“Normal person” is an oxymoron, welcome uniqueness!
Organizations have had the tendency to see humans as predictable, measurable, controllable resources that can be somehow categorized into personalities, profiles, capabilities and whose behavior we can exert Gaussian statistics, normal distributions and deviation thinking on.
Sorry guys. Old school!
Studying neuroanatomy and neurophysiology reveals that
a) We have a long way to go to understand our brains fully. It is a complex adaptive system. (Kelso, 1995)
b) Neuroplasticity is a condition spanning over a lifetime (Kempermann et al. 2002), our brains (i.e. the system) constantly change, regenerate, degenerate, and create new connections.
c) The outcome, your behavior, can be seen as an expression of this complex adaptive system’s state.
Everything depends. Everyone is unique. Everything impacts the system. The system itself is under constant change, which, again impacts the system’s possible states (Juarrero, 2010). It is crazy! So all in all, the brain and our behaviours are dependent of a beautiful enormous complex entity.
Organizing people-related functions by the notion that behavior can be normalized or standardized, and expecting and pursuing stability of the system is doomed to fail.
HR departments are facing the biggest mind shift in a century. HR needs to let go of Gaussian curves, reporting mostly self-reported (subjective) compartmentalized people measures (reaching targets, engagement, leadership etc.) gathered retrospectively by occasional snapshots (i.e. twice a year by questionnaire), and trying to impact the complex people system with standardized methods or levers (let’s roll out this method to everyone, let’s have this incentive system to motivate everyone…).
Where to, then?
Towards systems thinking, big data on the people side with predictive analytics mining real behavior and/or narrative data, towards uniqueness of individuals. Towards personified information, performance metrics, feedback, incentives, and benefits. Towards impacting the system creating an overall healthy work environment (system conditions, levers, catalysts). Towards embedding brain friendly values and respect into all processes, levering trust and freedom through brain-friendly practices and policies, and towards experimental development of the system. Towards expecting performance, healthy leadership, ownership and results to come out of the system.
It’s a long way, and I don’t know a fraction of it, but I have started walking.
Thanks for reading!
Juarrero, A. (2010). Complex Dynamical Systems Theory. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://cognitive-edge.com/uploads/articles/100608%20Complex_Dynamical_Systems_Theory.pdf
Kelso, J.A.S. (1995). Dynamic Patterns: The Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior (Complex Adaptive Systems). Massachussetts Institute of Technology. P. 257-283.
Kempermann, G., Gast, D., Gage, F.H. (2002, August). Neuroplasticity in old age: Sustained fivefold induction of hippocampal neurogenesis by long-term environmental enrichment. Annals of Neurology, Vol 52 (2), p.135–143.
Photo credit: kevin dooley / Foter / CC BY