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

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

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.”