buba-kiki test

08Jan10
buba kiki test conceptual synesthesia

buba kiki test

James Geary explains in this elegant talk about the essential feature in productive thought: the metaphor. Metaphors give us vived understanding, by giving something a name that belongs to something else, we open up a reservoir of thought that is connected with the created link: Juliet is a sun – we automaticall understand that she brings joy and warm feelings. Gear explains that mataphors shake things up in our mind, and refers to his translation of the latin phrase: cogito ergo sum (i think therefor i am). “co” is literally “together” and “gito” is “shake”.  Correctly translated “cogito ergo sum”  is: “I shake things up, therefor i am“. Geary connects this translation to “combinatory play” and Einsteins use of thoughtexperiments which open the doors to discovery. In his words: “metaphors unleash the mind’s creative energy”.

Shaking things up” seems to be the new hype: Harmony has tremendous appeal but good leaders ask hard questions and great leaders consistently fight for what they believe in. Shaking is a discipline, not an event, it continually seeks ways to push people to the point where they find their energy sweet spot.  To allow genuine curiosity in an open and dissonant  dialogue, you inspire the process of solving a challenge. It unleashes (sparks) creativity and innovation. 

pick a good fight 

Saj-nicole Joni (CEO of Cambridge International Group) and Damon Beyer (founding member of the Katzenbach Center which promotes organizational innovation and senior adviser with Booz&Company) write about “how to pick a good fight” in HBR. They indicate that complacency is a good predictor of poor company performance. They argue that alignment is not the best way to manage change. For large-scale change or innovation a healthy dose of dissent is just as important. They stress that within an acceptable range of competition and tension dissent will fire up more of an individual’s brain, stimulating more pathways and engaging more creative centers. In short, more of what makes people unique, innovative and passionate. The acknowledge that it’s important to find the right balance of alignment and competition and in an environment that overwhelmes employees the amount of dysfunctional fighting is high. To pick the right fight – that can connect people with a sense of purpose that goes beyond their own self-interest, inleashing profound collective imagination and abilities – they identified three principles: 

make it material: fight only over issues with game-changing potential: the issue should create lasting value, lead to noticeable and sustainable improvement and addresses a complex challenge that has no easy answer. 

focus on the future: don’t waste energy, brainpower and resources to assign blame or recognistion but try to figure out what went wrong or dissect what went well and learn. Redirect the conversation so that people spent half their time talking about the future. Set a clear context for a worthwhile future, speak to what is possible, shift the debate to what could happen. Make it compelling, focus people on real achievable benefits, build strategic intent into a sustainable reality. 

turn pain into gain: not all ideas are good ideas, not all strategies work. Turn disappointing news into an occasion for personal development. Give people manageable challenges that stretch thier skills and open up opportunities in the future. Create a broad tapestry of expectations so everyone in the organization can know where the company is going. When company’s earnings decline, restore employee morale: foster productive debate make sure no single leader can have complete control over any part of the business and no employee has a single boss -rearrange the organization into a matrix, and ask executives to draft plans that go beyond their own departments. 

make it a sport not a war: set up a formal structure, but work informally. Fights must have rules, leaders must define the parameters so everyone involved understands how to participate and what itr takes to win. Create rules to mitigate the consequences of tensions. But respect informal processes – hallway conversations, personal favors and relationships – they cross official boundaries and accomplish goals the formal structure cannot. Successful leaders structure fights through the formal organization, yet allow people to take advantage of personal and professional connections that don’t necessarily make the org chart. 

Maybe these principles look obvious, but they are not always as easy to implement. A good example was given by Obama in his response to the bomb-incident on Christmasday’09. He seeks not to focus on blame but stipulates a series of challenges that will improve US citizen’s safety. 

observe a team in action 

An effective tool to diagnose the group dynamic is to observe a team in action on a debate about important agenda items or strategies. Take notes about who said what, when, how long a particular conversation takes and the group’s reaction. Assesss in front of the group how they are doing in explicit terms: the established norms and how people adhere to them, the evidence of informal influence efforts used to try new things and the contributions of the individual team members. Keep the comments as objective and factual as possible, quoting members directly and reporting specific reactions from the groupmake sure to mention every person. By objectively calling out problem areas, individuals catch themselves in behavioral quirks and you give people permission to try new behaviours with their peers. The meeting almost always becomes more productive. It often helps to to invite a trusted outsider to offer a brutally honest but well-intentioned critique of the group’s behaviour, but it’s a simple enough technique to apply with your own group. 

 construct a balanced tapestry of expectations 

In his talk Geary uses prezi to glide through his visuals which helps to strengthen the impression that Geary highlights only a few aspects of a much broader field of interest. The elegance of the speech is an illustration of his skill. It’s a balanced talk, attractively presented, larded with references to famous thinkers and a few little peeks into the world of our mind. Geary zooms in on three explanations for the impact of metaphors: 

 
hidden patterns

hidden patterns

pattern recognition: by using metaphors we create combinations that enable us to visualize things that are not there. 

conceptual synesthesia: we understand one concept in the context of the other. Some people have coloured hearing, they see a colour when they hear a sound. We all have synthetic abilities and we often refer to it when we speak: a sweet silence, a hot lady etc. Geary illustrates this with the buba-kiki-test: in over 90% people connect the spiky shape with kika and the round shape with buba. 

cognitive dissonance: methaphors mislead our dicisions. “All jobs are jails”, is litterally false but the metaphorical truth interfers with our detection of the literally false sentence. It’s a technique often used to influence the impact of  events: “prices are already skyhigh and keep on growing”. Agent metaphors are used to describe events as deliberate actions of living things (the nasdaq climbs), object metaphors describe events as non living things (the dow fell like a brick). 

Press officers use this technique also known as framing or labeling. They include referrals to other events to construct a context that generates an emotional setting for the interpretation of this new event. We compare what we know with what we don’t know. Organization use this technique, because it makes information stick. But it’s also the driver of the pr-rule: “reputation comes by foot and leaves on horseback”. (the fall of tiger woods as a symbol of best son in law). 

create an innovative culture 

Innovation isn’t about hiring the right people or fostering the right culture: it’s something you can do yourself by asking the right questions, observing people’s behaviour, running experiments, networking in exceptional ways and making connections across disciplines. A healthy company is a company where people fight over the big issues. Leaders need to ensure that people play by the rules and tension doesn’t get out of hand – but they have to make sure that the though questions are raised.

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