Have you read Steven Pinker’s book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature?
For decades much of the social sciences have subscribed to the theory that the mind is born as a blank slate. Therefore presuming it is without rules for processing data, a structure formed by experience through parenting, environment, socialising and culture. As with marketers, HR professionals have been basing human behaviours almost exclusively on cultural and marketplace factors and virtually ignoring the natural influences and the biology with which we are born.
You may be under the impression that DISC profiling leap frogs this and identifies the deeper enduring truths of our basic human wants, needs and desires. However as individuals we often get distracted and preoccupied by “shiny new things” and they can be at the forefront of our mind when writing a self-completed, profile analysis tool.
There is so much more to our behaviour than culture alone can explain. As Allen D. MacNeill, a senior lecturer in biology at Cornell University, put it: “Contrary to the assertions of many social scientists, human behaviour is not infinitely malleable nor explainable in purely cultural terms.”
It now appears that virtually all behaviour has both innate and learned components. Steven Pinker (image above and Harvard evolutionary psychologist) states that “…many properties of the brain are genetically organised and don’t depend on information coming in from the senses.”
As our lives become busier and more complex, we are more likely to blindly obey stereotypical rules of thumb that make our decisions for us. It will happen more often in an increasingly complex environment. That is to say, we have innate tendencies and learned social norms in response to environmental stimuli that occur without the awareness and effort of consciousness.
How does this help you?
The natural order of large organisations is to promote individuals that accomplish brilliant things in their department or to value long service, which aligns to a better and more thorough knowledge of the business. This approach whilst feeling natural is actually more likely to stifle a business and restrict growth. You’ve heard this before.
There are many elements to the HR professional in your daily role. For some you need to not only counter office politics and better motivate specific teams or individuals. Some need to assist and allow the CEO to better create strategic goals based on department performance and business trends. Others need to initiate and encourage change within established teams. The challenges are many.
How do you resolve to better optimise your teams, what tools can you rely on to help facilitate all of these elements? How do you identify innovative or entrepreneurial people or individuals that are natural communicators with leadership written into their DNA?
- An interview doesn’t cut it.
- An assessment centre could be the answer, although often expensive and time consuming.
- Get in an external HR consultant that has no previous knowledge of individuals or the business and has a credible track record for weeding these people out? Again this can be both time consuming and expensive if it gets dragged out (which of course is in their interest to do so…).
- Send potentials on an outward-bound 2-day adventure, away from the business to assess them in an altogether different environment? This could work, yet doesn’t make those individuals return to work with new strategies and real business considerations to impart or instigate.
- There are business simulation courses run by established and well-considered universities. Perfect. Or is it? What do the attendees come back with, other than a better understanding of how a business is run in a great team-bonding environment?
Could there be an even better solution?