Friday, August 21, 2020

Making Decisions under Conditions of Extreme Uncertainty

Source: Pixabay
Harry Rutter, Miranda Wolpert and Trisha Greenhalgh are British professors in the areas of public health, mental health, and primary care health respectively.   They have written a blog post titled, "Managing Uncertainty in the COVID-19 Era."   The post appeared on the British Medical Journal website.  They offer five rules for coping with high degrees of uncertainty and making sound decisions in that context.  I think the rules are incredibly applicable in a wide array of settings, not simply in healthcare.  Here are the five rules:  
  1. Most data will be flawed or incomplete. Be honest and transparent about this.
  2. For some questions, certainty may never be reached. Consider carefully whether to wait for definitive evidence or act on the evidence you have.
  3. Make sense of complex situations by acknowledging the complexity, admitting ignorance, exploring paradoxes and reflecting collectively.
  4. Different people (and different stakeholder groups) interpret data differently. Deliberation among stakeholders may generate multifaceted solutions.
  5. Pragmatic interventions, carefully observed and compared in real-world settings, can generate useful data to complement the findings of controlled trials and other forms of evidence.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Why Don't My Employees Trust Me?

Sourrce: Pixabay
Cara Brennan Allamano, senior vice president at Udemy, recently shared results from her firm's survey of 1,000 workers across the country.   She published the findings in Fast Company
  • 63% believe their employers are using the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty as an excuse to trim down their organizations
  • 61% believe their employers are using workplace downsizing during the pandemic to transition to a more automated workforce
  • 52% believe their employers are leaning toward relocating their employees and organizations because of COVID-19
The numbers might shock you initially.  However, consider for a moment the abysmal employee engagement scores at many organizations before the COVID pandemic.  It's no wonder, then, that we see many employees with such perceptions about their employers' intentions during the crisis.   

Leaders need to ask themselves:  Why don't our employees trust me?  They have to be honest with themselves.  If they can't confront the truth, or don't seem to understand the reasons, leaders must find confidantes who will tell them the unvarnished truth.   Too often, I hear leaders make excuses.  They blame employees for holding misperceptions.  I think that's a misguided reaction, and frankly, one that is potentially very harmful to the organization in the long run.   Employees believe what they believe.  Perhaps their beliefs aren't true, but leaders must ask themselves:  WHY do they hold these beliefs?  Don't blame the employees.  Fix the situation.  Get to the root of why employees have come to be so skeptical and cynical about top leadership's intentions.  In my view, leaders should ask themselves three questions:
  1. What did I do in the past that caused an erosion of trust in the organization?
  2. When did my actions not match my words in the past?
  3. Have I acted in ways that employees might perceive as unfair or unjust?  Why did they come to see my actions in that way?  

Friday, August 07, 2020

Understanding Your Employees' Aspirations


In a recent interview published on the Knowledge@Wharton website, Dartmouth Professor Syd Finkelstein talked about lowering employee anxiety and communicating effectively with your employees during this time of remote work.   He explains what should be happening during one-on-one conversations with your team members. In particular, he describes how leaders should try to understand their employees' pain points and aspirations. 

The second thing is more of an individual idea, which is for each individual on your team to carve out some time to have that one-on-one conversation, not the big Zoom meeting or the BlueJeans meeting or whatever it is. One of the best ways you can signal that you really care about somebody – and this will help alleviate their anxiety – is if you try to understand what it is they need and what they want in their own careers at this point in time.

That could be starting to think about, “Well, within a year hopefully we’re on the other side and here’s what I’d like to do.” Or, “I have an aspiration to be a senior VP or a C-suite executive here” — to actually spend the time partnering, where you’re not only providing advice, but you’re actually helping them execute on this. For example, if somebody needs certain skills to get to the next stage, you help them figure out how they can get those skills. If that means a new assignment, a new opportunity, you do that.

That’s just good management of people. But when you do that, especially now, you’re demonstrating in a real way – not just with words, which are important – that you care about each individual person and you want them to succeed, and you want to understand what’s going on in their lives now, and work together to try to get them to the next stage, whatever that happens to be.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Creativity: More Ideas Leads to Better Ideas

Source:  Flickr
This week, I came across a terrific paper publishedy by clinical neuropsychologist Rex E. Jung and his colleagues in Frontiers of Psychology.  The paper is titled, "Quantity yields quality when it comes to creativity: a brain and behavioral test of the equal-odds rule." 

For years, design thinking advocates such as the practitioners at IDEO and instructors at the Stanford d.School have argued that creative problem-solving techniques should first focus on generating lots of ideas, while deferring judgement.  The notion is that you have the best chance of coming up with a truly great idea if you brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Some quote Linus Pauling who once said, "The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."  Is this true, though?  Does idea fluency (the number of ideas developed) relate positively to creativity and originality?    Jung and his colleagues examined that question using a multi-method research approach.  They not only collected data on a series of behavioral measures from a pool of 246 research subjects, but they conducted neuroimaging as well.   Here is what they sought to study, as described in the opening to their paper: 

There is a long history, within the creativity literature, noting an association between idea fluency (the number of ideas generated) and the associated quality, originality, and/or creativity of the ideas that are produced on divergent thinking tasks (Wallach and Kogan, 1965). This notion has since been conceptualized as the “equal-odds rule” by Simonton (1997), which states that “the relationship between the number of hits (i.e., creative successes) and the total number of works produced in a given time period is positive, linear, stochastic, and stable.” This principle has great appeal in that it conforms broadly to evolutionary principles (i.e., there is a variation/selection process; Campbell, 1960), it is parsimonious (Simonton, 1984b), and it conforms to excitatory and inhibitory neuronal processes familiar to the neurosciences (Logothetis, 2008).

At the opening of their discussion section, the authors summarize their findings: 

We found that quantity was associated with quality on measures of divergent thinking customarily associated with creative cognition. Subjects who produced more descriptions of abstract visual designs produced more creative descriptions of the designs as measured by judges who were blind to subject demographics. These results provide compelling support for the equal-odds rule which underlie BVSR theories of creative cognition, and which have been demonstrated repeatedly in Big C cohorts throughout history. Importantly, these results were obtained in a college sample ranging in creative achievement (0–144), and intellectual capacity (80–153), thus spanning the normal ranges of both creative and intellectual abilities. We found that fluency and creativity were highly related to one another when measured using a test of divergent thinking and the consensual assessment technique. Finally, we found that fronto-subcortical brain networks were implicated in performance of both fluency and creativity measures, with a common locus across both measures being the frontal pole.

The research confirms Pauling's observation:  "The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."