I have worked as part of many teams and served on a number of boards. Often as an entrepreneur, I felt as the outsider, the one who thought differently. This could lead to conflict and a failure in understanding between peoples of often very different psychological attitudes to how they approach problems and risk.
Equality has been a long-standing tenement to western society since universal suffrage. With the Gender pay gap in the news in the UK, could it be that perhaps “psychological equality,” is the next tenement that our society has to achieve?
Apples Think different advertisement famously said:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
For every Gandhi, Jobs and Einstein there are unfortunately many millions of misfits who are “excluded from the team,” “denigrated,” made to feel different and unwelcome. Other forms of discrimination are obvious but its difficult until we interact with others in an environment to see how many of those who do indeed “think different,” never reach their potential, and in fact if “misunderstood,” early enough the individual can end up in a life of hardship, adding little value to society and being undervalued by it. Existing outside of the normal “social contract.” Is there a eugenics movement against the “quirky,” and behaviourally different within open society? If there is, is said exclusion ever the correct or only path?
The mainstream view just doesn’t always hold and unfortunately, this can exclude the different unless they stand up and be counted.
Although people have a natural state it is clear that day to day life is an intervention in itself. Individuals do change with time and can change with practice, shaping themselves to become the human beings that they want to become.
What people don’t realise is with identification and profiling within education, social interaction and the workplace, both individual and group-based interventions are possible. These should be used to encourage the value of psychological diversity, and the concept that groups of diverse thinkers are important to achieving the best results. For those that struggle significantly with social interaction, additional support should also be supplied. Not to make the individual the same as everyone else, or even fit in more, but to enable them to feel confident in themselves and their own talents and abilities.
Clean language is an important part of social change. Being specific about what it is that characterizes someone as different is important. Is it their learning style? Their DISC profile? Their Myers Briggs Results? Their Mental Toughness?
I’m of the belief its anything we can easily measure. Having some signposts towards a way of identifying difference is the first step to developing group-based interventions that allow us to make life more fulfilling for those that don’t fit the norm. While there are only a few concepts of gender or race we could find when we drill deep enough, we are indeed all “psychometrically diverse.”
I’d question do the children who learn in a different style, therefore, have less access to effective education? It’s easy to see how the learning style of a child can sway how talents are applied in a world run in the current academic system. Could a kinaesthetic ace a test/ and understand the material just as completely as an audio-visual learner if the course was taught or the exam applied differently?
Are the people in the boardroom who think different more open to personal risk? Is the individual who designs new processes, always destined to be seen by the majority as one who thwarts existing ones, for trying to do things better?
Are the people who don’t have strong social skills always likely to be excluded from the general consensus whether at school, work or at home? For those with autism and other related conditions who find it harder to make non-literal distinctions in conversation ever really able to fit in, or avoid what others more socially adept may see as bullying or exclusion.
Even the successful who think different do they have a real hope of happiness, is it normally lonely for these people at the top, just as it is at the bottom those that see only natural authority rather than traditional positional authority? Are the same traits that enable these people to create movements the same said traits that ensure they will always be at the margins?
My answer to all of this is yes! Life is a melting pot and the last and perhaps largest barrier to true equality for me needs to be broken down.
How then do we start to tackle this problem? As with “Votes for women,” or “The Civil rights movement,” we need awareness of the problem to start to make a difference.
For these early discriminators, they were easy to identify. The gender and ethnicity of an individual are seen through the sense of sight alone. It’s much harder to identify who people really are at a psychological level and hence profiling is needed in what could be a suggested “evolution,” of the application of discriminators.
Beauty and or attraction to others perhaps people get. People will be attracted to qualities in someone, in this case, if consensual this is a very positive discriminator and one that is aligned with what might be a social equality revolution.
We can’t see the learning style of an individual. We don’t see their Myers Briggs Score. Their place on any spectrum or a 360 work profile in advance. Behavioural profiles are exhibited through behavior and interaction. If it had value however it is not a big jump to suggest behaviors should be observed and people profiled.
Insightful corporates have used psychometrics to measure traits both as a recruitment/ selection technique and to review the makeup of existing staff. The application extends today to self-help courses. This said a limited body of research has been carried out across wider populations and little is known as to how certain profiles interact best or could be managed too.
The value of women on boards, and of people from different cultures and backgrounds on boards are both well accepted, well studied and well understood by people at large, and yet one of the most basic human diversity issues that of how someone thinks has from my own understanding been largely unexplored.
Psychometrics in my own application of it has often brought clarity to myself around the considerations that made me different. As an example having done multiple psychometrics I often find I am significantly differentiated from my peers within the boardroom. On reflection where people are of a similar makeup to myself the team “works.”
I personally admit to a psychometric disability, one which prevents me from fitting in, that disability is being an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur of a certain type.
“Think different,” as suggested by Steve Jobs, the entrepreneur we all aspire towards for his brilliance and success was a man that given his quirks did not fit in easily with any group, despite his ability to inspire.
I personally have only rarely sat on boards where all parties were entrepreneurial and mercantile just like me. In such circumstances the relationships throughout where almost wholly positive. The outcomes, of course, may not have been. People thinking the same way simply drives particular behaviors no matter how they think. Challenge is important but from a psychological perspective knowing when to stop challenging is important and for all parties.
This is where psychometrics comes in. I have not yet used a single psychometric which has answered all my questions or which brought clarity to my whole team. Finger Print Learning’s measure for Entrepreneurship, AQR’s measure for Mental Toughness, DISC, NLP (My course being through Transforming People) , Hofstede cultural dimensions report, Myers Briggs stand out as personal epiphanies, but I know how few are provided with access to these or value their significance to human interaction.
As someone who tends to be project focused, I set big goals and have intuitively a false belief that those around me will naturally share my enthusiasm. It can be the case but obviously, I need to work on the people side.
I’m no Steve Jobs on the aggression or inappropriate behavior front but If something isn’t working I have a tendency to be too straight to the point and can be ignorant of people’s feelings. If I don’t think someone is right for a task I tell them very directly why, and only generally come to understand later why they say “it’s complicated,” when they don’t support me on what seems a logical challenge when facing the next hurdle.
When I set a long-term goal and see a blip as a blip while others start to scramble, I struggle to understand why and get aggravated. “We knew this day would come, we had identified this as a likely challenge now we have to tackle it.” Is generally met with panic and it won’t work. Emotions I with my profile often fail to relate or identify with. When others say “why,” I am thinking “why not,” the path to success I can almost taste once I have completed a plan.
I am fortunate I have a strong amount of psychological background data with which to understand myself. Many are impoverished from that same said perspective, some people have not been valued enough by society to be understood and those people need the most support. I know I am extensively flawed, but flawed in ways that can bring benefit, just as my peers do with their approaches. Yin and Yang in the workplace are in my belief what makes the fireworks rocket off.
This said of those profiled I am generally an unusual mix often in the 1% category or even sometimes lower frequencies. Definitely in the minority in almost every area of my approach hence I see a problem and an opportunity for more effective learning which those I am connected with may not readily identify or see the issue with.
A “maverick,” “Doesn’t follow the rules,” are often the slurs people like myself get tarred with, without saying it those with different psychologies are calling me my own equivalent of “unethical,” if using the language from their own worldview their opinion of the social contract is to follow the norm.
Not following the rules for a “boundary keeper,” is perhaps the greatest disrespect possible. With a better understanding of how our profiles interact and create amazing new things, I believe all that could change.
My belief is however with understanding the value of my rare disposition, and the dispositions of others common or not so common if deconstructed and understood could be powerful forces for good. If respected and put to task with the right team makeup, I believe mountains could be moved. No doubt the best organizations do this by nature and as a result are simply successful, while many bad ones cause pain, underperformance and acceptably “discriminate with or without words,” within what could otherwise have been high performing teams. Greatness comes because of and not in spite of difference, and that difference is not to be limited to gender, ethnicity or creed.
Successful VC’s and Accelerators have acknowledged this through the process, every IT team needs a “Techie,” and a “CEO,” one without the other is like having half a brain from a founder perspective.
My epiphany in terms of how perhaps psychological exclusion could be challenged came from a personal experience with physical disability. A lady who has been an inspiration to me since the day I met her. She is blind and yet overcame that adversity developing the skills to become a competent developer. She worked in our company for 6 months and yet unbeknown to me she hadn’t fitted in. Although on every org chart and process plan she had a place and a purpose wasn’t actually engaged or made feel welcome by other staff. The change came from understanding. The lady gave just one 20 minute talk on how she coded as a blind person. Perhaps what had been skepticism and a lack of understanding of capability became admiration and fascination. I saw a 5 fold change in how the lady was treated by colleagues even though I hadn’t noticed the problem in the first place.
So in closing, I encourage this as the first call to action. A call to create a movement to understand ourselves and our interactions with others. Whether a common profile or an unusual one to learn and gain from the existing knowledge of how and where we might fit could change our lives irreversibly for the better.
All boards, all organizations and all teams should analyze their psychological diversity, ensuring that you don’t all think the same, but instead, you put the right person to the right challenge and support them all the way is critical for success with momentum.