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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 23 August 2012

John Ivison: So Call Me, Vader?

Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But I'm your father
So join me maybe

Much of the world seems to regard the United States as a spent force, dismissing it as Darth Vader once did Obi Wan Kenobi: “Your powers are weak, old man.”
Funny enough, Star Wars is becoming uber-hot again.  Smart communicators are latching on to memes and trends and incorporating them into their messages and stories. 
Stories tell - but memes draw.

(CFN) Cognitive Labour: The Mechanics of Innovation by Craig Carter Edwards

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
  • Albert Einstein

CFN – Whether you blame its loss on globalization or government policy, North America’s manufacturing industry is bleeding out.  Those positions are shipping overseas to countries with cheaper labour and less regulation, like China.  Wherever our leadership sits on the political spectrum, there’s a general acceptance that those jobs aren’t coming back.  Economic policy makers are looking to natural resources for theoretically sustainable revenue or turning to new industries with growth potential to fill the manufactured gap.  At both the national and provincial levels, there’s increased focus on nurturing innovation as part of our broader economic solution.
So, how exactly do you do that?  How do you cultivate creativity?  Faced with new challenges, we instinctively turn to solutions that have proven effective in the past.  The entire industrial economy was built on employers with tools providing financial carrots and sticks to their labourers.  As that worked pretty well it makes sense to rinse and repeat, this time tying bonuses and promotions to innovation – right?  By looking at things like tax cuts, capital cost allowances or red tape reduction as tools to support innovation, this is essentially the approach government is taking.  In speaking to vacation days, equitable compensation and other measures to help the front line be more effective while on the job, unions are taking a different approach to the same concept.  Financial rewards are meant to spark ideation.  But do they?
Here’s the grand irony – traditional carrot-and-stick motivation not only fails to foster creativity – it impedes it.  Experiments have repeatedly demonstrated that while financial incentives might encourage people to work harder at finding innovative solutions, the promise of riches actually impairs creative cognition in much the same way alcohol impairs rational decision-making.  In short – the tools of motivation that worked so well over the past century or so simply aren’t up to the task of nurturing innovation.  Now, you can argue against this all you want (as others have), but before you start calling me a communist, let’s look at the facts.
It is true that the rise of capitalism coincided with a period of increased innovation – but does correlation imply causation?  If employees who came up with new products were richly rewarded for their value-add, wouldn’t every worker have been constantly spinning out new ideas as a way to get ahead?  That clearly hasn’t been the case.  In fact, the most successful people were often not the ones who did things differently, but rather did the same thing more effectively than their peers/competitors.
On the factory floor, that translates into results like more widgets made per hour.  In sales, the more deals you close, the greater your take-home will be.  Carrot-and-stick economics is simple; work hard and produce results, you’ll be rewarded for success.  Slack off or be ineffective, you’ll miss your bonus or perhaps get your walking papers instead.  Don’t like it?  You can rage against the machine all you want; the physical stress of anger (or anxiousness) makes you hungrier, more aggressive and, as a result, can actually help you get ahead.  The same rule applies to competitive sports; the more you focus on a narrow end goal (victory, bonus, promotion) the harder you will physically work to achieve it.
There’s a term for this blind focus on achieving a singular goal: functional fixedness.  Like all behaviour, functional fixedness results from your grey matter flexing in specific ways.  Hormones like testosterone and epinephrine (adrenaline) incite you to think and act in an aggressive, intense manner.  The same principle behind alcohol impairing reason applies here.  Adrenaline junkies will hyper-focus on specific goals and ignore physical strain or external obstacles that get in their way because of the behaviour their brains are generating.
It’s a useful ability to have if your goal is to win something or to evade a threat, which is why natural selection developed the capacity for stubbornness in the first place.  At the neurological level, there’s little difference between is such an apt metaphor.
While the ability to dedicate one hundred and ten per cent of your attention to completing a given task is an important one, it’s not the same process as being innovative.  Innovation requires a different kind of cognitive activity – putting existing pieces of information together in new combinations to produce original results.  The reason humans are more innovative than other species has nothing to do with our economic system and everything to do with that part of the brain that’s more developed in us than in any other animals.  It’s by feeding and stimulating the neo-cortex that new ideas are generated.
But that’s not what we’re doing.  In workplaces across Canada (around the world, really) employees are being told to develop new products and services, prove that they involve no financial risk and then bring them to market and close deals, all incented by traditional monetary carrots and sticks.  Even worse, we have social entrepreneurs developing new, creative solutions but, as they don’t have the business background to make one-minute cost/benefit pitches in language investors understand, those ideas are going nowhere.  By relying on traditional methods of motivation that nurture functional fixedness, we are essentially telling employees and social entrepreneurs to push open pull doors and tying their livelihoods to their success.
Not surprisingly, there’s a growing realization among Canadian decision-makers that our innovation gap, our mental health crisis and the unsustainable financial burden being placed on our healthcare system are intertwined.   It’s going to take a multi-lateral, integrated solution to crack this nut – and it has to start with a rethink of how we motivate innovation in Canada’s workforce.  Fortunately, we’re not starting from scratch on this; there are already evidence-based models of cognitive labour motivation out there to crib from.
Innovation leaders like Google have had success in creating the right work environments and providing the right kinds of incentives to help their employees be more innovative.  Canadian companies like Optimus SBR are testing out new models of collaboration and process to support ideation among their team and generate more results.  Social entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of creativity are applying knowledge of how the brain actually works towards reimaging individual support and workplace design.  All that’s missing now are forums and opportunities to link these bold new approaches with decision makers and investors.  Those gaps are being filled right now, though it’s a slow, painful, uncoordinated process.  Government leadership would significantly speed this process up.
It’s becoming increasingly clear the traditional models of work motivation that fueled the industrial economy actually impede the cognitive labour needed to drive success in the 21st Century.  While there’s growing pressure to adopt new approaches of supporting innovation, these models are so counter-intuitive for decision-makers weaned on the financial carrot-and-stick system that they’re being met with resistance.  At the same time, these new models are quietly being adopted by ahead-of-the-curve companies, giving them a competitive advantage.
To tackle the mental health, innovation gap and healthcare cost challenges of today, government would be wise to embrace these bold new approaches, partner with leaders in cognitive labour promotion and start crafting policy that builds on their successes.

In fact, they’d be crazy not to.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Be Conscious of Your Emotions At Work

Step 1: Awareness. Before you walk into work or a meeting, try to discern what you're feeling. It's not as obvious or simple as it sounds. The human mind is very good at burying in the subconscious what the conscious mind may not want to deal with. What you want to determine is if your mood is either significantly better or worse than usual.
Step 2: Understanding. Once you determine that you're feeling something unusual, whatever you do, don't try to ignore it or think it away. Emotions are critical signs of what's going on inside you. Instead, try to find some alone time and get to the bottom of what's really going on.
Step 3: Motivation. As we discussed in the first story above, sometimes emotions can be powerful motivators. They can drive you to do great things, perhaps to prove to yourself what you're capable of doing in spite of the obstacles. On the other hand, if you're not as self-aware, that's when you become your own worst enemy.
Step 4: Behavior. If you know you're dealing with some unusual emotions, try to be aware of your behavior. You might be more grandiose or short-tempered than usual, and that's important to know so you can give others a heads up and pay attention to feedback. If they see what you're not aware of, that's not a good sign. Don't just brush it off.

Whatever you do, don't use employees, coworkers or customers as either emotional punching bags or as personal confidants. Not only is that crossing a line, it's self-destructive behavior because, on some level, you know it's wrong and you're doing it anyway. And that means you're not as self-aware as you might think you are.

Motivating Cognitive Labour In the Modern Workplace

Put another way - how do we incent cognitive labour?
Contemporary companies are constantly finding new ways and approaches to recruit top talent, retain top talent, and find innovative ways to motivate employees for maximum output. The theory behind how managers can more effectively motivate and reward employees goes back to the turn of the century. New innovative companies are inventing ways to do just that. Google Inc., Cisco Inc., and Wholefoods Inc., are leading the way to restructure management, so employees can streamline creative ideas that produce blockbuster new products. They are rewarding employees with perks like onsite swimming pools, allowing employees to bring their pets to work, providing on site child care, and all the free food employees want. These companies provide relaxed environments where group thinking is elevated and teamwork is central to invent the next product that could change the next generation.
These new companies embrace small individual entrepreneur groups and shun the tight micromanaged environment of traditional companies. These companies have scrapped the employee of the month parking space and raised the bar on how organizations can have real results by rewarding employees. The fascinating aspect of these companies are their intrinsic rewards and how it allows employees to operate with freedom and respect, allowing them control of their own time, and empowering them to have a united common goal, which is to invent products and ideas that will change the world for good.

How can leaders create an effective mechanism that promotes a culture of self-empowerment, creative innovation, and self-motivating employees? In today’s corporate setting, it is hard to create change where freedom is promoted within most organizations. However, many mainstream companies still embrace a stagnate form of management where employees are stuck in cubicles, crowded under florescent lights, and riddled with old school micromanagement techniques that do not produce the best products. This investigation explores the theory behind how companies can reward employees in order to motivate them to become top-producing organizations that will invent the best ideas and products of the century. Companies like Cisco Inc. and Google Inc. have structured their leadership to provide the best environment to motivate their employees with intrinsic and extrinsic rewards; they have become top-producing companies that develop some of the best products that have shaped our world, have taught us how to find information, and have taught us how to learn and see things differently.
Companies that have the ability to become household names that morph into verbs who (like Google) are rooted in the culture and values of employees that create these products. Leaders that want to take their companies to the next level and find new ways of rewarding employees for good work will succeed in this new economy. Leaders must study companies that promote free thinking, empowering employees to work together as autonomous entrepreneur groups, and provide work areas that are comfortable and do not take away employees’ humanity, unique individualism or personal freedom.
Theory of Motivation and Rewards
The Hawthorne studies in the early nineteenth century examined and studied how managers can motivate employees to work more efficiently, with quality work at the maximum rate of return. One of the areas of information derived from the Hawthorne studies was that something more than pay incentives was improving the employees’ output within work groups. Researchers found that there was improvement in the work due to the fact that employees felt important because someone was studying them at work (Matteson, 1996). One of the concepts that leaders can derive from this historic discovery is that leaders must find ways to motivate and reward their employees besides the perceived rewards of being employed and having a pay incentive.
Therefore, leaders must understand that a paradigm shift has occurred in American culture where talented people from top rated schools are seeking employment from organizations that give perks and benefits other than just pay incentives, 401Ks, and health benefits. Leaders must find other intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to attract top talent. Research has uncovered valuable theories that have been vital tools in the area of rewards. The key theories are Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Fredrick Herzberg’s two-factory theory, and David’s McClemmon’s theory of needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
First, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs assumes that needs are arranged in a system that contain lowest-level needs, which are physiological needs, and the highest needs which are self-actualization needs; therefore, according to Maslow, individuals must move up the hierarchy in order as referenced in figure 1 (Matteson, 1996).
The assumption of Maslow’s theory is that individuals are motivated based on which hierarchy they are in. For example, a homeless person is not motivated by his or her social status, but his or her ability to find food and shelter. Thus, individuals have different levels of needs in each of these areas, and those levels will drive their behavior (Matteson, 1996). Maslow’s application is that employees will not be fully motivated unless their basic needs are met. A practical example is if employees are not allowed to take off time to spend with their family because of continued mandatory overtime, employees will be demoralized because their need for social security is not met; thus, their work will not reach maximum potential. Employers need to understand that they have a responsibility to allow employees to have a life outside of work. Otherwise, they will lose top performers. Herzberg takes a few variables from Maslow’s theories and applies his two-factor theory.
Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory
Herzberg’s theory asks the question, what really motivates someone? Herzberg developed a content theory known as the two-factor theory of motivation. The two are called the dissatisfiers-satisfiers, or the hygiene motivators, or the extrinsic-intrinsic factors. According to the Herzberg’s theory, hygiene factors describe the salary, work conditions, and company policies. Motivation factors are intrinsic, and satisfiers relate to motivation such as achievement rewards, more important responsibility and growth (Matteson, 1996). One can describe hygiene factors as a foundation or platform that one can launch from, but in themselves, they do not motivate. The assumption we can derive from Herzberg’s theory is that managers must provide hygiene factors to avoid employee dissatisfaction, but also must provide factors intrinsic to the work itself in order for employees to be satisfied with their jobs (Matteson, 1996). Managers can prevent low performance, turnover, and low morale by adding both hygiene factors and motivators. McClemmon takes Herzberg’s theory further and believes that leaders must address humans differently because humans are motivated differently.
McClemmon’s Theory of Motivation
McClemmon proposed a theory of motivation that is closely associated with learning concepts and believes that many needs are acquired from culture (Matteson, 1996). There are three main points to McClemmon’s theory: the need for achievement, the need for affiliation, and the need for power.
First, the need for achievement is pertinent to one who is driven to excel, to achieve in relation to a set of standards where he or she has the feeling of successful accomplishment. Second, the desire for friendly and close personal relationships is important in most organizations. What others perceive one to be like is a huge factor in one’s needs. Image is everything. Third, the need for power is the need to make others behave in a way that they would not otherwise have behaved. A great example is politicians who spend millions of dollars for a one hundred thousand dollar salary, so they can stand in a place of power in which they can control other’s lives. The assumption of McClemmon’s theory of needs is that people with different needs are motivated differently. The implication for managers is finding what motivates certain individual groups and assigning them with different rewards. Those with high needs for achievement should be given challenging projects with reachable goals. They should be provided with frequent feedback. Those who seek a need for affiliation should be placed in groups that can work as a team. Those who have a need for power should be given an opportunity to manage others (Long, 2009). McClemmon’s theory allows for placing individuals to match a person’s emotional needs to certain job design. The main theme of McClemmon’s theory is that these needs are learned through coping with one’s environment. Managers can learn to see an employee’s strength by placing individuals in certain training programs where they will be motivated to find their niche in certain skills needed in the organization. Today, organizations can put all three theories into practice and provide a culture where employees can be motivated and grow, to provide the companies a pipeline of talented individuals for the future success of their company.
The Google Effect
In today’s corporate environment, the organization’s bottom line is to make the most profit long term by attracting top talent, retaining top talent, and motivating top talent for maximum performance. The way companies can do that is by offering the best rewards in the industry. The company that is highlighted the most for its most elaborate rewards is Google, Inc.
Google, Inc. was ranked by Fortune magazine as the best place in the U.S. to work in 2009, and it has reached another zenith by becoming the most popular Web site. It has even become a verb in the dictionary. Google, Inc. is a technology company focused on providing web search and advertising.
The company maintains a large index of websites and other website content, which is freely available through its search engine. The company generates revenue primarily by delivering online advertisements. Its major revenue sources are Google Adwords and Adsense. Google interface is available in more than 120 languages. The company operates in the US, the UK and a large number of other countries. The company offers a brand portfolio of web-based products and services, which are classified into six categories:, applications, client, Google GEO, Google Mobile and Android, Google Checkout, and Google labs. Google is one of the premier internet brands in the world. The company is ranked among the top brands world wide. Google, Inc.’s brand was valued at one hundred billion, making it the world’s first one hundred billion brand. The company generates 97% of revenue from its advertising (Datamonitor, 2009).
Google, Inc. is a very unique organization from its small beginnings as a start up company in the mid-nineties to its huge corporate presence today because of its founders. Google, Inc.’s corporate culture mirrors the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who did not want the traditional culture of corporations that came out of the “greed is good” mantra of the 1980s. They did not want to create a culture of work place drama, backstabbing, neediness and general discord among employees. Page and Sergey wanted something special, and that is what they created: a Mecca called the Googleplex, where the best and the brightest could congregate like a college campus and brainstorm and collaborate on ideas that will change the world. They created an incubator where ideas grow up to be industry blockbusters. The founders believed that in order to attract the best talent, they had to provide an environment where people would want to come to work, have fun, dream big and get rewarded for hard work.
Google, Inc. has achieved a top-5 ranking by providing innovative benefits, flexibility, and the opportunity to pursue ideas that challenge the status quo and shatter paradigms. Google, Inc.’s CEO, Erin Schmitt, adopts the “fun is good” principle and states that they built a company around the idea that work should be challenging, and the challenge should be fun. They put employees first by providing a unique environment to work around. Schmitt states, “We realize and celebrate that our employees have diverse needs, and that this diversity requires flexible and individually directed support. Our priority is to offer a customizable program that can be tailored to the specific needs of each individual, whether they enjoy ice climbing in Alaska, want to retire by age 40, or plan to adopt 3 children” (Google, 2009).
Google, Inc.’s goal of providing benefits and rewards is to “strip away everything that gets in our employees’ way” (Google, 2009). Google, Inc. provides a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses – just about anything a hardworking employee might want. Schmitt states, “Let’s face it: programmers want to program, they don’t want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both” (Google, 2009).
Google believes in providing both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. They understand that many humans are not motivated by pay incentives alone. Google Inc. believes in administering rewards and that good company culture is vital to company success, therefore, Google hired a Culture Czar.
Google, Inc.’s CCO, Chief Culture Czar, Stacy Sullivan, is devoted to one thing—make Googlers happy. One way of maintaining Google, Inc.’s culture and keeping employees happy is administering the best perks and rewards (Culture, 2009). Along with its compensation and traditional extrinsic benefits such as free health and dental benefits, flex spending accounts, 401K plans, insurance, tuition reimbursement, and vacation packages, they also have very unique benefits. These unique benefits include maternity benefits up to 18 weeks off at approximately 100% pay. In addition, new mothers and fathers get Take-Out Benefits to help make things easier. They are provided with expenses up to $500 for take-out meals during the first three months that they are home with their new baby.
Additionally, Google, Inc. provides back-up child care and in the Gift Matching Program, Google, Inc. matches contributions of up to $3000 per year from eligible employees to non-profit organizations. With Adoption Assistance, Google, Inc. assists their employees by offering financial assistance in the adoption of a child. Google, Inc. will reimburse employees up to $5000 to use towards legal expenses. Free lunch and dinner from gourmet chefs create a wide variety of healthy and delicious meals every day. Got the munchies? Google, Inc. also offers snacks to help satisfy you in between meals. At Google headquarters in Mountain View, California employees have the convenience of seeing a doctor on-site. Google, Inc. is pleased to provide its Mountain View employees with free shuttles to several San Francisco, East Bay and South Bay locations. At Google headquarters in Mountain View, there is on-site oil change, car wash, dry cleaning, massage therapy, gym, hair stylist, fitness classes and bike repair. Google, Inc. will reimburse an employee for buying a hybrid car, up to $5000. Google, Inc. provides other benefits, too many to list, but one can assume that their full-time culture czar is not finished inventing new ways to reward employees (Google, 2009). More than the extrinsic rewards, people who choose to come to Google, Inc. come for other reasons besides just the outward perks and rewards. They come for freedom.
The key to success at Google, Inc., beyond the incredible perks and the compensation is simple: work process. These are the intrinsic rewards Google offers: no real hierarchy, tiny work groups, and purpose. Google, Inc. does not create monolithic groups or hierarchy. Their structure is flat to maximize creativity. There are no official channels, so ideas can flow within groups. Instead, they focus on multiple smaller workgroups that may have a project manager overseen by committees. They are very independent. The basic concept inspired by the founders is to maintain an entrepreneurial culture. Google, Inc. views small teams as individual start-ups. Google consists of many start-ups within a start-up. They implement what they know works and use the founder’s success as a template to promote an entrepreneur spirit that promotes innovation. One example is that if a Googler wants to work with another team, he or she can switch teams anytime they want without asking permission or having to go through any human resource channels. Another unusual perk is the allowance of time. Google, Inc. allows employees to spend twenty percent of their time to work on their own project, independent of their workgroup. Google, Inc. believes that no one should leave in order to pursue their personal passions. Letting employees do this results in over twenty percent of product launches stemming from these personal projects.
Google, Inc. believes in creating small entrepreneur teams that provide concentrated focus on one problem, ease of collaboration, and the ability to integrate findings quickly into the Google landscape. These small groups are overseen by committees that take the good ideas to market. Google, Inc. states that small groups are effective and birth great ideas. Each of these teams dreams to invent the next breakthrough and come up with the next big thing in cyberspace.
Many talented people work for Google, Inc. because of their unique culture, rewards, and perks. At the Googleplex, employees can show up to work anytime they want, bring their dog, wear pajamas, eat gourmet food for free, enjoy a free fitness center and trainer, see the onsite doctor if they are sick, wash their clothes and partake in free espresso at each corner of their “office.” This relaxed, fun environment has worked well for Google, Inc. because it provides a psychological benefit to encourage employees to be more committed, more creative, and more productive. Google’s method of job design is staying away from monolithic hierarchies that stifle and distract creative ideas. Google sets up small interdependent entrepreneurial teams to come up with creative ideas and innovative products. Google found that with creating small teams, they were able to produce effective ideas with small investments. Google’s job design progressions are small creative teams, high commitment, appropriate compensation, ability to try new things, healthy disregard for the impossible, and that products must grow up. As the products grow up, they become more traditional near the product launch (Google, 2009).
With Google’s tiny work groups comes responsibility. Creativity is encouraged along with a large dose of independent time to initiate the creative process. The fact that the Googler feels the freedom to explore is one of the biggest perks that keeps them excited and on purpose in their work. Google, Inc. believes that they are attracting top talent because they empower employees to change the world. More than the intrinsic rewards and the cool lava lamps, employees believe they have the sense they are changing the world by organizing the world’s information, making people smarter, and teaching people to learn in a different way—they feel they have purpose.
Why does Google, Inc. reward? Rewarding employees, according to Google, Inc., works very effectively. Google, Inc. had $209,624 in profit per employee in 2008, which beat all the other large tech companies, including big hitters like Microsoft, Apple, Intel and IBM. The company recorded revenues of 21,795.6 million during the financial year ended December 2008, an increase of 31.3% over 2007. In financial year 2008, in the US, Google, Inc.’s largest geographical market, accounted for 48.8% of the total revenues. According to Google, Inc., the ability to reward employees by attracting the best and retaining the best pay off substantially—people are the best investment (Datamonitor, 2009).
In conclusion, Google, Inc.’s founders believe that successful organizations thrive by dreaming big and providing people with resources to implement their ideas. Google Inc. is described as a university where employees work in small groups to collaborate, dissent, and debate their ideas and projects. What other employees can show up to work anytime they want, can bring their dog, wear pajamas, eat gourmet food for free, enjoy a free fitness center and trainer, see the onsite doctor if sick, wash their clothes and partake in free espresso at each corner of their “office”? This relaxed, fun environment has worked well for Google, Inc. because it provides a psychological benefit to encourage employees to be more committed, more creative, and more productive. Google Inc.’s method of job design is staying away from monolithic hierarchies that stifle and distract creative ideas. When highly motivated and highly capable people have a common vision, they do not need to be micromanaged. Google, Inc. relies on the feedback from peer to peers, not peer to middle managers. Schmitt states “If employees want complete control then join the Marines.” Google Inc.’s radical decentralized approach to management structure is due to Google, Inc.’s founder’s belief that breakthroughs come from questioning assumptions and smashing paradigms (Hamel, 2007). Their motto is “Do not do something because someone told you to do so.” To question authority is not an anarchist bumper sticker, but an innovator’s imperative. There is no time for middle managers or type “A” personalities (Hamel, 2007). Group interaction is the fuel for Google, Inc.’s ideas. The decision making process is highly consultive not the traditional control and command. Google, Inc. thrives in a “I think I can” culture, not the traditional “no you can’t” bureaucracy.
Just Google It!
Contemporary companies and start up companies can learn from Google Inc. by implementing change to create mechanisms to attract top talent, retain top talent, and motivate top talent for maximum performance. Companies are wise to put front line employees first because without them, there would be no customers—no company. Google, Inc. has changed the landscape and raised the bar on how companies should treat and reward their employees. Many companies talk about treating employees well and creating a culture where employees can grow and thrive; however, Google, Inc. put its money where its mouth is and invests in their most valuable assets—employees. Google, Inc. is unique because it focuses on noble missions and has convinced its employees to believe in their mission to change the world. Their employees believe that they are a part of something big that is a conduit for world peace and an agent of change. More that creating unique perks and extrinsic rewards, leaders must create intrinsic rewards and create vision that employees believe in.
Leaders must understand that a new generation of young entrepreneurs have emerged, ready to conquer the next big challenge and create the next big start-up. Thousands of students are thinking about huge ideas in basements who are going to come out with the next blockbuster product. Google, Inc. is trying to attract those young people. Companies can learn from Google, Inc. by changing their management structure, working environment, and the way they treat employees in order to attract and retain talent and to succeed in the next decade. Talented people do not want to be told what to do; they want to interact in small intimate groups, they want feedback and challenging projects, they want time to work on their creative ideas, they want a genuine effort to promote improved personal life, they want a cool place to work in, and they want food. The Google, Inc. formula is a good glimpse for what employees are looking for in organizations; therefore, leaders must lead in finding the best methods in finding what rewards motivate employees.

Google’s Culture Czar. (2009). Retrieved Nov 1, 2009,
Datamonitor. (2009). Google, Inc. Retrieved June, 9, 2009,
Do Tein Long. (2009). Organization Behaviors. Retrieved from:

Google Benefits. (2009). Retrieved November 4, 2009,
Ivancevich and Matteson. (1996.) Organizational behavior and management, by. 8th ed. Chicago : Irwin.
Schein, E. H. (1990). Organizational culture. American Psychologist, 43 (2), 109-119.
Gary Hamel. (2007) The future of management. Harvard Business School Press, Boston Mass.
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Tuesday 21 August 2012

Innovating the Solution: Canadian Workers and Cognitive Labour

To quote Don Tapscott - let's make this happen.

Canadian workers lacking resources and engagement needed to get the job done

By Ofelia Isabel, National Post

Canada’s productivity gap continues to present questions for organizations trying to become more competitive.

Towers Watson’s latest study of employee attitudes and concerns around the world, which included more than a thousand Canadians, reveals what could be a hidden contributing factor: a lack of sustainable engagement in the Canadian workforce.

Traditionally, engagement has been recognized as employees’ willingness to give discretionary effort to their jobs. While most employers intuitively understand the value of an engaged workforce (and many have programs in place to measure and support engagement), the research shows the steps organizations are taking to improve engagement are falling short.

What organizations fail to take into account is that engagement today concerns more than giving extra effort. To be highly engaged in today’s challenging workplace, employees must also be given the capability to excel (which we call enablement) and the capacity to maintain their efforts over time, (which we call energy). Employers are failing to create this combination of discretionary effort, enablement, and energy — the combination that forms sustainable engagement and yields a significant performance advantage over time.

Sustainable engagement matters because it is the proverbial canary in the productivity mine

Sustainable engagement is at risk globally due to prolonged economic turmoil and work environments in which people have been doing more with less, and for less, for more than half a decade — and Canada is no exception. Prospects for improvement anytime in the near future seem limited. The result is a workforce that is anxious, stressed and risk averse. These are not good traits for a company or a country trying to grow.

Sustainable engagement matters because it is the proverbial canary in the productivity mine. A growing body of evidence — both empirical and anecdotal — shows the clear value of sustaining engagement over time.

When we look at productivity and retention metrics relative to sustainable engagement, we see that organizations with high levels of sustainable engagement have less absenteeism and lower “presenteeism” (lost productivity at work) than those with high levels of disengagement. Organizations with high sustainable engagement also have less trouble retaining employees than those with disengaged workforces.

In Canada, the advantages are startling for companies whose workforce exhibits high sustainable engagement. Companies lose an average of 8.8 days annually to presenteeism for employees with high sustainable engagement versus 17.7 days for the disengaged. For absenteeism, companies lose an average of three days per year for employees with high sustainable engagement versus nearly six days for the disengaged.

And when it comes to the important productivity measure of employee retention (losing experienced employees is a significant drain on productivity), only 14% of sustainably engaged employees in Canada are high-retention risks compared with 58% of disengaged employees.

How do sustainable engagement data fall to the bottom line? Towers Watson studied the performance of a group of 50 global corporations and compared their engagement data with their specific financial results. Those with the highest level of sustainable engagement had average operating margins three times greater than those organizations with low levels of engagement.

The disturbing issue for Canada, considering how sustainable engagement affects absenteeism, presenteeism and retention, is that only 33% of Canadian workers are sustainably engaged.

But there is good news for Canadian employers: An additional 24% of workers are considered “the unsupported” — engaged in the traditional sense (willing to put in the effort) but stymied by organizational barriers to enablement and energy. Canadian workers either don’t have the tools and resources to do the job, or don’t have the capacity to do it. That presents a huge opportunity for employers to take measures to address the productivity needs of their employees, and to think about managing to sustainable engagement — a far more robust 21st century form of engagement.

Among sustainable engagement’s three components (traditional engagement, enablement and energy), the most actionable focus area for addressing the unsupported is enablement. Driving enablement entails removing the barriers that make it easier for the unsupported to become sustainably engaged. It requires giving employees the tools, resources and support to get work done efficiently.

Examples of enabling unsupported employees might include prioritizing and organizing work for employees whether they are in the office or working from a remote office thousands of miles away. It might include making sure employees have access to efficient technology that works. It could be encouraging and rewarding a collegial work team that is ready to jump in to help; or, providing online tools and processes — with ready guidance and support — that give workers access to information to make rapid job-related decisions that promote customer satisfaction.

Energy, the third leg of sustainable engagement, entails actively supporting employees’ physical, emotional and interpersonal well-being. In this kind of environment, people come to work early and stay late, not simply because they have to, but because they’re involved in what they’re doing.

To move a larger group of employees into the sustainable engagement camp, employers need to understand and respond to what drives sustainable engagement in their organizations. The particulars will be unique for every company, but we know the top drivers of sustainable engagement among Canadian workers are related to leadership effectiveness, stress management and work-life balance, and career development. Employers need to involve their employees at every level — leader, supervisors, human resource officials and departments and employees themselves — in addressing these areas.

Ofelia Isabel is Towers Watson’s Canadian leader for talent and rewards.

Where Do Productivity and Mental Health Meet?

Is Aikin the straw that will break the GOP's back?

The rift has been there for some time - the political right is a hodge-podge of free marketers, social conservatives and libertarians who are primarily united by their contempt/fear of the other guys.  It's more surprising than not, really, that the GOP hasn't fragmented significantly before now.

Aikin might not be the spark for the carving off of a third Party.  But it's not impossible.

Todd Akin, Please Read This

It's very easy to pontificate on issues that will never impact you directly.  When your words carry weight, however, you don't get the privilege of speaking from willful ignorance or half-understood truths.

If you want to represent people, you must speak for all of them.

Sunday 19 August 2012

A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence as a Metaphor for the Validity of Comparative Studies of Intelligence (by Jonathan Ball)

There's much chatter about dolphins being as intelligent as human beings, whatever that means.  Even in our own species, we make distinctions between different types of intellect.

What if cetaceans are just more emotionally intelligent than humans?  Does that raise or decrease them in relative esteem?  We have lots of notions that we want to accept as simple.  It's functional fixedness, really.  Reality tends to be a tad more complex.

A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence as a Metaphor for the Validity of Comparative Studies of Intelligence

Jonathan Ball

Primates and cetacean have been considered by some to be extremely intelligent creatures, second only to humans. Their exalted status in the animal kingdom has lead to their involvement in many experiments which hope to gain a better understanding of the basis of human intelligence. These experiments coupled with analysis of primate and cetaceans brain structure has lead to many theories as to the development of intelligence as a trait. Although these theories seem to be sound, there is some controversy over the degree to which non-human studies can be used to infer about the structure of human intelligence.
By many of the physical methods of comparing intelligence, such as measuring the brain size to body size ratio, cetacean surpass non-human primates and even rival human beings. For example dolphins have a cerebral cortex which is about 40% larger a human being's. Their cortex is also stratified in much the same way as a humans(1). The frontal lobe of dolphins is also developed to a level comparable to humans. In addition the parietal lobe of dolphins which "makes sense of the senses" is larger than the human parietal and frontal lobes combined (1). The similarities do not end there, most cetaceans have large and well developed temporal lobes which contain sections equivalent to Broca's and Wernicke's areas in humans (1).
Another major difference between primate and cetacean brains is that the primate brain favors the motor cortex, while "the cetaceans greatly favor the sensory region (and are not very balanced at all between the two)" (1). In the final measure of brain complexity, neural density dolphins also measure up quite favorable to humans. In certain areas of the brain concerned with "emotional control, objectivity, reality orientation, humor, logically consistent abstract thought and higher creativity" dolphins have an higher ratio of neural density(1). This seems to be correlated with dolphins ability to maintain a healthy emotional state while in captivity; humans in analogous situations often don't fair as well emotionally.
Despite the complex structures discovered in the brains of dolphins, primates have been the main focus of intelligence research. One of the main reason for the focus on primates is that they seem to be so similar to humans in many ways, the most important being genetically. Besides basic genetic similarities, or perhaps because them, primates have many advanced brain structures some of which are similar to human brain structures. Most primates have and EQ the around 2.34 (2) while humans have an EQ around 7. This may seem like are large difference, but when you consider that very few species have an EQ above 1, the difference is less profound. In addition to similarities in size and structure "primates devote more of their energy resources to their brains than do most other mammals", which is another important measure of intelligence(3).
Before non-human animals can be seen as intelligent a model must be created which can explain how intelligence would have developed through evolution. These theories must clearly establish how having a larger more sophisticated brain, could increase and organism's chance of survival. Once this question is addressed, then the question of whether the larger brain and the new behaviors it supports represents intelligence can be asked. Two of the hypotheses that deal with these issues are the foraging hypothesis and the social hypothesis.
The foraging model has been established mostly through research with non-human primates. The foraging model proposes that primate brains evolved in order to better allow them to remember the locations of sources of food across a wider range(3). In addition to the pressure to create better maps as to the location of food, some primates especially frugivores, also had to remember when fruits at various places would be ripe and worth collecting(4). This created another selection pressure towards more sophisticated brains. A third source of evolutionary pressure on primate brains was that primates had to become more efficient at collecting food over a wider range. In order to accomplish this primates had to develop "complex extractive techniques requiring extensive sensorimotor coordination presumably subject to cortical control"(3). These three selection pressure could have shape the evolution of primate brains individually, or more they all worked together to produce the primates we know today(3).
To support this hypothesis scientists have examined the differences between frugivore and foliovore monkeys. Frugivores generally have a much larger home ranges than foliovores and their resources are not as constant as foliovores', therefore according to the gather hypothesis frugivores should have a larger EQ. Research has demonstrated a correlation between the size of a home range and the EQ of the species, which would appear to support the gather hypothesis' prediction about furgivores and foliovores. But a more recent study found no relationship between the percentage of fruit in the diet and the EQ of the species. This study did not take into consideration the importance of fruit in the animals diet, so it still possible that the predicted difference may exist(3).
The second major theory about the evolution of intelligence is the social model. To live in a complex social group an organism must be able to form complex mental maps which represent the social hierarchy of the group. The organism must know where it stands in relation to all other members of its group as well as where other members stand in relations to each other(4). In order to perform all of the comparisons and remember them, according to the social hypothesis, an organism would need a more complex brain. Besides keeping relationships straight, organisms within a society also form alliance with other member of the group to create a more beneficial situation for themselves. This example of using other members of a groups as tools is another indication of intelligence required to maintain a social group(3).
The social hypothesis seems to be partially supported by dolphins and chimpanzees. Both dolphins and chimps live in complex societies in which there is constant alliance formation especially during mating season (4). And these two species also seem to posses brain complexity near that of humans, which would follow from the social theory. The problem with the theory is that the complexity of social systems has not be as well examined in other species, so it is difficult to conclude that complex social structure cannot exist without a complex brain. Another problem with the theory is that orangutans and gorilla's which don't have a complex social groups as chimps or dolphins also have high EQ's and complex brain structures(4).
Although both of these evolutionary theories seemed sound, there are some basic theoretical questions that may cast some doubt on their validity. One of these is the question of directional causality. It quite possible that the pressures to find food and form social groups did not select for organisms with larger brains, but instead as creature brains developed the were able to utilize more complex gathering strategies and adept and handling social relationships(3). It also may be that one new ability is a by-product of the system created for other purposes. For example it may be as the selection of organisms who could be remember the location of the food better changed the complexity of brain structures of the species, the species began to develop the ability to map social hierarchies(3). This in turn allowed for the formation of more complex societies. These new societies could have added selection pressures of their own or served to maintain the traits selected for by the need to find food.
Throughout this paper and much of comparative evolutionary theory, a basic assumption has been made; that the complexity of an animals brain coupled with the presence of certain behaviors if good evidence of an intelligence which can be on some level compared to humans. In fact just the presence of complex brain structures is often used as a clue to look for behavioral indications of intelligence. Despite this common assumption there are many researchers who feel that it is too early to make a statement either way about animal intelligence. This caution is probably best summed up in
Morgan's Cannon of interpretation which states:
In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands lower in the psychological scale (5)
This statement is extremely relevant to comparative psychology because it calls for great skepticism in attributing intelligence to animals other than humans just because there appears to be no other explanation for an observed behavior or because the proper neurology seems to be present.
Another philosophical argument for caution in comparative studies comes from Scott Rifkin (3). He believes that not enough is known about human and primate brains to assume that similarities in overt behavior have the same neurological base. The reason behind his trepidation at accepting current evolutionary theories on intelligence is that "there is no a priori reason to expect that brain evolution has proceeded regularly without reorganization of structures or redistribution of functions". He goes on to argue that before we can begin to make comparative statements a better understanding of the functioning of others species brains needs to be achieved.
Perhaps the most thought provoking question raised in comparative psychology is the question of generalized intelligence. It has been difficult in modern psychology to get researchers to agree on a general human intelligence, to extend that intelligence across species may be to great a theoretical leap. This idea is supported by Scott Rifkin who believes that "to assume a continuum of intelligence across today's species is incompatible with an evolutionary perspective, and this preconception must not be allowed to guide studies of brain evolution"(3).
It is an example of human hubris to assume that way in which we display the trait of intelligence is the best and only way to display that trait. This bais may blind us to a better understanding of intelligence as a universal trait. The best way to see intelligence as a universal trait is to view it and evaluate it as a factor within the environment in which it evolved. By using this method, human and non-human intelligence are considered to be inherently different because they evolved to facilitate the survival of an organism with two separate environmental histories. In this light it is impossible to say one is better than the other because it is a question of comparing how well and organism is adapted to its lifestyle not how well it is adaptive on any one scale. For example it is common to say that a dolphin is not as smart as a human because it doesn't use tools, but using this definition of intelligence it would also be valid to say that humans are not as smart as dolphins because they can't examine the internal organs of their other group members using natural ultrasound.
There is also the question of co-evolution of different structures to contend with when considering making cross species comparisons. It is possible that different structures in the brain could have evolved different functions in different species. For example if the skeletal structure of a bat wing and the human hand are compared it might be assumed that they have the same function because they have the a similar structure. This would obviously be a big mistake because evolution has shaped each skeletal structure to serve each species with a unique function. Following from this example, just because a species has an underdeveloped brain structure relative to a human it does not necessarily mean that it is less intelligent. It is quite possible that another structure has developed to serve the purpose that the particular structure serves in humans.
The arguments for caution that have been presented are extremely important to the field of comparative psychology and should not be easily forgotten. But one the basic tenants of the philosophy of science seem to be in support the notion of non-human intelligence. Occam's razor is a scientific principle which states that all things being equal the simplest solutions is often true. When applied to the evidence of non-human intelligence, the questions becomes whether it is simpler to assume that somehow human beings have transcended their biology and have developed a unique intelligence or that animals with similar anatomy to humans have some intelligence. It would seem illogical to assume that the complex structure of a dolphin brain, which in many ways rivals a human's, evolved only for hunting fish and getting mates and the rest is just useless space. The entire debate over the intelligence in non-humans and the usefulness of comparative psychology is a metaphor for the larger brain-behavior debate. In order for brain complexity to be an acceptable measure of intelligence the brain must be accepted as the source of all behavior. And if the brain cannot be accepted as the seat of behavior then there is no use in comparing species because the one connection that all complex organisms have is that the have a similar brain structure; behavior is way to species specific to be studied without the common thread of the brain.
The study of non-human primates and dolphins has lead to many profound questions as to the nature of intelligence. And thought the answers provided to date have been disputed, the questions are not any less worth of being asked. But in order to get beyond the disputes, researchers must be willing to shed there antrocentric view of intelligence and accept that it is an trait which can evolve like any other trait. When this is done it may be finally possible to recognize the remarkable abilities that some many people seem to find in animals as evidence of animal intelligence not lesser human intelligence.