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.

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.

(You seem to like this so far, why not tweet it? 🙂 Add to Twitter

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.”