March 16, 2017

How Opposites Undid The World

To anyone who knows me, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that I have been encouraging others to read The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. I have been saying it was going to be a great book even before I picked it up. I would read the phone book (do they still make those?) if Michael Lewis wrote it. From Moneyball to Boomerang and The Big Short, Lewis has a way of making foreign topics approachable and fun. This topic is no different: two world renowned psychologists are the reason Behavioral Economics exists.

Before reading the book, I was a student of the research produced by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky but knew little about them as individuals. Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is an all-time favorite read of mine, a true compilation of his findings throughout an illustrious career. What impressed me most while reading was that the two individuals were polar opposite. Tversky was depicted as an eccentric, larger-than-life individual while Kahneman was a stoic, quiet type. The two psychologists had essentially nothing in common other than their interest in how people make decisions and the chance of them being at the same place during the same time.

Could their differences be the reason this dynamic duo was so successful? I have studied the effects of groupthink  and have seen it in action plenty of times. However, a diversity of perspective this stark is something I have never seen work so harmoniously. Kahneman and Tversky are a true example of one plus one equals three.

I started thinking about my clients. To help select an individual or team, I interview hiring managers or subject matter experts to build a competency model. During the interviews, I realize the hiring managers are often describing themselves and their own characteristics as ideal in a new hire. One client in particular provided examples of who he wanted to hire and did have the self-awareness to recognize he may as well have been looking in the mirror.

Think about your current work environment. I will bet you can identify some themes within the makeup of the people on your team, such as common personality types and opinions on politics or strategy. I will even go as far as to say a few people went to the same school (or very similar types of school). Could the similarities of your team be holding you back from getting to the next level?

In previous posts, I discussed the importance of being cognizant of the system and identifying the individual who will be the right fit. Competency models are important to identify the operational behaviors individuals need to exhibit in order to be successful within the environment. Making selection decisions based on behavioral outputs rather than an experiential profile will lead to a diversification of your team and create a group that complements each other.

Tags: I/O psych, conferences, culture

Marc Prine PhD

Marc is a Director in the Consulting & Assessment practice at Taylor Strategy Partners where he works with clients on improving their performance by using data to better select and develop their people. Dr. Prine earned his Ph.D. in Business Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, M.A. from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and undergraduate degree from Temple University. He is an adjunct professor in statistics and his work has been published in Forbes and FastCompany. In his spare time, Marc can be found looking for golf balls in tall grass, yelling as if the players on his fantasy team can hear him through the television or doing his best Andrew Zimmer impression and trying the most interesting thing on a menu.



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