Business Success: Social Intelligence

If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view—as well as your own. 

—Henry Ford

The human brain offers fascinating insights into how leaders can leverage the new science. Based on the latest research in social neuroscience, a person who feels empathy for someone else is able to become attuned to the other’s mood. The result is resonance. The two brains become attuned as if they are part of the same system. This idea has powerful implications for leaders, as it follows that truly “great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness.”

Social influence on leaders

Natural leaders are those who easily connect with others. Individuals can improve their leadership abilities by finding “authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforces the brain’s social circuitry. Leading effectively is, in other words, less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.”

Tuning In

The process of tuning in occurs through the activation of mirror neurons, which are widely distributed throughout the brain. They operate as a “neural Wi-Fi” that facilitates our navigation of the social world by picking up the emotions of others and sharing their experience.
This point has powerful implications for leadership style. It suggests that leaders can succeed while being very demanding, as long as they foster a positive mood. In fact, certain mirror neurons are designed to detect smiles and laughter and often prompt smiles and laughter in return. Leaders who elicit smiles and laughter stimulate bonding among their team members. Research shows that “top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often, on average, as did mid-performing leaders.”

Intuition

Great leaders often say they make decisions from the gut. While some discount this concept, neuroscience steps in again to suggest that intuition is, in fact, in the brain. Intuition is produced by neurons called spindle cells. These cells are characterized by their large size (four times that of other brain cells). Their spindly shape, with an extra-long branch that allows them to attach to many cells at the same time, enables spindle cells to transmit thoughts and feeling to other cells more quickly. “This ultrarapid connection of emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what behavioral scientists call our social guidance system.” This ability to take a thin slice of information and make a split-second decision has proven to be very accurate as shown in follow-up metrics. The ability to intuit while tuned in to others’ moods offers very accurate radar.

Other neurons that play a role in our social intelligence are called oscillators. The oscillator neurons coordinate movements between people who are attuned to each others’ feelings. It explains the phenomena experienced in dancing or a drumming circle. And it plays heavily in nonverbal communication, as this connection enables one to guided to look in a certain direction or adjust position by the actions of another.

Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, and Richard Boyaztis, author of Becoming a Resonant Leader, share their behavioral assessment tool, the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. “It is a 360-degree evaluation instrument by which bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, and sometimes even family members assess a leader according to seven social intelligence qualities.”

Empathy
• Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
• Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
Attunement
• Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
• Are you attuned to others’ moods?
Organizational Awareness
• Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
• Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
Influence
• Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
• Do you get support from key people?
Developing Others
• Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
• Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
Inspiration
• Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group price, and foster a positive emotional tone?
• Are you lead by bringing out the best in people?
Teamwork
• Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
• Are you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

What characteristics do you think are most important in a leader?

Leadership Development, Predictive Analytics, Business Intelligence and Change Management blog

 

Business Success: Social Intelligence

If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view—as well as your own. 

—Henry Ford

The human brain offers fascinating insights into how leaders can leverage the new science. Based on the latest research in social neuroscience, a person who feels empathy for someone else is able to become attuned to the other’s mood. The result is resonance. The two brains become attuned as if they are part of the same system. This idea has powerful implications for leaders, as it follows that truly “great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness.”

Social influence on leadersNatural leaders are those who easily connect with others. Individuals can improve their leadership abilities by finding “authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforces the brain’s social circuitry. Leading effectively is, in other words, less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.”

Tuning In

The process of tuning in occurs through the activation of mirror neurons, which are widely distributed throughout the brain. They operate as a “neural Wi-Fi” that facilitates our navigation of the social world by picking up the emotions of others and sharing their experience.
This point has powerful implications for leadership style. It suggests that leaders can succeed while being very demanding, as long as they foster a positive mood. In fact, certain mirror neurons are designed to detect smiles and laughter and often prompt smiles and laughter in return. Leaders who elicit smiles and laughter stimulate bonding among their team members. Research shows that “top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often, on average, as did mid-performing leaders.”

Intuition

Great leaders often say they make decisions from the gut. While some discount this concept, neuroscience steps in again to suggest that intuition is, in fact, in the brain. Intuition is produced by neurons called spindle cells. These cells are characterized by their large size (four times that of other brain cells). Their spindly shape, with an extra-long branch that allows them to attach to many cells at the same time, enables spindle cells to transmit thoughts and feeling to other cells more quickly. “This ultrarapid connection of emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what behavioral scientists call our social guidance system.” This ability to take a thin slice of information and make a split-second decision has proven to be very accurate as shown in follow-up metrics. The ability to intuit while tuned in to others’ moods offers very accurate radar.

Other neurons that play a role in our social intelligence are called oscillators. The oscillator neurons coordinate movements between people who are attuned to each others’ feelings. It explains the phenomena experienced in dancing or a drumming circle. And it plays heavily in nonverbal communication, as this connection enables one to guided to look in a certain direction or adjust position by the actions of another.

Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, and Richard Boyaztis, author of Becoming a Resonant Leader, share their behavioral assessment tool, the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. “It is a 360-degree evaluation instrument by which bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, and sometimes even family members assess a leader according to seven social intelligence qualities.”

Empathy
• Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
• Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
Attunement
• Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
• Are you attuned to others’ moods?
Organizational Awareness
• Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
• Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
Influence
• Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
• Do you get support from key people?
Developing Others
• Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
• Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
Inspiration
• Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group price, and foster a positive emotional tone?
• Are you lead by bringing out the best in people?
Teamwork
• Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
• Are you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

What characteristics do you think are most important in a leader?

Business Success: Models for Adaptive Organizations

Prior articles offered complexity science, chaos theory, and evolutionary biology as models for understanding organizational dynamics in a volatile economy. Further exploration into various aspects of these models unveils concepts for improving organizational adaptability.

A Living Systems Modelchaos image

Leading an organization based on living systems requires an understanding of organizational evolution. “The focus shifts from what is to what is becoming, from structure to dynamics.”

The following steps describe the pattern of change in living systems:

1. Innovation
2. Complexification and Convergence
4. Bifurcation and Chaos

The steps originate in science but have a direct application in the corporate world. Their role and interrelation are critical to understanding adaptability in an emergent organization.

Innovation

Innovation is essential for maintaining adaptability and resilience. The combination of advances in technology and globalization put pressure on many organizations to adapt or die. Both of these are seen as irreversible. And the speed at which they occur continues to increase. The impact of a high level of innovation is felt through the next step.

Complification and Convergence

As advanced technologies inject new information into the system, complexity increases. However, there are limits to the complexity an organization can handle. To accommodate increased complexity, new levels of organization must be created to control and coordinate the existing levels. As a result, an organization “always converges progressively toward more embracing and coordinated multilevel structures.”

Convergence is seen across the globe as many corporations are partnering, forming alliances, merging, and diversifying into multiple lines of business. Global business standards and regulations are a result of this phenomenon.

What happens when a global company reaches its limit of complexity is unknown. Based on the new science, the next step in the sequence may be chaos.

Bifurcation and Chaos

Scientists have known for decades that as complex systems evolve, chaos and uncertainty increase. Today, computer models are able to simulate the evolutionary path with mathematical precision. The models show the attractors that form the pattern of the evolutionary trajectory.

The evolutionary trajectory can be plotted to show a graphical pattern providing a visual depiction of an attractor. There are several types of attractors. A system that evolves toward a fixed point over time is defined by stable-point attractors; a cyclically recurring state is characterized by period attractors; and an emergent system of order is defined by strange or chaotic attractors. As chaotic attractors are plotted, a shape emerges that has definite boundaries and patterns. The beautiful shapes of the plots prove that chaotic attractors are neither arbitrary nor disorderly.

Bifurcation occurs when a complex system changes trajectory. It is characterized by a change in pattern and a shift from one set of attractors to another. In the real world, complex systems evolve out of a specific initial state until a pattern emerges. If the evolution comes to rest, the process is ruled by static attractors. If the patterns are cyclical, the system is regulated by periodic attractors. If neither of these occurs, the system is controlled by strange or chaotic attractors.

Strange or chaotic attractors are pervasive in our global economy. The recent collapse of the world’s financial markets and its domino effect around the world demonstrates this pattern. Catastrophic bifurcations are occurring as many large financial institutions seek equilibrium amid the chaos.

Chaotic attractors do not operate with total randomness. Scientific analysis has unveiled a subtle order that emerges. Complex systems self-organize through a natural phenomenon known as cross-catalytic cycles. Following periods of instability and chaos, these cycles allow complex systems to return to dynamic stability where they can grow and prosper.

Business Success: The New Paradigm

In traditional organizations, strategy management is usually static and reductionist. The focus is on short-term gain, optimal allocation of resources, process improvement, and increasing competitive advantage. The approach to change is incremental, with the assumption that a slight change in the existing strategy or variation in the organizational structure will do the job.paradigm_shift_logo

As mentioned earlier, two fundamentally different organizational models are offered. The traditional model, based on Newtonian science, is linear, rational, and reductionist. It is based on the idea that organizations are made up of individual units that can be managed separately. Units such as people, products, tasks, and expenses can each be optimized to support the whole. Change as predictable and controllable with a final end state characterized by stability. According to Laszlo and Laugel in Large-Scale Organizational Change, “This notion is rooted in calculus with which Newton expressed his immutable laws of physics—smooth, continuous, differential equations that lead toward a fixed equilibrium.”

The emergent model is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It sees organizations as emerging from complexity with their parts interconnected and relating as living systems. Behavior emerges and is experienced on an organizational level. It cannot be reduced to incremental units. Rather than implementing change, the emergent or living systems model is always adapting to stay in balance. Change, as defined by the old model, is continuous. The wisdom or intelligence of the organization does not just reside with leadership but is assumed to be distributed across a wide variety of people and systems.

By understanding the rules, principles, and behaviors of each model, organizations can select the best path based on the specific situation. For example, if a company needs to manufacture a product, a clear linear process with a predefined path and time frame is optimal. However, when pressures from outside or deep within an organization require adaptation, it is rarely predictable or controllable. The constant need to innovate, a pressure felt by many in the global economy, is a good example. The intelligence of the organization to meet this goal is far superior to that of the top management team.

To illustrate how our traditional change methodologies and structures limit adaptability, imagine if traditional business rules and processes are applied to the neurons in the brain.
Organize the neuron in your brain, the most complex, infinitely diverse organ that has ever emerged in evolution, as you would a corporation. The first thing you’ve got to do is appoint the Chief Executive neuron, right?

Then you’ve got to decide which are going to be the Board of Directors neurons and the Human Resources neurons, and then you have to write an operating manual for it. Now, if you could organize your brain on that model, what would happen? You would instantly be unable to breathe until somebody told you how and where and when and how fast. You wouldn’t be able to think or see. What if your immune system were organized on this basis? First you’d have to do some market research to determine what virus, if any, was attaching you, right? Then you’d have to have marching orders for all the various aspects of your immune system.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

Sharing My Truth & An Invitation To Participate In Leading-Edge Innovation Research

Have you ever felt like you had to hide part of yourself to survive in the corporate world? For the last 20 years, I’ve built my career on the study and practice of data mining and business intelligence. I shared many practical solutions in my first book, Data Mining Cookbook (Wiley 2001). But my real passion has always been the study and practice of human intelligence. And for a long time, I felt that I had to keep that passion separate from my ‘real’ work. But a few years ago, I began to see a relationship between the level of human development within an organization and the successful use business intelligence. I shared this research in my second book, Business Intelligence Success Factors (Wiley/SAS 2009). Now I’m discovering that for these concepts to be really useful, they need some structure. So I’m developing a model that tracks the evolution of business intelligence along with human intelligence on an organizational level.

So here’s the deal… I’d like you to participate in a research project that is inspired by the following statistic: According to Gartner, 70% to 80% of corporate business intelligence projects fail due to poor communication http://tinyurl.com/793ehvh . Given the high dollar value of these projects, even a partial failure can be catastrophic to the bottom line. And the failure isn’t due to faulty business intelligence. It’s due to faulty human intelligence!
To understand the connection, let’s consider why Business Intelligence is so critical and what is required for success. Hint: It’s all about Innovation!

surveyIn today’s high-tech, global economy, most linear processes can be automated or outsourced. This really levels the playing field for many large organizations. To remain competitive, companies must continually reinvent themselves. Therefore, innovation is becoming the main differentiator and key driver of success.

For a large company to be truly successful, innovation must be embedded in the systems, processes, and organizational culture. This requires a high level of agility and adaptability which is built upon competence in two main areas: business intelligence and human intelligence.

Business Intelligence is generally understood to be a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information (Wikipedia).

Human Intelligence is more subjective and open to interpretation. For this research, I am defining it as the levels of emotional and social competency of the employees of an organization with a special emphasis on the leadership team. It is the human intelligence that translates the data into actionable business knowledge which leads to better decisions and smarter actions. To really be successful, business intelligence and human intelligence must evolve simultaneously.

The goal of the survey is to understand and measure the alignment between the level of business intelligence and the level of human intelligence and to determine to what degree this alignment is correlated with the success of the organization. To test my thesis, I’ve created a survey that explores multiple aspects of the processes, culture, and performance of a typical mid-size to large organization.

If you are an employee of a mid-size to large organization or if you are an independent consultant that works with large organizations, your participation is invaluable and sincerely appreciated. If you are a consultant, please feel free to answer the questions as if you were holding a position with one of your client organizations.

The survey takes 5-10 minutes. All responses remain anonymous. Each participant will receive a summary of the results. Please feel free to forward this to others as you deem appropriate. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OAQSurvey

Business Success: Adaptability

We must remain open to change by building flexibility into our organizational structures and interactions. The more rigid we become, the less access we have to the reality of the system, and thus, the less able we are to shift as the environment demands. 

—Julie Roberts Ph.D., Principal of ChangeWorks

For the last several decades, organizations have dealt with economic shifts using change management. Based on the new science, there are two major flaws with this approach. First, the word change implies an event with an ending. Second, it implies that change can be managed. In a world of economic volatility, this approach is no longer viable. The continuous climate of uncertainty and volatility demands another view, one that supports adaptability and resilience.

The Shifting Paradigm

Risk management’s inability to adapt to the changing business landscape played a large role in the global financial meltdown.
—Daniel Tu, PricewaterhouseCoopers
An adaptable organization is one that self-organizes. Most organizations appear to have order. But order is not the same as organization. Organization involves differentiation and specialization.

changeTo understand the basic reasons for the resistance to evolve, it is instructive to trace the roots of our traditional business models. The organizational model that serves as the foundation for most companies has its origins in Newtonian physics, which states that all “individual or system behavior is knowable, predictable, and controllable.” It operates like a machine “with each part acting on the other part with precise linear laws of cause and effect.”

This structure brings with it many aspects of mechanistic thinking, some of which are useful. But in a highly volatile economy, most aspects of this model are inefficient. For example, most companies have rigid organizational structures with centralized command and control. Their business intelligence systems are linear and unidirectional. They utilize rigorous analysis and measurement to limit variation and drive efficiency, and, in the event of an unpredicted outcome, they search for root causes.

They tend to be highly mechanized companies with highly specialized workers who receive extensive instructions. This model is useful in stable environments, such as operating rooms or highly specialized factories, where systems are closed, change is slow, and variability is low.

Over the next few weeks we will examine adaptability,comparing the traditional methods with a shift in paradigm.

Leadership Skills: Building Collaboration through Appreciative Inquiry

Traditionally, organizations look to change behavior by focusing on detecting errors, performing gap analyses, and fixing problems. This deficit-based theory of change may work for the top-down, hierarchical organization. But for dynamic organizations with a continual need to adapt, these models are not sufficient. With their focus on problems and crises, they may even be deleterious to the change process. In 2000 David Cooperrider, a pioneer of Appreciative Inquiry proposed that “While researchers have demonstrated the potential for increased organizational understanding when members focus on opportunity rather than threat,…deficient inquiry continues to guide many in their quest for change.”question_mark

Conversely, the new science suggests that when the focus and intention are directed toward that which is positive, a creative power is unleashed that facilitates adaptation with unprecedented ease and efficiency. Appreciative Inquiry, a technique that focuses on positive outcomes, is based on the premise that humans are naturally drawn toward that which is positive. The practice of Appreciative Inquiry suggests that by searching within an organization for what works, what motivates, and what evokes positive energy, the organization will evolve in a positive direction. “Appreciative Inquiry involves the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what forces are at work when a system is its most effective, compassionate, and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.”

The practice of Appreciative Inquiry has unveiled a new theoretical framework for viewing change. Its protocol has an inherent ability to tap into the positive energy that is created by the relationship of the group. The resulting change is often spontaneous, natural, and successful beyond all expectations. “Conspicuously absent from this process are the vocabularies of deficit-based change (e.g., gap analysis, root causes of failure, unfreezing, defensive routines, variances, diagnosis, resistance, and flaming platforms).” The theoretical framework offers a deeper understanding of the power of this approach.

The next article will focus on the 4 Phases of Appreciative Inquiry.  If you found this material helpful, please forward it to a friend or co-worker and encourage them to subscribe.

Business Success: Cultural Elements of Collaboration

For collaboration to flourish, the organization must take steps to create a collaborative culture. Evan Rosen (author of The Culture of Collaboration) suggests that there are 10 cultural elements of collaboration. Many of these elements are inherent qualities of an adaptive company:

Collaboration - Joined Hands1. Trust. Trust is a foundational feature of any team. Members who trust each other feel safe in sharing ideas. If people are afraid their ideas will be stolen or they will be criticized for mistakes, collaboration is difficult. Look for more discussion of trust later in the chapter.

2. Sharing. Some individuals resist sharing because they fear they will lose their value. It is important to demonstrate that by sharing, everyone’s value is increased.

3. Goals. Commonly created and shared goals are essential for vital collaboration.

4. Innovation. Collaboration stimulates innovation, which then fuels more collaboration.

5. Environment. The physical and virtual environment represents the nonverbal language of the company. Spaces that facilitate informal congregation lead to the natural sharing of ideas and issues. Virtual collaborative environments through technology advances are as important as real environments and are discussed in a later section.

6. Collaborative chaos. Chaos energizes the system. By facilitating the unstructured exchange of ideas, innovation flourishes.

7. Constructive confrontation. Respectful disagreement fuels the system to generate new ideas. When individuals feel safe to challenge each other’s ideas, innovation is unleashed.

8. Communication. Effective communication skills are fundamental to collaboration. Communication is the channel that builds trust while it facilitates inquiry and sharing.

9. Community. A sense of community is a natural outcome of collaboration. Shared goals, invigorating idea exchanges, and group problem solving build trust and community.

10. Value. Value from collaboration is realized in numerous ways. Companies have experienced business benefits, such as reduced processing times, shortened product development cycles, new markets identification, and more. There are also considerable cost savings realized through human benefits. When individuals feel engaged and valued as part of something larger than themselves, they have a more positive attitude about work. This leads to increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and more.

Stay tuned for more about implementing a culture of collaboration in your workplace.

Business Success: Principles of Dialogue Part 1

Last week was discussed what dialogue is and how important it is to business intelligence success. Over the next two weeks we will cover the practices and principles of dialogue. Dialogue can be learned.  A “‘practice’ is an activity you do repeatedly to help bring about an experience.”

A practice based on principles establishes a tradition. It is intentional and designed to create choices.audience-in-classroom-listening-intently-to-speaker-during-meeting_w725_h492

The Practice of Listening: “The Principle of Participation”

• Develop an Inner Silence”; Listen with All the Senses
• Notice the self; “attend to both words and the silence between the words”; be aware of thought.
• Let go of the inner clamor.
• Slow down; be still.
• Stick to the facts; suspend judgment.
• Stay in the present; do not jump to conclusions based on the past; look for evidence that challenges any convictions.
• Find the gaps.
• Listen together; question self and others.
The Practice of Respecting: “The Principle of Coherence”

• Observe, honor, and defer to others. See others as legitimate.
• Honor people’s boundaries; do not intrude; do not withhold the self or distance the self. Imposing is not honoring; sharing personal experience is.
• Accept that others have something to teach us.
• Pay attention to connections in differences; look for the relationship among the parts.
• Look for the whole; find the hub, the center in order to slow down and stay in the present.
• Notice the internal disturbance; suspend the desire to fix it or tell others to change. Find your own center and focus on yourself as part of the whole.
• Look for the elephant in the room and name the feeling. Make deliberate space for those who have a different point of view.
• Hold the tension; do not react to it.

If you like the information contained in this blog, please feel free to share with your network.

 

Leadership Skills: Dialogue, it is more than just talking

May 15, 2012 @ 02:00 PM

Communication works for those who work at it.
—John Powell, Creator of the Five Levels of Communication

Dialogue goes beyond communication to describe a style of conversation that taps into the energy of an organization through shared intention. Jalma Marcus, executive coach and energy healer, shares her perspective on dialogue.

What Is Dialogue?

Dialogue is “a conversation with a center, not sides.” It is a way of taking the energy of differences and channeling it toward the creation of something new. It lifts us out of polarization and into a greater understanding. In essence, it is a means for accessing the innate intelligence and previously untapped power of the organization.

Dialogue is “a flow of meaning.”

leadership_techniques

Dialogue is “a conversation in which people think together in relationship.” Rather than holding on to their own position, the participants relax their grip on certainty and listen to the possibilities.

Dialogue is “about exploring the nature of choice.”

The intention of dialogue is to reach new understanding and, in so doing, form a totally new basis from which to think and act. In dialogue, problems are not just solved, they are dissolved. The goal is not merely try to reach agreement but to create a context from which many new agreements emerge. By unveiling a base of shared meaning, the group’s actions and values come into alignment.

Dialogue seeks to address the problem of fragmentation not by rearranging the physical components of a conversation but by uncovering and shifting the organic underlying structures that produce it.

Dialogue requires thinking, not just reacting. It requires a deep awareness of personal feelings as well as other’s reactions.  Dialogue can be learned. It requires a set of practices based on theory and principles. A “‘practice’ is an activity you do repeatedly to help bring about an experience.”

I would love to hear your comments about this way of exporing dialogue and in the next few weeks we will cover several principles of practice to improve dialogue.