Conditional Archive

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Introverts and Extroverts

Identifying extroverts and introverts is a relative determination not an absolute one.

Extroverts and introverts can change with moods and circumstances.

My previous post on extroverts and introverts looked at their energy sources. Problematically, many personality tests don’t explain differences between extroverts and introverts beyond a social context. They also don’t explain how orientation might change with moods and circumstances.

A major deficiency of personality tests is their tendency to score extroversion-introversion as a zero-sum game. We gain introversion at the expense of extroversion and vice versa. There is no allowance for moods and circumstances in this one-dimensional assessment.

Naomi Quenk, an authority on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), wrote several books on how our extroversion-introversion orientation (as well as the other MBTI functions) can change depending upon our moods:

For example, a friend received an outlying MBTI result. It ran counter to his previous three. However, the night before this outlier, he and his wife had a bad argument. This easily changed his mood and likely results too.

It’s quite common for extroverts to become more introverted when under stress or attack. They become withdrawn and quiet. Introverts often become more extroverted by going on the attack. Now, consider this. When we test athletes’ bodies, we put them through a stress test. Yet, when we test people’s personalities, we want them calm.

Circumstances also influence our extroversion-introversion orientation. Many extroverts fear public speaking. Many introverts enjoy being on stage, such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Circumstances also change our moods. The Velten Mood Induction demonstrates how this can be done over the short term. If the same circumstances persist (i.e. work, stress), the orientation will too.

Surrounding all of this, energy, moods and circumstances, is that extroversion-introversion is benchmarked. Testers take a sample population, score it and declare one half extroverts and the other introverts. Unlike the kilogram stored under glass in Paris, no extroverts or introverts are held anywhere in the world as the objective standard for their kind.

In other words, we really aren’t extroverts and introverts. It’s all relative. We are either more extroverted or introverted than another person . . . depending upon moods and circumstances of course.


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Dice (Twelve & Two)  [0691] One of the outside factors that tends to cause us to make the fundamental attribution error in assessing talent is randomness . . . or “luck” as it’s commonly known. For example, when an expert predicts an event, especially an unusual one, we tend to credit him with foresight.

In Jerker Denrell’s research though, as reported in the article “’Experts’ Who Beat the Odds Are Probably Just Lucky” (Harvard Business Review, April 2013 edition), it’s probably better that we attribute his success to luck. Denrell goes further by saying that “people who successfully foresee an unusual event tend to be wrong about the future over the long run.”

If a hundred people predict the role of two dice, it’s best to pick seven, the most likely number. However, if we wish to standout, two or twelve are better because few will pick these. Consequently, an expert in the backwaters of his field can suddenly move to the front by taking a chance on a wild prediction. It’s the experts’ version of the Hail Mary pass in football.

Randomness affects us all though, not just experts. This means we need to assess its influence on all jobs. For instance, randomness plays more in sales than it does in accounting; that’s why sales performance is less predictive of talent than accounting performance is.

Simply being aware of our tendency to over attribute will guard us from those who oversell theirs or others’ talents. While “the proof is in the pudding” is fine for making pudding, it doesn’t work in the expanded range of variables influencing business. Our control over the pudding-making process is far greater than our control over business factors. In short, assessing talent is more than just assessing past outcomes. It requires assessing conditions surrounding success.


Related reading: 12 Most Important Unspoken Truths about Experts


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This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Psychopaths in Workplace

Psychopath & Sociopath The DifferencesThe short answer to this post’s title is that we let them. To understand this, we need to examine this outcome as we would any other event. That means exploring the:

  1. Situation, the conditions under which this could occur
  2. Flow, the timing and trends of events preceding this outcome
  3. People, what personalities and culture make fertile ground for this occurrence
  4. Individuals, how our interactions with psychopaths permit their advancement

Of course, not all CEO’s are psychopaths but as an introduction, we can tentatively describe the situations, trends, people and relationships that benefit psychopaths:



  • Adding more organization, processes and rules
  • Establishing or enforcing fiscal discipline and cost containment
  • Tackling difficult political decisions regarding businesses, staff and other relationships
  • Fast-growing companies in need of organization and processes to scale



Unfortunately, it’s human nature to examine each point segregated from the others. As a composer would with all the instruments in an orchestra, we need to integrate all points into a composition of how psychopaths can become CEO’s. However, let’s not delude ourselves; it’s not about psychopaths. It’s about greater self-awareness for how we feel, think and behave in little events everyday so they can culminate in desirable outcomes . . . rather than undesirable ones.


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3 Gold StarsIf we awoke one day with amnesia with life totally scrambled, would we have the same leaders? In his article, “The Turnaround Trap” (The New Yorker, March 25, 2013 edition), James Surowiecki discusses the ouster of Ron Johnson as CEO of J.C. Penney after his very successful stint at Target and finds that psychologists recognize:

. . . “the fundamental attribution error” – our tendency to ignore context and attribute an individual’s success or failure solely to inherent qualities.

Additionally, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Boris Groysberg, and Nitin Nohria include in their article “How to Hang On to Your High Potentials” (Harvard Business Review, October 2011 edition) under their heading “Align Development to Strategy” this conclusion:

. . . flexibility is key . . . companies that set rigid goals about the type or number of high potentials, instead of taking a dynamic approach, become complacent and don’t get much out of [high potential] programs.

If strategy is conditional and talent is conditional to strategy, then leadership talent is conditional too. However, we tend to ignore this. That’s why great players on losing teams are unlikely to receive “most valuable player” awards, why future CEO’s strive to lead hot, growing divisions, and why employment candidates from good companies receive preference.

We like to believe we have more control than we do. Attributing success directly to a person gives us comfort, security and certainty, providing clarity without having to integrate life’s fuzzy truths.

Thus, in rising to leadership do not underestimate the power in “being at the right place at the right time.” Surowiecki states this more negatively by concluding with this quote from Warren Buffett:

When a manager with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamentals, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.


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Brain Mapping

Brain Mapping

Space, the final frontier” introduced Star Trek’s original series, but assessments of our human knowledge indicate that the space between our ears is more of a frontier than the space above our heads is. That is a major reason the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has proposed that the Next Big Thing be “to solve biology’s most mysterious problem: how the brain works.” (“Only Connect” [The Economist, February 23, 2013 edition]).

The project’s scale will be on par with the public and private investment made in the Human Genome Project, thus focusing funding and federal attention. Regardless of the project’s outcome, the main point is that knowledge of our brain is sparse. In fact, analogizing it to a road map:

It is like trying to navigate America with an atlas that shows the states, the big cities and the main highways, and has a few street maps of local neighbourhoods, but displays nothing in between. (“Hard Cell” [The Economist, March 9, 2013 edition]).

The secondary point is that scientists are becoming increasingly confident that technological advancements make this doable. Combine our low knowledge base with these advancements, and a strong case exists for the greatest advancement in this decade being in understanding ourselves. This will advance management theory well beyond its classical 1950’s roots of management by objectives much as it has spawned Behavioral Economics from Traditional Economics.

Thus, rather than view individuals as rational actors with free will (more), we will move toward viewing ourselves as heavily influenced by emotions, conditions and many other biological, genetic and chemical functions. Employers making this jump early will have a distinct advantage. So, if you’re looking for a new frontier to tackle, try examining the one between your ears. No one else really knows what’s there.


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Anatomy of Events

By Mike Lehr
Anatomy of an Event

Anatomy of an Event

When we examine events, we tend to look at them too narrowly and statically. The advantage of the schematic in this post is to remind us of two things regarding the anatomy of events:

  1. We tend to overestimate our influence and underestimate or ignore other influences especially if we are optimistic.
  2. All forces are moving through time, so change is omnipresent but also occurring with continuity; the best indicator of what will happen today is what happened yesterday.

The four major forces acting upon events are:

  1. Situation: all the non-human forces acting upon an event (i.e. weather, money, resources, location)
  2. Flow: the trend and continuity of all forces as they interact with one another (i.e. few things change on a dime; they move through intermediate states)
  3. People: all the active and passive participants involved in the event (i.e. customers, employees, managers, vendors)
  4. Leader: the person trying to influence the event’s outcome in a particular direction (i.e. manager, individual, small team)

The arrows’ thicknesses represent the relative power behind each force and remind us that the other forces are generally more powerful than ours is. The implication is that we usually must:

Take action, or prepare to take action, as early as possible so we can seize the opportunity at hand or the one that is coming

Just as deflecting an asteroid’s trajectory early with a small force makes for a huge miss later, developing strong relationships now makes leveraging them easier in the future. Preparing now allows us to take advantage of crises and other opportune moments in which the other forces are coalescing behind us.

This schematic reminds us to consider the strength and flow of other forces so we minimize our exposure to being at the mercy of events.


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External - Internal FeelingsThe book The Geography Behind History by W. Gordon East, which discusses the influence of geography on countries’ cultures led me a long time ago to begin observing the influence of individuals’ physical characteristics on their personalities. My previous post, “Body – Emotion Connection: People Are Very Different,” highlighted research showing that how we feel about our bodies influences us.

The work of Michael Petersen of the University of Aarhus and Daniel Sznycer of the University of California Santa Barbara as described in the article, “Political Strength” (The Economist, October 20, 2012 edition), has the same theme. In this case, Petersen and Sznycer found that strong, muscular men are more likely to act in their self-interest than their weaker counterparts are.

More specifically, they found that poor, strong men were more likely to argue for the redistribution of wealth than poor, weaker men; and rich, strong men were more likely to argue against it than rich, weaker men were. They found no such correlation among women.

There are two major reasons for focusing on this research.

First, ever since I read The Republic (summary) by Plato, which analogizes a just state to a just man, I’ve been interested in themes, rules, approaches and qualities that seem to work both for individuals and countries as well as groups in between.

Second, our bodies’ influence on our personalities and decisions casts further doubt on the true scope of our free will. Thus, when we talk about heart, mind and body; the latter influences the other two beyond its mere health status. In other words, subtle factors influence our will.

From a practical, business perspective, this means we must consider people’s physical characteristics when working with them. This not only challenges current conventions but contains challenges and dangers.


Additional reading: “Your Muscles Determine Your Vote” (Science Nordic, November 2, 2012)


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Hell Image Text [IMG-0124]Businesses strive for predictability. Standardization helps them achieve that. Still, many employees like their jobs for their variability, “It’s something different every day.” Herein is a paradox.

On one hand, we have predictability containing expenses by minimizing surprises. On the other hand, work’s variability gives us pleasure. Could predictability make us wealthy but miserable too? Walter Kirn touches on this paradox in his article “Knowledge of the Future Is Messing With the Present” (The Atlantic, July/August edition) by asking:

Has making life more explicable actually made it any more pleasurable?

Perhaps by understanding predictability better, we could appreciate change better and strip its fearsomeness. The The Twilight Zone episode, “A Nice Place to Visit,” can help.

The main character, Rocky, is a petty thief who dies. A divine guide finds him to deliver the news and show him to his new “home.” At first, Rocky can’t believe his luck for in this place he gets whatever he wants. In poker, all the cards go his way. With women, none deny him. Despite his long list of sins, Rocky figures God granted him heaven.

However, after a while, he becomes bored with the predictability of succeeding at whatever he attempts, poker, slots, women, robberies, billiards etc. Finally, he approaches his divine host and says, “If I gotta stay here another day, I’m gonna go nuts! Look, look, I don’t belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.”

The divinity rebuts, “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This IS the other place!”

By imagining extremes, we alter our perspectives, permitting a more realistic assessment of our conditions. Not only do these perspectives influence our emotions (i.e. reducing fear of change) but also they improve our problem-solving skills.



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Identifying creativity isn’t easy, but it is possible and can be done without assessment tools. It begins with identifying outlying answers to our questions. There are differences between people who give standard answers and creative ones, and differences between people who can solve problems and people who are problem solvers.

In other words, when we ask people questions, we should to anticipate their answers. The more different they are from the ones we expect the more creative they might be. Of course, different is necessarily creative. For example, someone gives a different answer to a question, but when we ask, “How did you come to do that?” and they answer along the lines of, “Well, some friends suggested I do that,” the act might be different to us but was not creative to the person.

This technique is similar to polling, meaning we need several questions on divergent topics to use it well. We also need to adjust for cultural and environmental differences. For example, people might give us different answers because their culture is different from ours and we have little experience with theirs. Thus, while their answers might be different from what we expect, our expectations might be too narrow.

On the other hand, their answers can’t be unconnected to our question. For example, if we ask, “How do you normally get to work?” and they answer, “Breakfast,” while it’s different, there isn’t a connection, and we’ll need to ask for one.

Nevertheless, in the end, the more different we find people’s answers are from our expectations and from what we could expect from their situations, the greater their creative potential is. That brings up another point: most people don’t realize how creative they are so they haven’t developed it.


Related article: Test Your Creativity: 5 Classic Creative Challenges


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This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Emotional Intelligence vs. Intuition

Previously, I had identified problem solving as an area showing a pronounced difference between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Intuition. I want to expand upon that by focusing on how each functions in a group and with an individual. Of EI’s five components, only one, self-regulation, can operate completely when a person is alone.

For example, consider a man alone in the woods. As we saw with problem solving, EI doesn’t offer much help. Now, let’s expand beyond problem solving to helping that man get along with his environs or with his god. EI doesn’t offer much in the way of helping that man learn something about his non-human interactions, especially in a religious or philosophical sense.

On the other hand, intuition is the acquiring of knowledge and making of decisions through emotions. In other words, our emotions can help us understand and appreciate our world minus the people. EI, unless it helps us “to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods,” to pursue goals with energy and passion or to recognize and understand our moods, emotions and drives it doesn’t help us understand the non-human aspects of our world. In short, EI’s focus is on our emotions but not on what they are telling us. Analogously, this is akin to understanding a car but not where it’s taking us.

That is why EI’s main benefits spring from group encounters or one-on-one interactions not from a “man in the woods” scenario. Intuition thrives in both settings. Since our environment and conditions influence us greatly, intuition can help us understand both through the emotions they generate in us. Thus, rather than simply recognizing we are happy, intuition can help us understand what being happy might be telling us about our current environment, conditions or world.


Other posts in this series:


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The relentless advance of technology and research methodologies is accelerating our understanding of ourselves and constricting the domain of free will (more). The article, “Tall, Dark and Stable” (The Economist, July 14,2012 edition), reports the work of David Kille, Amanda Forest and Joanne Wood (University of Waterloo) finding that “the stability of chairs and tables has an effect on perceptions and desires.”

People sitting on wobbly chairs or at wobbly tables will tend to:

  • See instability in the emotional aspects of people, relationships and other social events
  • Value stability in their own relationships, friends and acquaintances

This is in line with research finding that:

  • Giving someone an icy drink at a party leads him to believe he is getting the cold shoulder from fellow guests
  • Handing over a warm drink gives people a sense of warmth from others
  • Putting potential voters in chairs which lean slightly to the left causes them to become more agreeable towards policies associated with the left of the political spectrum
  • Standing next to a bottle of hand sanitizer makes us more conservative

Within this blog, we’ve learned that how we feel about our bodies influences our decisions. How

smells and testosterone levels can influence our judgments. How style influences our evaluation of content, rudeness influences evaluations of power and eloquence influences evaluations of honesty.

Beauty even affects us subliminally. Women in red influences men’s ratings of attractiveness and pretty women cause men to take more risk. Vanity sizing encourages clothing purchases. Consumer psychology (more) finds ways to make products more attractive. Even stories change the taste of food and single words impact our moods.

Yes, all are such little things. Yet, we often ignore them and then wonder why our initiatives aren’t as successful as they could be.


Related posts:


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American business culture tends to prize extroverted traits over introverted ones. One online survey of 1,500 senior business leaders found that 65% saw introversion as a negative leadership quality.

So, now consider that The Atlantic (July/August 2012 edition) listed as one of their “23 ½ Biggest Ideas of the Year”: “Hire Introverts.” Susan Cain, the writer of the article about introverts as well as the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, cites Adam Grant of Wharton school of management whose research shows that extroverts are not always the most successful leaders. He found the following:

  • Extroverted leaders did better when employees were non-proactive.
  • Introverted leaders did better when employees were proactive.

Introverted leaders (Lincoln and Gandhi) tended to do better with proactive employees because they were more likely to allow them to run with their ideas. Extroverted leaders (King and Welch), who tend to like the limelight, had more difficulty allowing their employees to have it.

While the public focus on this contrast is more on the better leaders, extroverts or introverts, there is a powerful underlying implication: leadership is more conditional than we think it is; meaning a good leader under one set of conditions might bomb under another set and a bad leader in one set could excel in another.

Now, consider the number of books proclaiming what good leadership is. The tendency is to proclaim standards that fit all situations. In reality the situation, not any set of arbitrary standards set by experts, will determine what good leadership is. Furthermore, the group’s culture (i.e. proactive, non-proactive) is a primary determinant.

The important point is this: leaders’ are heavily dependent upon their people for their success. It’s not only dependent upon their people’s skills but their personalities too.


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House of Arbitrariness & Conditionality


We often view measurements as unchangeable. A meter is a meter, a pound a pound. We often forget that at some time someone somewhere declared what those were and that they would be a standard. The point is this: arbitrariness underlies almost all objective standards by which we live.

For example, in the January 29, 2011 edition of The Economist, the article, “The Constant Gardeners”, explores the kilogram. The official standard is a platinum-iridium alloy cast in 1879. However, today, its weight seems to vary from its copies by up to 69 micrograms, about half a grain of sand, an important variance when weighing small things. So, the question is this: How heavy is a kilogram . . . really?

The relevancy to problem solving is similar to that which I wrote in my post, “Arbitrariness: The Cornerstone of Conditions”:

By searching for the underlying arbitrary aspect of any apparently objective situation, we can often find the perspective – when altered – that can cause us to see that situation in a different light.

For example, when someone asks us, “What’s the best way to get from A to B?” we often give the fastest route. The assumption being that the “best way” is “fastest” when “best” could have many different attributes. Over time, the best-fastest link becomes the arbitrary point – when altered – that sheds a different light on what route might be best such as the most scenic one or the most fuel-efficient.

As a more sophisticated example, consider our reliance upon “proven outcomes.” What does that mean especially when you cannot scientifically prove that good leadership begets good results? Thus, when we look at what it took to be proven, we often find that it’s subjective based upon who is determining what “good leadership” and “good results” are.


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YinYang, as expressed by the Taijitu symbol, has helped me solve many problems. The two major components represent the two major opposing forces in any event. The smaller part of each in the other represents the interplay between the two.

I have extracted five principles from YinYang that have helped me. In short, optimal solutions will:

  1. Have opposing forces (i.e. ideas, emotions, things) at work
  2. Not choose one force over the other
  3. Balance and integrate the two forces
  4. Have one force as dominant and the other supportive
  5. Vary by situation

For example, let’s consider the problem of how much to water a plant. Two forces exist, dryness and wetness (#1). If we choose dryness over wetness by never watering the plant, it will die. If we choose wetness over dryness by constantly watering the plant, the plant will die (#2). Thus, we need to integrate the two and find the right balance between watering and drying (#3). In this balance, the plant’s soil will be mainly dry or wet (#4). This balance varies by plant (#5, i.e. cacti versus willows).

In business, we often view these as tradeoffs such as processes versus flexibility, positive versus negative reinforcements, best practices versus differentiation, focus versus situational awareness, change versus resistance, profits versus investments, and glass half-full versus half-empty. However, tradeoffs encourage the temptation to choose one over the other; it’s really about integrating the two (#4).

Many times, it’s difficult to identify the opposing force. So, I ask myself this question:

If I take an obvious solution to the extreme, what would happen?

For example, too much process makes everything bureaucratic. Too much importance on profits retards investments. Once accomplished, we can begin balancing the two to arrive at an optimal solution for the situation at hand.


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Classical business literature emphasizes focus: set goals, plan, and then focus on execution. However, it’s relatively void of focus’ downside: obliviousness to peripheral threats and opportunities.

In the mid-1900’s, when conditions didn’t change as dynamically as today’s, extensive research, planning and focus worked. Today, most research is outdated upon completion. Consequently, situational awareness (SA) becomes more important as part of an adaptive business strategy.

SA is the degree to which a person or company can be aware of surrounding conditions while focused on a task or plan. Ironically, SA came of age with aerial combat; you need to know where you are in the sky while focused on engaging enemy aircraft. If not, you could crash your plane from flying too low or from enemy fire simply because you were oblivious to those factors.

Context strongly influences our planning; however, if conditions forming that context are dynamically changing, that means our plan – the object of our focus – might become invalid by new threats and opportunities, and our focus and poor SA might cause us to overlook them. Psychological influences such as anchoring and optimistic planning will create additional pressures to keep us focused and ignorant.

These will also influence our assessment of talent by tending to make it too static and historical. Rather than basing it on people’s potential within new conditions, we will tend to base it on performances under old conditions. We will tend to believe that successes and failures transfer rather than assess actual skills and actual aptitudes within a new set of actual conditions. More simply, this is pigeonholing.

Technology and the internet strongly influence today’s dynamic conditions. Our focus shouldn’t blind us. SA will help us see the many threats, opportunities and talents that will influence our success.


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