Hunching Pokémon Hunters

My family has been infected. By the Pokémon Go epidemic that is. Introduced to the app by a college-age neighbor, my twin 7-year-old sons came home with a sudden, unprecedented eagerness to join me on hikes and shopping trips (as long as I brought my phone, of course). Anything that would get them within range of their digital quarry. Overnight, my children became Pokémon hunters.

One trip to the mall and it quickly became clear that they weren’t the only ones smitten with this latest augmented reality phenomenon. All around me, people of all ages wandered trance-like through the parking lot staring at their phones, suddenly exclaiming when they spotted a Pokémon in their midst. This was clearly A Thing with universal appeal.

And yet…I couldn’t help but notice there were differences between these hunters, in spite of their common interest. Differences I suspected were tightly linked to their Business Chemistry types. So I decided to spend the weekend hunching these hunters and observing them in their (semi) natural environments to see how differences in style might be evident even in a shared mobile gaming experience. (Thanks to my friends and family for being unwitting participants in my research).

Of course I wasn’t able to conclude anything in a brief, unscientific weekend of observation, but I did develop some initial hypotheses. Here are my bets–what are yours?

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Who are you when you’re stressed?

Who are you when you're stressed?Last week was really stressful for me. I’m in the midst of several writing projects at once, nothing I would recommend, and it seemed there was also a hurricane blowing, full of other responsibilities, inquiries, requests, and demands swirling around me. You probably know how that feels.

So what did I do? I hunkered down, and spent several hours organizing my calendar–obviously–one of the more Guardian-like tasks a person can engage in. Because that’s what I do when I’m stressed.

And how about you? When you’re stressed, what do you do? Do your typical behaviors intensify? Or do you tend to act a bit out of character? Do you think your Business Chemistry type changes? Or does it get more extreme? We’re often asked by our clients just these questions. So we set out to answer them.

We asked people to complete our Business Chemistry assessment while imagining they were under stress, and 111 people did just that. Specifically, we asked people to “respond to each item as if you’re in the midst of a very stressful time. You might think back to a specific stressful time you’ve actually experienced, imagine a stressful time, or just focus in on the feeling of being under stress in general.” We then compared people’s stressed results to their original Business Chemistry results, to see if they were different.

The majority of respondents (70 percent) indicated they had recalled a specific stressful time they’d actually experienced, while 23 percent thought about being under stress in general, and just 7 percent imagined a specific stressful experience. Most respondents indicated they were thinking about looming deadlines and time pressure, critical and high profile projects involving clients and/or leadership, the need for multi-tasking, and/or a heavy work-load. In other words, they were thinking about the typical day at work for most of us.

In short, we found no evidence that any of the Business Chemistry types intensify under stress, but we did find evidence of changes in people’s behaviors and preferences.

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Going with the flow: Cascades can hinder team decision-making

My last post suggested that making decisions in diverse teams can help avoid decision-making traps, and there’s research evidence to support this view1. However, team decisions are often no better than individual decisions—and sometimes they’re even worse2. So what’s going on?

Essentially it has to do with the difference between having diversity on a team and managing the team environment and process in a way that enables the group to actually benefit from that diversity.

There are various mechanisms through which biases and poor decision-making can actually be heightened rather than diminished on a team, even a diverse one.

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The Power of Opposites

The Power of Opposites

If given the choice, would you work with someone who’s similar to you and shares your views? Or would you choose someone who’s quite dissimilar, and has a different perspective?

Research suggests that we make better decisions in diverse groups than in homogeneous ones, but that we feel less confident in those decisions1. Why? Maybe because making decisions with people similar to us feels easy; if we’re all on the same page from the start it must be the right page, mustn’t it? The overconfidence that we’re prone to individually, gets multiplied in homogeneous groups.

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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace – Business Chemistry as a Solution?

What if you don’t know your own mind as well as you think you do?

In their 2013 book Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin Binaji and Anthony Greenwald reveal some surprising statistics about how many of us have biases toward African Americans, women, the elderly, and many other classifications of people. We’re often unaware of these biases, and in fact, our conscious or stated attitudes may conflict with them.1

(You can test for your own hidden biases by trying out the Implicit Association Test but be warned, you may be unpleasantly surprised.)

Where do these biases come from? From your brain’s attempt to cope with the overwhelming amount of information it has to process every day. It simply can’t handle the data points rushing at it from every direction, and so your brain simplifies the world by categorizing just about everything, and that includes people. Essentially, it automatically engages in stereotyping.

I suspect most of us would prefer not to operate under the influence of unconscious biases and we’d likewise prefer that others don’t. When I’m speaking with a group of leaders I’d prefer that their brains aren’t homing in on the fact that I’m a woman, or that I have a slight Midwestern accent, or that I have blond hair–these characteristics should be irrelevant in that situation. But the research suggests that their brains likely ARE focused on these things and further, that they’re forming an impression of me based on the associations they have with those categories. Without knowing it, my audience members are likely deciding that I’m emotional (a common association with women), that I’m “Minnesota-nice,” and if they’ve heard too many blond jokes, well… it’s not good.

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A leader’s job is to get everyone’s best contribution

A leader's job is to get everyone's best contribution

Leaders sometimes ask me whether Business Chemistry is really just about making everyone feel included. While that’s a worthy endeavor in my opinion, Business Chemistry offers so much more, like the potential to make a good leader great.

I think great leadership is about creating environments that both empower and compel people to make their very best contribution. But since not everyone is empowered or compelled by the same environment, the trick is to understand what different people need and to provide them with the right kind of space to excel. For those leaders who aren’t sure where to start, Business Chemistry can help!

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