The Psychology of Hobbits

January 6th, 2013

The tale of Bilbo Baggins, central character of The Hobbit, is the tale of how a conservative, comfortable, respectable and timid suburban dweller sets out on adventure and finds himself braver and wiser as a result.

The Hobbit is a morality tale of self-discovery and self-knowledge. Despite his comfort, satisfaction, creature comforts and smugness, Bilbo Baggins in his middle age, finds himself uncharacteristically rising to the romance, lure and challenge of the unknown, and begins his journey of self-discovery doing what few hobbits before him have ever done: having an adventure.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now recently brought to the screen by New Zealand’s Peter Jackson, was written in the 1930’s in the context of an English audience, who would have easily seen themselves gently parodied in the suburban mildness of the timid hobbits (just as New Zealanders are probably now doing with the release of the movie), and is often interpreted as Tolkien’s warning against the menacing gathering “darkness” of World War II.

Whether the looming war influenced Tolkien’s thinking and writing, or not, The Hobbit taps into quite deep human psychological themes and archetypes. The hobbits, with their meek and comfort-loving spirit, represent the ordinary, suburban dwellers in most of us, who, by choosing safety and comfort above all else, sacrifice adventure, challenge and wisdom. The Trolls represent thick-headed stupidity, the Goblins evil and depravity, the Dwarves stoic solidity and doggedness, and the Elves the higher, lighter, more shining spiritual and philosophical side of ourselves.

By tapping into these deep psychological archetypes that appear in his writing as well as in the mythology and legends of most human cultures, Tolkien was able to weave a spell of simply and engagingly told adventure, while at the same time teaching us much about ourselves.

And Bilbo Baggins is the Everyman character in this particular morality tale. He is the character most of us can empathise and associate ourselves with, and we will do well to do so.

Bilbo left his comfortable life for an adventure full of risk, danger, but much reward, and the adventure changed him permanently. Along the way, he found himself. Bilbo lost his innocence, naivety and softness, but he gained wisdom, confidence and bravery. Bilbo learnt to face his fears. He learnt that for higher wisdom, self-knowledge and bravery, there was a price to pay, but that the price was well worth it. Bilbo Baggins became a hero, and his adventure became legend in Middle Earth.

With the recent release of The Hobbit in time for the 2013 New Year, and with our own modern psyche so closely tied up with the sweeping challenges of financial uncertainty across the world in recent years, it’s a perfect time to take stock of ourselves and the lessons The Hobbit has to teach us. We can look beyond the confines of Middle Earth.

In business and in life do we want to be hobbits – comfortable and safe, but scared and timid, closed in, small-minded and vulnerable, frightened of development, change and adventure? Or do we want to be open minded, open hearted, spirited and up for challenge in the wider world?

We can all learn from Bilbo Baggins.

We can hide in our safe suburban and small worlds where we are protected behind our round hobbit doors, or we can go out into the wider world and find adventure and new horizons and the courage to face up to challenges. We have choice, and if we choose adventure, we choose knowledge, wisdom and great reward, as Bilbo did.

View Trailer: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

The Christmas Card Project

December 16th, 2012

With Christmas almost here, and our cards nearly all out in the mail, I thought it would be nice to tell you about our Christmas Card Project, which has been going now for the past eight years.

In 2005, we decided to play our part in encouraging young artists and designers by helping to bring their work to a wider audience.

So, we envisaged a “virtual gallery”, in which Christmas cards, which seemed to be becoming a dying ritual, would be treated like artwork, and sent out every year with a different young artist’s work. The result would then become a virtual exhibition. In the long artistic tradition of limited edition prints, where only a certain number of prints of a particular design are ever made, and each one is personally numbered in pencil, we made this our model.

The first artist we chose was a recently graduated art student, Laura Amos (now working mainly in photography), whose work we discovered at the Graduate Exhibition of Adelaide College of the Arts. I was blown away by her huge black and white abstract painting which dominated the exhibition and had in spades what every gallery curator looks for: wall presence. When Laura agreed to provide an art piece for the cards, she was given a free choice of subject matter, but when I told her of my family tradition of collecting nutcrackers every Christmas, she chose the Nutcracker theme, and we have stuck to it every year since.

The idea is simple: Find a young artist who interests us, vary the style and medium every year, print a limited number of cards and send them out to as wide an audience of family, friends, clients and associates as we can.

The brief is simple too: The cards must be black and white, they must not be “schmaltzy” or sentimental, and they must be an interpretation of the The Nutcracker story by ETA Hoffmann, which was made famous by the Tchaikovsky Ballet of the same name.

Every card is hand numbered and handmade, and every card features the artist’s signature and their biography on the back cover.

Last year we upped the ante by asking a street artist to paint a black and white mural on a wall. It was a hard act to follow!

But this year we think we’ve upped it even more. This year’s artist is Emily Seidel, who has a particular passion for fabric, and her design, based on wood prints of the 1800’s has been painstakingly hand printed on fabric, in a process that has been through three separate printing stages. All up, I estimate that each handmade card has been touched 8 times in different stages of production including by the artist, the printer, and the card designer who is responsible for putting it all together. And this doesn’t include the hand written message!

When we have 10 designs, we plan to hold an actual exhibition of the cards.

In a world where Christmas can often become a tacky, material event of excess or greed, and where most Christmas greetings are now sent electronically, we hope that by holding this building mini exhibition of work, thought and hope that the young artists bring, and that our friends and colleagues can touch, keep and collect, we are keeping alive some of the original meaning of Christmas, which is a story of hope and sharing.

We wish all our clients, friends, associates and partners, in Australia and across the world, a very Happy Christmas, and a wonderful and prosperous 2013!

 

Stephen Kohl, Lynette Jensen and the other directors & staff at Genesys Australia

 

 

Bio for Emily Seidel

 

Emily Seidel lives in Sydney and has had an interest in design, art and fabric since she was very young. With a particular eye for pattern, shape, line and unusual texture, she brings a wide Australian cultural experience of living in various country and city locations to her work, which seems to be also underpinned by the aesthetic of her German ancestry.

We asked Emily to design our 2012 Nutcracker Christmas card because we like her interesting design eye and her feel for fabric, and we were interested to see how an artist drawn to texture, with a German heritage, would interpret the German Christmas fairytale The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann, which was made famous by the Tchaikovsky ballet of the same name.

We are delighted by the result. Emily’s dark, mysterious and layered design is inspired not only by The Nutcracker tale, but also by European woodcuts from the 1800’s. The design, through its layers, mixed media and texture, evokes feelings and dream-like images of deep European winters when families were closed in and longing for the return of the sun, and told each other stories like The Nutcracker to bide their time and express their fear of darkness, while they waited patiently for the return of spring.

This is the underlying historical origin of Christmas – a winter’s tale, and a story of hope.

Lynette Jensen

Related posts:

St. Nicholas & The Christmas Season

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, Creative Innovation 2012, Mind, Consciousness, Working Life and is 100 the New 70?

November 24th, 2012

Baroness Susan Greenfield, renowned British scientist and broadcaster, will be a keynote speaker at Australia’s cutting edge Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne this week. According to the Weekend Australian, the baroness has come to Australia especially for the conference, in partnership with Melbourne University’s Neuroscience Institute, and her work in mind and consciousness, and most recently how technology impacts on brain development, will provide a challenging and thought provoking perspective at the conference that has quickly become a leading forum in Australian and international thought leadership.

Susan Greenfield’s work encompasses neuroscience, psychology and philosophy, and her observations and enquiries have wide-ranging social, scientific and technological ramifications. Her research into consciousness and how it is affected by cognitive degenerating diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, leads to considerations about what consciousness is, and how society might be affected by longer and more productive lives if these diseases can be understood and conquered. Recently, she has been turning her attention to the possible effects of technology and social media on brain development, human culture and social functioning.

With increased understanding of, and defences against, aging diseases of the brain, the working life of human beings could well be extended, especially as science and medicine continue to increase human health and fitness, leading to longer life expectancy as well.

In the Weekend Australian article, in answer to the question, “Will 100 be the new 70?”, Greenfield says, “Yes, and the question then becomes: what are we going to do with the second 50 years of life? We should be re-thinking old age in positive ways, rather than just killing time with golf and Sudoko.”

So if 100 becomes the new 70, as a society we need to be ready to view age differently, and to find effective ways of maximizing and applying the wealth of knowledge and experience that will become a huge social resource if people can live longer and have a longer intellectually and physically useful and productive life. And this clearly has huge ramifications for how we view the workforce and think about our career spans and older workers and what they might and could provide. It has far-reaching effect for all of us.

This kind of thought-provoking research and discussion is the hallmark of the Creative Innovation Conference, now in it’s third year. The brain-child of Melbourne’s Tania de Jong, and sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank, the conference brings together intellectuals, business leaders and innovators from around the world and provides an opportunity to meet, challenge, think and envisage the way the future is shaped.

Creative Innovation 2012 will be held at the Sofitel in Melbourne from 28th – 30th November, where Baroness Greenfield will be joined by a host of international and local speakers including CSIRO’s Dr. Megan Clark, and UCLA strategist, Professor Richard Rumelt.

As it has before in it’s short and influential history, Creative Innovation 2012 promises to provide challenge, insight, debate and inspiration and we very glad to be a part of it.

 

You can read our Creativity Psych Report for the conference here, or on the conference websiteor find a summary in the Conference Program

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.


Psych Tests & What They’re For

September 2nd, 2012

The main reason we write this blog is to help bridge the gap between the general world of work, and the more technical subject of psychometric assessment for the workplace. While our psychology practice specialises in providing psychometric testing, our underlying commitment is to helping everyone achieve career and life satisfaction through good job fit.

For individuals, if you do what you like to do and what you are good at, then you can live a happier and more fulfilled life. For organisations and employers, if you find the right staff, you can maximize efficiency, engagement, culture fit and teamwork.

Psychometric assessment used well is a very useful tool to help achieve this.

Everyone understands the general concepts of work and what it’s for: we go to work to earn income, to provide product and services to the general community and we keep the economy turning over. But psychometrics, on the other hand, can seem more mysterious. Despite a growing use of psychometric assessment in the workplace, to the extent that these days most people will have been psych tested for an employment role at some time in their career, how psych testing works is not so generally well understood.

Essentially, there are two kinds of psych tests for the workplace: Ability (or Aptitude) and Personality assessments. In simple terms, Ability assessments tell us if a person can do a given job, and Personality assessments tell us how a person will do the job.

Even though there seem to be hundreds of psych tests for the workplace available (and of various usefulness and validity), which all make different claims for our attention, in the end, the important thing to know is that they assess personality and ability. And that makes things more straightforward to understand.

The other thing to understand is that psychometric assessments are simply a statistical analysis of data that is provided by the person who attempts the assessment. They are not magic, they can’t read minds, and they are not designed to trick you (although they do have measures built in to tell if someone is cheating). By asking a respondent to answer a number of questions, the answers can then be put together statistically to give a result. This result then provides a picture for the candidate and the employer.

Psychometric assessment should never be used in isolation, but always as part of a recruitment or selection process, or for staff development down the track. Psychometric assessment provides an objective measure that fits into and integrates with a wider Human Resources process that includes interviews, resume and reference checks.

Some psych tests are better and more credible than others, just as some psychometric providers are more expert, knowledgeable and helpful than others, but what all psych tests have in common is that they statistically use answers to questions given by a respondent to provide an overview or picture.

In the end, psychometric assessment is used in the workplace because it provides an objective and cost-effective way (since it can save a lot of time and effort) to help employers make decisions about their staff. And for individuals, it can help us understand more about ourselves, and the way we work.

Work is essential to adult life, and the more fulfilling it is, the more balanced and satisfying our lives can be. In Human Resources and the world of work, psychometric assessments can have an important role in achieving good job fit and ultimately that means work-life balance.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl and his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

The Currency of Relationships

August 24th, 2012

Our Managing Director and Chief Psychologist, Stephen Kohl, believes that since the Global Financial Crisis, people have been demanding more genuine engagement and service in business.

In the boom climate prior to late 2009, companies and organisations were prepared to spend much more on out-sourced services like recruitment, training, conferences and “extras”. Following the GFC, things have been leaner and meaner, as organisations have learnt to cut costs by bringing many things we had previously paid others to provide, in-house. And even though the Australian economy has improved, we seem to have got used to this, just like Australian householders have got used to building savings.

At the same time this has been going on, there has been a burgeoning of social media and internet networking, to the extent that these have been increasingly integrated into most companies’ marketing and business strategies.

The result is that people expect much more from their business relationships. We expect real relationships. The GFC forced us to conserve and maximize our spending, and we’ve grown used to only paying for excellent quality, service and value. Post GFC we expect more. And through social media and other traditional advertising and networking, there is no shortage of individual consultants and companies vying for our attention and business connection.

So how do we differentiate? What can we do to stand out from the crowd, and forge real relationships with our clients, potential clients, connections and associates?

The answer is clear: be genuine and provide real and friendly, authentic service. Make genuine human connection.

In his article, It’s More Important to be Kind than Clever in Harvard Business Review this week, Fast Company magazine co-founder Bill Taylor, writes that small acts of genuine human kindness and engagement are the most powerful form of connection, and can be accidentally the most powerful marketing tool we have. Why? Because we are all people, and we all respond to genuine interaction. It makes us feel good, feel trust and it stands out in a world that can seem to be dominated by cynical self-serving and arrogance. All of us want to do business with people we can trust.

To illustrate his point, Taylor recounts the story of an American food franchise, which received huge publicity as a result of a simple and genuine act of kindness by the management and staff of one of their outlets. Though they only produced their clam chowder on Fridays, when a dying grandmother craved the soup on a different day, they made it just for her. This small act of kindness was repaid by thousands of “likes” on Facebook, where the grandmother’s daughter and grandson posted their gratitude.

It’s word-of-mouth advertising on a grand scale, and anyone in business knows that word-of-mouth recommendation is our most powerful tool. But to be powerful, it has to be genuine.  You really have to mean it. To be good at what you do is to want to share your knowledge and service with other people, and everyone responds to honest enthusiasm and care. In her most recent post, Penelope Trunk says, Networking means making real friends.

Acts of kindness make us feel better about ourselves and the world, and this is enough reward. But if we are in business for the long-term, relationships are far more important than quick deals. Good service and kindness should be the basis of everything we provide, because the real currency of business is people.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl and his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Why it Helps to Be Human

August 18th, 2012

Here’s the good news:

Every organisation or individual can achieve a high rating on Google and the other search engines.

Here’s the other news:

You’ve got to be a good writer and like people, language and communication. You’ve got to work intelligently and consistently.

If the second point sounds like bad news to you, here’s why it is this way:

Whether on the Internet, in magazines and newspapers, in advertising, in literature, and for TV and movies, writing is about communication. Communication is about human beings sharing information with each other in order to understand and share experience. And you can’t understand if you don’t get what’s being communicated.

Though, like Coca-Cola’s and KFC’s secret recipes, Google’s algorithms are a bit mysterious, the secret to writing for the Internet is essentially no secret at all. Just write to communicate.

You would think that this would be advice that everyone would intuitively understand, but we all know that many businesses struggle with the simple concept. Very many organisational and business sites look impressive and slick, yet their copy and information feels cynical, wooden, trite, empty or ingenuine. That means that their audience will read a sentence, or a paragraph if they’re lucky, and leave the site.

Recently, an article in Harvard Business Review, by Kyle Wiens, explains why an understanding of language and good grammar is important for writing computer programming. Wiens says, “…programming should be easily understood by real human beings – not just computers”. Clearly, if an understanding of language matters for computer programming, it matters even more for writing for the Internet.

Human beings require that writing is engaging, authentic, sounds and feels honest, flows well and rings true. While there are different styles of writing and different contexts that call for different approaches, formats and tone, essentially, we read because we want to find out things. If we have to work too hard, we’ll stop and find something else. Good writing starts with engagement, whether its advertising copy, high literature, academic or scientific writing, or your Sunday magazine.

Search engines pick up key words and phrases, but they also pick up organic style. This means that if you work too hard to fit in key words or phrases, at the expense of real communication, you’ll lose both your human and your computer audience. Language and writing is about being and sounding genuine and authentic. Just as we can spot a con-man in real life, we’ll instantly stop reading copy that sounds contrived, cynical and self-serving.

Dale Carnegie taught us years ago in his famous self-help bible How to Win Friends and Influence People that to be effective communicators, we have to think about our audience and stop thinking about ourselves. So just because computer-based writing is a relatively new medium, we have no excuse.

This means don’t lecture, don’t be gratuitous or cynical and don’t think you can bully or brow beat your audience or clients into trying or buying your product or services. They are people like you are. You need to have something to say that’s worth saying, and that they want to hear. (Here’s an example of a recruitment website with simple artwork but effective, honest, straightforward writing). And don’t think it’s just luck or magic: there is a reason why some organisations or people have a high Google profile and some don’t, and it doesn’t just come down to how much money they spend.

There is not as much mystery to Search Engine Optimisation as you might think. Mostly, just learn to be a good writer. And how do you do that? Empathise with your audience, tell them what they want to know, have something worth saying and learn to be genuinely yourself.

Good writing is good writing – in any medium.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related posts:

Engagement & Empathy

Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates LinkedIn: Online Citizenship

Grass Roots Sales Tip: Body Shapers & David Jones

A Room With a View

* With thanks to Paul for inspiring this post

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

What Does Sport Teach Us?: London 2012

August 11th, 2012

Every 4 years, the Olympic Games bring sport into sharp focus across the world, and in most ways the Games are the highest expression of human sporting prowess and endeavour that we have.

Why do we participate in and honour sport so much, and what does it teach us about the rest of life and work?

The Olympic Games are a celebration of being human. They symbolise and encapsulate competition and co-operation, tenacity, skill, mental toughness, physical excellence and sportsmanship. They are a celebration of who we think we are, what we prize most highly, and how we can strive for more.

For thousands of years, sport has been a crucial part of most good education systems, for good reason. Whether sport is played as an individual or as a team, it has important lessons to teach us which carry over into the rest of life, and which apply to business, politics, teamwork and leadership.

Sport teaches us tenacity, focus, perseverance, patience, strength, concentration, timing, courage, adaptability and skill. Sport teaches both mental and physical agility. Sport teaches us to time our run and to tolerate and overcome physical pain and limitations. Sport is about thinking and strategising, and its about mental toughness and resilience. Ultimately, sport is more about the mental challenge than the physical one.

Sport teaches us sportsmanship, which is essentially how to handle ourselves with grace, dignity and humility in victory and defeat. And whether we are participants or spectators, to be good sports there can be no complaint, tantrums, weakness or bad grace, and the only tears we are allowed to shed are tears of joy.

Since ancient times, when children in Ancient Sparta, for instance, were taught to hone their physical skills and compete in sports because the experience prepared them mentally and physically for tough adult life, sport has played an extremely important role in both preparing young people for adult life and for symbolising the human traits we hold most dear. Sport also provides safe battles between teams and nations, and in many ways negates and compensates for potential war and conflict.

Every four years the world comes together in a glorious display of competition and celebration. Though nations compete for glory and success of their individual champions and collective teams, the Olympic Games nevertheless represent human co-operation more than they represent competition, because we are universally united in our deep-seated  and common respect for the underlying principles that sport represents.

Sport embodies and develops physical and moral courage and the Olympic Games allow us to celebrate our species with joy and pride, and to paradoxically come together in our shared delight in competition.

As the Games of the XXX Olympiad, London 2012, draw to a close, we do well to learn the lessons that sport teaches us, and that the Games symbolise:

In work and the rest of life, sport reminds us to do better, last longer, be stronger and aim higher. And strive, individually and in teams.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

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Slam Dunk

Leadership & Good Manners

Social Trends: The New Conservatism?

Staying Afloat: Boats & Analogies

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

 

Human Resources & Innovation

August 2nd, 2012

Innovation and Creativity articles dominate the July issue of HR Monthly, the official magazine of AHRI, Australia’s peak Human Resources body.

Like businesses and organisations the world over, who are increasingly recognising that innovation and creativity allow them to stay afloat and even get ahead of the game in a world changed by difficult and volatile global economic forces, HR Monthly asks how creative thinking and innovative practices are relevant and can be integrated into Human Resources.

Janine Mace begins her Switched On article with, “ It’s a war out there as companies battle to just keep up, let alone get ahead of the game … and innovation is increasingly being touted as essential for an organisation’s success.”

Mace interviewed innovation think-tank Hargraves Institute’s CEO Allan Ryan, Queensland University of Technology’s Dr. Judy Matthews, and Coca-Cola’s Derek O’Donnell to discover how they believe innovation is an essential ingredient in the success of all organisations, particularly those which will grow and flourish into the future. All three experts refer to studies and programs in place that identify the importance of innovation, and all believe that Human Resources has an important part to play in innovation.

Mace says, “Given the close ties between internal culture and innovation, it is unsurprising HR is viewed as a significant player in this area – both at the strategic and practical level.”

This understanding of the practical role HR can play in innovation is echoed in both By Design, in which Brad Howarth considers how organisations need to re-think the way they manage, engage with and develop their staff because “recession may just mean a new opportunity to rethink your workforce”, and in Core Values in which Jacqueline Blondell talks about creativity, innovation and good education with Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

To some extent so far, Australia has been sheltered from the more severe effects of the Global Economic Crisis, but as time goes on, even in Australia the economy seems to be flat, and it’s clear that we need to play the long game. That means that permanent changes need to be made.

Individuals and organisations need to hone their creativity in order to survive, and apply it to innovation, adaptability, problem-solving, team-work and leadership. It’s about playing smart, being lean and mean, rolling with the punches and seeing and exploiting opportunities.

And as the world takes on inevitable on-going challenges, Human Resources not only can’t afford to ignore the importance of creativity and innovation, but has a crucial role to play in helping smooth the way.

Human Resources is about people, and people need to be adaptive to survive.  By understanding how to find staff who are creative, and recognising, understanding and developing the creativity styles of the people they already have, HR can play a leading part in going forward into a world of increased skill, adaptability and creative problem solving and understanding.

And organisational success.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related posts:

The Secret Ingredient of Creativity

How to Spot an Original Thinker

Creative Innovation 2011 Conference

A Room With a View (Creativity in the Workplace)

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Engagement & Empathy

July 25th, 2012

Human beings belong to a gregarious species. We live in groups, we organise ourselves in communities, we develop language, rules and technology to communicate and co-operate with each other, and usually, we work in teams.

In short, we engage with each other and with our environment. Our engagement keeps us safe and happy. By co-operating together, in every form of work and endeavour, we support each other, harness the power of multiple skills, talents and intellectual points of view, and we create outcomes that would be impossible if we lived and worked alone.

Of recent years there has been a lot of interest in the subject of engagement at work. It is recognised that people are happier, more fulfilled and are likely to be more productive if they are engaged with their jobs. In many ways, this is fairly obvious, since you only have to look to your own experience of life to know that you have a better time and feel better about yourself and other people if you feel connected – connected with an activity, connected with other people, connected with your surroundings or connected with an idea.

Underlying this ability to connect or engage is what is probably our species’ highest, most prized skill: the ability to empathise. Empathy helps us connect with the world and people outside our own skins. It makes us understand. It allows us to see and feel beyond ourselves. And by doing this, we keep the group, and the individuals within it, safer and more effective.

Empathy drives our fascination with each other and this underlies almost every form of human expression and drives culture (from reality TV to fine art and literature), commerce and research & education. In every culture and across time, religion, age, gender, and geography, humans are fascinated with each other because we are fascinated with ourselves. Other people are like a mirror. To study other human beings is to understand ourselves better, and to understand better is to increase the likelihood of our success.

Really successful human beings have a high level of empathy, which imbues them with many advantages. Empathy allows us to read signals, understand situations, foresee problems quickly and connect subtle clues. Empathy allows us to see beneath the surface and operate with a sophisticated level of interaction.

People with low empathy struggle greatly. They can’t read social or facial cues, or discern more sophisticated relationships or patterns. They have a hard time “joining the dots”, understanding what other people understand, reading non-verbal language, and picking up on higher order social rules or patterns like metaphor and tone.  How things connect is often a mystery to them. People with low empathy have many difficulties with other people and their environment because they can’t read the signals and warning signs. Sometimes people like this are stigmatised with popular culture labels like “nerd” and lack of empathy characterizes autism spectrum conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome. Without the ability to exercise empathy, human beings have a hard time in life.

Engagement is not just a Human Resources term. All managers and employers should be developing an engaged workforce and an engaging work environment. But it goes much further and deeper than that. There is not a divide between work and the rest of life, and we are ourselves whether at home or in the workplace. Being engaged is what enlivens us, and underlying engagement, is our ability to empathise.

In the world of work, as in the rest of life, higher level empathy allows you to see effectively and well, and to achieve better and more sophisticated and seamless results. Understanding other people helps you understand yourself, and makes your path in life more smooth, and gives you respect and influence because you understand how other people tick.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment

Related posts:

Psychopaths at Work

Building Real Relationships

Who Are You? “Know Thyself”

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

Murder in the Village: Teamwork & Community

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

The Secret Ingredient of Creativity for Profit & Productivity

July 13th, 2012

I’ve noticed, as I go around talking to organisations about diagnosing, understanding and harnessing their creativity to improve their business practices, that there is one crucial ingredient of creativity that most people don’t know about. This makes me think that idea Incubation might be the secret ingredient of innovation and problem solving.

Some people, like Steve Jobs, know the secret automatically, but you can learn to use it too.

What is Incubation, and how does it work?

Incubation is what we do when we stop thinking intensely and deliberately about something, and allow our brains and thoughts to flow. Incubation is the process of allowing yourself to think about things at an unconscious level, and using it results in “Eureka”, or “light-bulb” moments and break-through ideas.  All “creatives” know how it works, and they use it deliberately to help them solve problems, create innovations and exploit opportunities.

Incubation should be factored in to any problem solving process, whether it’s developing new products, improving teamwork, knowing how to lead effectively or generally adapting effectively and well to change. Incubation is the secret ingredient for staying ahead of the game.

So how can you make it work for you?

The process of creative problem solving requires a number of elements coming together, and all human beings have an inbuilt ability to do it.  When we use Incubation, whether deliberately or not, we allow ourselves to percolate ideas from deep inside, without directly thinking about them.

This process involves a change of scenery or activity. It explains why sometimes we have breakthrough ideas or find solutions in our sleep or when we are in the shower. By changing the way your thought patterns operate, you can allow your brain to “free-range” and this change allows your brain to see patterns, put pieces together and join the dots.

While some people know how to deliberately use Incubation, everyone can learn how to do it. You can learn how to deliberately factor in Incubation time to your personal or organisational processes. Companies like Google and Pixar are famous for using various Incubation techniques, like allowing free time for employees and having free-form work places that provide various activities like talking, playing sports and walking around the grounds, and they have reaped the rewards by becoming dominating players in their fields.

But you don’t need to invest in new buildings or huge organisational change. It’s easy to learn how to increase and exercise Incubation. There are a number of exercises you can do (and which we can help you with) or you can do it yourself. On a personal level, you can go for walks, do crossword puzzles, look at the sea, play a game of squash, or doodle. Any activity that takes your mind off the problem at hand and that allows your thoughts to either roam freely or be focussed on an entirely different activity will do the trick. On an organisational level, you can introduce the deliberate use of Incubation into your decision-making processes.

The key is to understand that Incubation is crucial and necessary to the creativity process, and that with a small investment in time, and learning to understand how it works, you can maximise the production of all innovative solutions.

Working creatively and smart maximises individual and organisational out-put, productivity, ideas and innovation, problem solving, time management and ultimately financial and every other sort of profit.

Make Incubation your friend, and put it to good use.

 

To her surprise, she found the great detective, engaged in building card houses. 

“It is not, Mademoiselle, that I have become childish in my old age. No. But the building of card houses, I have always found it most stimulating to the mind.”

Hercule Poirot, Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment

Related posts:

Creativity in the Workplace

How to Spot an Original Thinker

Why IBM found Creativity = Business Success

Creativity: The Essence of Being Australian

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.