change the psychology of the individuals who make up the institute may not change the institute, and they will, over time, most likely revert or succumb to the influence of the institution.

For this reason advanced management requires support from specialists in the psycho-dynamic-transformation of six key aspects of your organization. They are:

  1. productivity,
  2. innovation,
  3. stress management,
  4. health & wellness,
  5. team/group development, and
  6. employee management

Industrial /organizational psychology addresses traits that are often intrinsic or internal such as

  • creativity
  • self-motivation
  • patience
  • honesty
  • courage
  • kindness and
  • confidence

to name  just a few. A large body of scientific work has made it clear that these factors can be measurably improved by applying psychological methodology to the business environment. (Wikipedia lists 15 distinct scientific journals with the specific focus of industrial and organizational psychology.)

Influencing these types of human characteristic is done using a range of research-driven tools which includes doing both basic and applied research, as well as primary and secondary research. Different approaches include:

  • Strategically focused research – this is constructive research with the greatest likelihood of creating practical and commercial applications
  • Clinical research – empirical research to test the efficacy of various hypotheses on individuals in controlled trials
  • Directed research – this is research conducted in a response to an outside request to explore a specific area of scientific expertise
  • Systematic review – a summary of research that uses explicit methods to perform a thorough literature search and critical appraisal of individual studies to identify the valid and applicable evidence
  • Meta-analysis – a statistical study of the results of several studies that address a set of related research hypotheses

Industrial psychologists also rely on diverse data sources including:

  • psychometrics and personality assessments
  • quasi-experiments
  • human judgment
  • historical databases
  • objective measures of work performance and
  • questionnaires or surveys

Altogether the industrial/organizational psychologist can change a company’s culture, improving member performance and resulting in greater outcomes. Some of the areas affected by advanced management solutions include:

  • organizational development
  • time management
  • decision making
  • motivation
  • communication
  • creative thinking
  • divergent vs. convergent thinking
  • problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • employee interaction and co-operation
  • stress and health
  • reducing health care costs
  • reducing absenteeism (and presenteeism)
  • work/life balance
  • the impact of health on productivity
  • nutrition and productivity
  • leadership skills
  • team collaboration
  • employee selection
  • employee retention
  • remuneration and compensation
  • executive training
  • presentation skills

The future success of business will depend on new levels of collaboration between business leaders and experts in social sciences like industrial psychology. By allowing an expert to help with organizational development the management can focus on what they are in business to do.

Organizational Psychology – the dominant force

Fix the institute; heal the man – the underlying hypothesis for my over all approach to healing society through organizational design and changing the psychology of an institute

Part of my working hypothesis is, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”

Industrial or organizational psychology is a management process that knows that both humans and institutions have an underlying psychology. The organizational psychologist also understands that of the two, the institutional psychology is the dominant force. Change the psychology of the institute and you will change the psychology of the individuals.

By institution I mean most any place where humans interact regularly: school, work, home, church, and so on. Think of institutions as any matrix of roles, e.g. mother, daughter, grandparents, or worker, supervisor, executive, or student, teacher, administrator.  (Of course for our work we are going to be focusing on the workplace.)

There have always been brave souls who buck the overwhelming influence of societal pressure. Sadly, however, science and history have provided copious evidence for the fact that humans tend to submit to the influence and expectation of the institutions around us.

An institute is not a living being, at least not in the way you and I are. It is, however, a dynamic entity, made up of unspoken and usually unseen expectations, rules, customs, mores, and behavioral demands.  Think of institutional psychology as a deep structure that acts as a hidden, generative grammar. This grammar strongly influences behavior. This grammar is made up of rules that inform the psychology of the institute.

These rules and values enter into the so called psychology of the institute at the time we humans create it, so we are responsible. But we often instill these traits without being aware we are doing it. Consequently the psychological traits of the institution tend to reflect what is going on in the culture at large. If the prevalent traits in society are sexism, racism, classism, individualism, or patriarchal, homophobic, atheistic, fascistic, or any other of the fear based human behaviors, these tend to become imbedded into the psyche of the institute without any one purposely putting them there or even conscious of how it happens.

Once we have built our institutions in such a manner we then tend to live within their expectations and under its influence. And this is dangerous, and a sign of going through life inattentively. But you can see how we are living in our creations.

The bright spot in all this, and the essence of my life’s work, is that humans are marvelously adaptive. So, big and small, we can rebuild the institutions of daily life. We can recreate them in a way that will help shape humanity into the best of traits, such as, kindness, courage, honesty, selflessness, and more.

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This is not to say that humans do not have sufficient free will to define their mores and behaviors on their own, they do. But in general they don’t. This is because we are extremely social and interconnected beings. We appreciate deeply the support and reinforcement of those around us, and we like to offer the same. But in the context of operating within our various institutions, family life, school, the workplace, where the underlying expectations that lead to acceptable or “appropriate” behavior has been infused with the fear based characteristic I mentioned above, then we inadvertently (or unmindfully) but understandably  conform to the norm. Sadly it is easier to just go along with the flow. And sometimes the economic pressure to do so is great. After all, the student needs her degree, the journalist has to pay the rent, so failing to conform can economically unbearable. The added dilemma is that conformity over extended periods of time is rarely superficial. Humans tend to internalize-that is embed into their own psyche-behaviors and expectations that are repeated or maintained over extended periods of time.

This is why I am focused on helping change the psychology of institutions more so than just the individuals (who I am also willing to help). But if I take 1000 people out of an institution with a 1000 people, put them through a three week mindfulness boot camp, strengthening their character and motivating them positively, when I send them back to the unchanged institution, the majority will revert to the influence of the institute’s psychology. Some won’t. But of those, most will end up leaving. This is the overwhelming pattern in humanity today. So you can see why I focus my work around the idea that, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”