The inherent complexity of dealing with human beings

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The inherent complexity of dealing with human beings

stock-photo-377682-childhood-memoriesI came across an excerpt from a book by Dr Kevin Leman called What your childhood memories say about you. He tells some funny stories of his own childhood, mostly to make a case that if you examine your collection of childhood memories, you’ll discover themes that reveal what he calls your private logic, a term coined by psychologist Alfred Adler.

We always seem to have to convince decision makers that any human system is inherently complex and unpredictable. Private logic or personal bias is probably one of the biggest contributing factors to this unpredictability, i.e. we all see the world differently, and therefore react differently even when presented by the same scenario or stimulus. Our private logic is both innate and learned, shaped by experiences we’ve had as children and later in life. As Leman writes: “Even children in the same family, as much as they may adopt similar values, speak a common language, and understand the same jokes, will view the same moment in childhood differently. One might remember Dad’s admonitions not to play near the street as overbearing and distrustful. Another might remember Dad’s watchful eye lovingly protective”

Why is this important in business? Many interventions in organisations e.g. performance management, rewards & recognition, flexibility arrangements etc adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Best practices are often adopted from other countries or industries with no consideration for the unique context of this particular organisation and it’s employees. While I realise it’s virtually impossible to customise every intervention to individual staff members, I do believe that decision makers should move away from fail-safe blanket interventions (complicated and expensive) to safe-fail experimental interventions – i.e. try several different interventions in small, manageable and measurable experiments. We monitor for behavior patterns that result from our experiments, then amplify the ones that work and dampen the ones that don’t.

By |October 30th, 2008|Categories: Psychology|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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