Friday, April 29, 2011

Selfless Behavior Brings Success for All

If you can get your group to consider itself in competition with another group, the result is greater success for the group. Under the right conditions, those who bring the group down will actually often punish themselves to protect the group. Having such a system would obviously be of great benefit to a firm, creating a more efficient, successful firm because each member is concerned with the welfare of the firm more than their own welfare. Any time you can get your employees to self-regulate, you have a much better, more effient firm.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leader Beliefs About Followers Impact Company Success

What do the leaders in your firm believe about their employees? It turns out that what they believe about their employees matters a great deal, because it becomes self-fulfilling. According to psychologists Thomas Sy:

"if managers view followers positively -- that they are good citizens, industrious, enthusiastic -- they will treat their employees positively. If they think of their employees negatively -- that they are conforming, insubordinate and incompetent -- they will treat them that way"
And it turns out that what you believe about your employees becomes self-fulfilling. If you believe your employees to be good, they will be, while if you believe them to be bad, well, they will be. Not right away, of course, but over time. In the former case, the employees want to live up to what is believed of them; in the latter case, the employees begin to think, well, if there's nothing I can do to please them, why bother? They increasingly become what you believe them to be.

John Mackey: Helping Your Organization Self-Actualize

Ideas Matter has a good posting on John Mackey: Helping Your Organization Self-Actualize. The purpose of the firm is most certainly to make a profit, but what goals do your employees have? If they are there just to make a paycheck, you are not getting the most you can out of your employees. A healthy firm, like a healthy organism or ecosystem, will grow and prosper. A more accurate metaphor than ecosystem, though, is garden. An ecosystem is a bottom-up self-organizing system -- which is not really how a firm is structured (though some of the principles of such systems can be used in larger firms). A garden, however, is organized by someone -- planted and weeded, watered and fertilized. Nevertheless, a good gardener knows when to leave something that pops up unexpectedly, and can recognize that a garden with perfect order is not nearly as beautiful as a garden with rough edges. There are many kinds of balance one must achieve in any kind of organization: and the balance between order and disorder is but one.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Importance of Well-Rested Employees

Understanding how the human body and mind work is important to understanding how to have the most efficient, productive workers. Swing shifts are among the worst things you can do to your employees -- and to your company. Companies are tempted to institute swing shifts on the idea that it's only "fair" that everyone have to work what is perceived to be a bad shift -- 3rd shift. What results, however, is a tired work force who cannot think well.

Hormones are synchronized with the wake-sleep cycle. When people change shifts, the brain never knows when it's supposed to be asleep, so this affects how people function.

People who change shifts every few days are going to have all kinds of problems related to memory and learning, Fishbein [a neuroscientist at the City University of New York] said. This kind of schedule especially affects what he called relational memories, which involve the ability to understand how one thing is related to another.
One cannot imagine anything worse to make less efficient than relational memories, which only adds to the problems of slower work from sleepy workers, and bad thinking and slower work from workers who cannot concentrate.

Many 3rd shift workers also readjust their schedules on their days off, which is something they really should not do. It is understandible that one may want to have their days back on their days off, but in the end, it's harmful to the person changing their sleep schedules around -- for several physical and mental reasons.

Overall, well-rested employees are more productive employees. You may be getting less out of your employees by having them work earlier, later, or on swing shifts.

Update: and here is why all of the above problems occur. It turns out that when you are sleepy, part of your brain will take a quick nap. Your employees may literally be half-asleep on the job, even when apparently awake.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hayekian Insights Into Knowledge

"such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process … will hardly ever be fully known or measurable." -- F. A. Hayek

Every company of course has to keep this in mind when dealing with the market. Competition is, of course, a discovery process, so the unknowns eventually become knowns through market competition. Competition creates more opportunities for profit, not less.

At the organizational level, the heads of small firms and their employees may be able to fully know all that is going on in the firm, but the larger the firm grows, the less likely this is to be the case. The larger the firm is, the more one has to rely on employees' local knowledge.

Depending on the size and complexity of the firm, different kinds of organizational structures are needed to facilitate the creation and transmission of knowledge in the firm. Rigid hierarchies are not always best or most efficient. Larger firms, though not themselves spontaneous orders, can nevertheless use some of the lessons learned from understanding spontaneous orders to harness the full potential of each and every employee.

Even so, one cannot expect to accurately measure the degree to which such efficiency develops. There is more and less, but whether perfect efficiency is reached (or can be reached) is impossible to know. What we can know, however, is what kinds of structures work best.

Genes Predict Learning Style

Have you ever had an employee who just couldn't seem to learn from experience? Well, perhaps it is because you taught that employee what to expect in their job.

Researchers at Brown University have discovered that there is a genetic element to the degree to which people learn from experience after they have been told what to expect. At one extreme, some people are born with a tendency to just believe what they have been told, and to continue believing it no matter what experience teaches them; at the other extreme are those who don't believe anything unless they have experienced it themselves. There are, of course, variations in between.

The "Yes-man" may in fact just be a true believer. The rebellious employee may just be someone who has to have everything shown to them so they can experience it for themselves.

Naturally, there may be other factors as well. But this adds to the complexity of why one's employees may be acting as they do. The most efficient company will know what to do with such employees. Do you know what to do with them?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Creativity Killer

David Sherwin has a piece in The Atlantic titled The Creativity Killer: Group Discussions.

In it Sherwin discusses how many businesses create groups to create new ideas, and how this often fails. The first thing I would note is that creativity cannot be turned on on demand. This is not addressed in the article, but it's an important limitation on such meetings to generate ideas.

Nevertheless, Sherwin does a great job of discussing the best ways to use groups to generate new ideas. The bottom line is that humans are a social species. Thus, it should not be surprising that we are more creative, and most efficiently creative, in a social setting. The problem comes about when we mistake collective action for social action. With collective action, we reach consensus in the way Sherwin discusses. Thus, the best ideas are unlikely to develop. At the other extreme, isoalted individuals do a good job of coming up with ideas, but it is easy to become stuck with the same ideas. Since people are often specialists, their solutions are often narrowly defined to their own area of expertise, as one would expect.

What, then, is the solution? The solution is to avoid collective action and isolated individualism, and to instead foster individualistic social groups. All of Sherwin's examples are variations on this theme. For even better ideas, if one has the time, it is best to allow your team to come up with ideas on their own, meet to discuss them, then go out to work on the ideas, etc., until a set of recommendations can be developed. This takes time, but it is more likely to result in the best solutions.

Increasingly, businesses need to foster creativity. As a creative person myself, I am quite familiar with what creative people need to maximize their creativity. The problems and the solutions may be different, but the culture and environment needed to maximize creativity is the same for all creative people.

Future Topics

I will periodically discuss why I use the elements I use in my consulting, to give potential and current clients some insight into my methods and to explain why I use those methods.

Things to look for in the future:

Austrian Economics

Spontaneous Order and Self-Organization

Hierarchical Networks and Scale-Free Networks

J. T. Fraser's umwelt theory of time

Clare Graves' theory of adult psychological and social evolution

Evolutionary Psychology


Creative Conflict and Destructive Conflict


Education and Learning




Welcome to Camplin Creative Consulting

Camplin Creative Consulting is a new consulting business located in Richardson, TX, a suburb of Dallas. We make use of spontaneous order and self-organization theory, which includes network theory, Clare Graves' psychological theories, J.T. Fraser's theory of time, and Austrian economics. We also use evolutionary approaches, including evolutionary psychology and the most recent work on how the brain works, and cultural studies. We apply all of these approaches to understanding companies in their full complexity, from the kinds of thinking present in the firm to their hierarchical network structures and the firm's relationship to the spontaneous order economy.

Conflicts and tension are a central part of any system. There are good, creative conflicts and bad, destructive conflicts. It is important to discover which are which, and to understand how to foster the former while reducing or eliminating the latter. These conflicts make up each company's culture, and allow a company to either work well and maximize profits, or exhibit frictions and fail to maximize profits -- or even lose money.

We hope you will let us help you.