The Psychology of Innovation

July 19, 2016

We are being pressed to create innovative solutions to solve everyday problems, however, the innovation process is not an easy one as it requires accepting (even encouraging) behaviours within the innovation team that are contrary to those we consider polite.

When researching the innovation to commercialisation process (data collected from the USA and Australia), I found that the product creation phase is by far the most important phase. However, there are a number of co-related factors that interact in the overall innovation process. For example, people exposed to the same basic concept or idea do not necessarily construct similar mental maps of the attributes of that product or service. Some people construct highly integrated and, therefore, rather simplistic mental maps of the attributes of the innovation, whereas, others construct highly differentiated or much more complex mental maps of the attributes of the innovation concept: These two contrasting mental maps are readily measureable.

An important outcome of my research is the discovery that cognitive complexity, sometimes referred to as cognitive differentiation, is a most important factor in the innovation creation process.

KPI’s and KPO’s: Or Something More Scary?

June 1, 2016

The Key Performance Indicator (KPI-1) metric is widely used in corporate strategy for setting performance goals. However, the KPO-1 or Key Performance Outcomes is less well known. The KPO-1 acronym describes what the individual and/or team is actually required to deliver as core and critical outcomes for sustaining the growth and development of the enterprise/corporation.

More importantly, there are two equally (if not more) critical metrics which are here described as the KPI-2 and KPO-2 acronyms and they are different but far more important for the ongoing psychological health and wellbeing of employees. They are:

1. Key Psychological Indicators (KPI-2); and
2. Key Psychological Outcomes (KPO-2).

Employees at all levels of both large and small, public and private, organisations are being increasingly pressed and stretched to deliver more in their job with fewer and fewer resources. The consequence is that scary  KPls-2 and KPOs-2 are popping up all over the place. Incidents of bullying and suicide are on the rise and in some organisations, particularly public corporations, bullying continues unabated.

The ABS 2016 ‘Age Standardised Suicide Rates’, for example, show a disturbing jump since 2010 across the national population and in some categories the rise is approaching the worst ever suicide rates recorded since the late 1990’s.

Several disturbing metrics (notwithstanding any suicide metric is disturbing) is for the 30’s to 40s age band (when we are in the prime of our working life) show suicide rates increasing dramatically.

Thus, it may now be time to insert the KPI-2/KPO-2 metrics into the enterprise and corporate decision-making processes.

Off the shelf KPI-2 measures already exist that can be readily inserted into corporate strategic decision-making processes. The effect is to identify those in the employee population who might be quietly experiencing (as distinct from exhibiting) psychological distress. Furthermore, instruments and mechanisms for collecting KPO-2 metrics are also readily available and are easily implemented.

There are considerable benefits to both employers and employees implementing such a system. Here are several functional benefits that immediately come to mind:

1.   Identify the source, and reduce the affect, of bullying in the workforce;
2. Identify the inflexion point at which any given employee is likely to transitions into a stressed and dysfunctional state as a consequence of bullying and/or other stressors; and
3.  Reduce the incidence (and the ever increasing cost) of Insurance claims for the affects of work-related discrimination, stress, bullying and other like.

It is argued here that of all the strategic and operational KPI-1 and KPO-1 metrics deployed in driving business strategy, the KPI-2 and KPO-2 measures are the most important as they identify the point at which the psychological resilience of the employee (as distinct from physical resilience) is stressed to the point of becoming operationally ineffective, psychologically dysfunctional, or even suicidal!

Vigilant to The ‘Dark Triad’ in a relationship

May 19, 2016

Social media sites are now the primary method for meeting a partner. However, many of us (or a close friend) has directly experienced relationship behaviours that have been totally inappropriate or even downright frightening from people we have met on the internet. The problem then is how to extricate myself from a new relationship when the other person is exhibiting aggressive and severe anti-social traits that frighten me.

Leaving the relationship can make the aggressive person even angrier than is the current situation, thus, increasing the risk of both physical and psychological harm to me.

A more effective approach before committing to a relationship is to use an insightful evaluation and selection process at the outset. An initial step would be vigilant to symptoms of the ‘Dark Triad’.

What is the Dark Triad?

The ‘Dark Triad’ refers to three distinct but related personality traits, that is, the combination of three anti-social traits, they are: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy.

If this sounds bad, in far too many instances, it is bad!!!

Narcissism: remember the Greek myth of Narcissus; a hunter who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, and drowned as a consequence. Narcissistic people can be selfish, boastful, arrogant, lacking in empathy, and hypersensitive to criticism.

Machiavellianism:  the widely read Niccolo Machiavelli (author of “The Prince” in 1513) earned notoriety with his endorsement of the dark arts of cunning and deceit in diplomacy. Machiavellianism traits include: duplicity, manipulation, self-interest, and a lack of both emotion and morality.

Psychopathy: personality traits associated with psychopathy include: a lack of empathy or remorse, antisocial behaviour, and being manipulative and volatile.

Check the ‘Dark Triad’ Traits

The following traits and behaviours are associated with the ‘Dark Triad’:

– Manipulative;                                                 – Cynical;
– Deceitful or lies;                                            – Volatile;
– Flatters others;                                              – Seeks admiration of others;
– Exploits others;                                             – Attention seeking behaviours;
– Expects special favours from others;     – Lacks remorse;
– Low personal morality standards;           – Seeks prestige or status.
– Callous or insensitive toward others;

People high on dark triad traits are both pleasant and unpleasant to be with as they are often highly skilled at manipulating the emotions of others. Manipulation includes the capacity to undermine the partner and to the extent of poisoning the relationship, yet make the partner feel responsible for the manipulator’s loss and pain. They can cause much heartache should we have the misfortune of falling in love with them.

Dealing with the ‘Dark Triad’

Conflict management, assertiveness and emotional intelligence skills will be useful in managing a partner exhibiting ‘Dark Triad’ traits – and even more so when trying to exit such a relationship on your own terms. Persons exhibiting such traits can be volatile, so seek help from your psychologist in working through the exit process.

In addition, longitudinal studies of personality traits and career success, has shown that those exhibiting high ‘Dark Triad’ traits tend to succeed in moving up the corporate career and income ladders. In fact, they often outperformed their more conscientious counterparts.

So, don’t be surprised to discover ‘Dark Triad’ traits in the workforce.

Seek help before you act
If your relationship is somewhat testing and you are confused as to the cause; then check the traits exhibited by your partner against those listed above. If there is a high level of similarity, then seek help from your psychologist on how to exit the relationship.

Is your life ‘Inputs’ or ‘Outcomes’ driven?

May 13, 2016

At times, life can be very difficult, but it can be even far more difficult when we have not set a life goal as a beacon to lead us toward the aspiration that is very dear to our heart!

An evaluation of our life and the achievement of our personal goals will help to discover if we spend too much time dealing with Inputs rather than the far more important and critical Outcomes.

A highly satisfying life is built around an Outcomes-driven framework that will most likely result in a meaningful positive achievement (i.e., a positive Outcome); however, we tend to spend most of our time and effort bogged down in highly unproductive Inputs and Activities – rather than pursuing the far more rewarding Outcome!

Outcomes-Driven Life Model

The Outcomes-driven model follows five basic steps starting with the Inputs that transition into Activities, followed by the Outputs, then the Outcomes and finally the Impact the Outcomes has upon us.

Inputs: are resources one uses in delivering the life or activity Outputs. Examples include: personal time and effort, money, learning resources (e.g., tabs/computers) and the like.

Activities: is what we do with the resources (i.e., Inputs) to develop and frame a specific set of personal goals constructed around our work-life aspirations. For example: The psychological energy, time, as well as, the weight of effort we put into knowing and understanding our self at work or in a personal relationship – all measured against what we would like work life and relationship to be.

Outputs: is a direct result of our Activities. They are quantitative and are typically measured by how many?; how often?; over what duration. For example: Creating a ‘psychological map’ of all the ideal elements of a different type of relationship we wish to have with our boss or partner; and a working plan of how to change from the current situation to the future relationship model.

Outcomes: is the short-, intermediate- or long-term deliverables we produce as a consequence of our activities. Examples might include: new and more effective interactions with one’s loved ones, lower stress levels and the like. Outcomes measurement is the regular and systematic process of tracking the nature and extent of what we have achieved and how we did (or did not) meet the specific Outcome(s) intended.

Impact: is the ultimate effect(s) delivered by the Outcome(s). They are long-term changes we have made in our lives. Examples might include: improved capacity to deal with stressful situations, being desensitised to anxiety inducing stimuli/situations; capacity to manage the onset of depression and, generally, enhanced capacity to manage one’s psychological wellbeing.

Be mindful to the fact that we are often forced to negotiate a fair and acceptable trade-off between both the positive and negative Outcomes.

Psychological Resilience

April 26, 2016

Psychological resilience is something we all need!

It is our ability to effectively adapt to stress, anxiety, as well as, adversity in life. Stressors might include: family or relationship problems, health challenges, workplace bullying, work overload, retrenchment which can cause financial challenges.

We demonstrate resilience when we can face difficult experiences and rise above them with poise and composure. Resilience is one’s ability to bounce back from a negative experience with “competent functioning”

Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average person and can be learned and developed by near anyone.

Resilience is not some personal quality or characteristic we possess, it a process we should follow in dealing with life’s challenges.

A common misconception is that people who demonstrate resilience are people with inherent optimistic attitude and positive emotionality and are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.

Not so!

People who demonstrate resilience are those with positive emotionality who are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones and who can effectively and relatively easily navigate their way around crises and utilize effective methods of coping.

There are several factors which develop and sustain a person`s resilience:
1. The ability to make realistic plans and being willing and capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them;
2. A positive self-concept and confidence in one’s strengths and abilities;
3. Communication and problem-solving skills;
4. The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings.

These factors are not inherited traits; they are developed through practice by anyone willing to promote psychological resilience within.

Some people would add a fifth factor – Grit!

Grit refers to the perseverance and passion for achieving long-term goals. This is characterized as working persistently towards challenges, maintained effort and interest over years despite negative feedback, adversity, plateaus in progress, or failure. High grit people view accomplishments as a marathon rather than an immediate goal. High grit individuals normally earn higher school grades and make fewer career changes.

Resilience is primarily a process, not, as is often mistakenly assumed to be, a personal trait of the individual.

Resilience is the result of us being able to interact with our environments and the processes that either promote wellbeing or protect us against the overwhelming influence of risk factors. These processes can be individual coping strategies, or may be helped along by good families, schools, communities, and social policies that make resilience more likely to occur.

Has your resilience been battered today?

How is your self-esteem?

April 16, 2016

A healthy self-esteem is very important to effective social-emotional functioning. On the positive end of the scale it helps to both internalize and externalize problems. On the negative, it leads to social anxiety with a high level of self-consciousness in social interactions that can become so severe, that we avoid social contact completely.

The most disturbing aspect of low self-esteem is that it predicts the onset of depression. On the other hand, a well-developed self-concept is implicated in optimal psychological functioning.

A poorly developed self-concept may lead us to both seek, as well as, internalise the negative evaluation of others as we often hear and internalise only the negative elements of that evaluation – not the positive!

Thus, our self-concept often becomes more a reflection of the negative views of others, rather than the good things about our self.

Confused and conflicted self-knowledge often leads us to sub-optimal reactions, behaviours and decision-making all of which promote heightened personal insecurities.

In addition, a poorly developed self-concept often leads us to increasingly build our sense of self upon the negative opinions of others. This can often add to further loss of self-esteem as we continue to spiral down into increasing self-doubt and self-imposed interpersonal isolation.

Before things get that bad, seek help from your psychologist.

Workplace bullying

April 8, 2016

Surveys are telling us that workplace bullying is at a much higher level than ever expected. Bullying can result in stress, anxiety, and depression. In some instances, incessant bullying degrades our psychological capacities to the point of being traumatised.

Stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia.

One might argue that this situation could be as a consequence of a more demanding economic climate, but what is disturbing is that the incidence of clients seeking assistance in dealing with bullying is on the increase.

There are many forms, and possible sources, of workplace bullying, however, what is clearly understood is that poor organisational culture can facilitate the spreading of workplace bullying, rather than stamping it out.

Organisation level interventions through supervisory support and disciplinary processes will create channels for employees to voice their experiences and concerns around workplace bullying. More importantly, it will help to deal more effectively with identified cases of bullying.

An employer has an obligation to provide a work environment free of any risk to their employees’ health – which must be balanced by the need to maintain a viable business.

Thus, early intervention to stop workplace bullying not only makes economic sense – it is the right thing to do for both the employer and the employee.

Are you being bullied?