Psykologitoimisto Crescon uusi blogi löytyy nettisivuiltamme osoitteesta www.cresco.fi/fi/blogi. Lämpimästi tervetuloa!

Our new blog (mainly in Finnish) can be found from www.cresco.fi/fi/blogi. Welcome!

We at Cresco Metrics (a spin off from Cresco Psychology Agency, Facebook: Cresco Metrics) have been exploring some personnel assessment methods that are intended to be more interactive, enable instant feedback, can be done on-line and hopefully are also more fun. We have been doing this because we want to know, if this type of method could function as a tool in personnel recruitment. With this new method we’ve attempted to measure different aspects of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and emotional stability in stressful situations 

Why develop this kind of method even though the current ones are reliable and valid? Because we have been thinking about the younger generations, meaning generation Z and generation Y. They tend to choose employers that give them instant feedback, offer generous possibilities for learning and development, freedom regarding time and space and also the possibility to use latest technology. To invite the talents of generation Y and Z, assessment should have same qualities: It should enable learning by instant feedback, it should be done by sitting on your sofa at home, on-line and shouldn’t be time consuming. And furthermore an additional bonus would be if the tasks in the assessment take place in some unusual and exotic environment. The assessment process itself should mirror the values and culture of the future employee.

In two words, next generation recruitment and assessment should be fun and fast. Our traditional paradigm about personnel assessment is that by using quite serious and tedious assessment methods, we have a great way to measure the candidate’s motivation and tenure. Even though the relevance of this point can be understood, we have begun to suspect that it is outdated. Nowadays employers have to be attractive and fun and the assessment methods have to support the image of the employee.

The results of our experimentation with this new method have been encouraging. Compared to more traditional personnel assessment methods some areas can be assessed as well or even better with the new approach. Areas that could be measured well or better were for example conscientiousness, activity level and helpfulness. This suggests that some areas of organizational citizenship behavior can be measured in a novel way. Both traditional assessment methods and this new method showed similar patterns. 

However, results with emotional stability were problematic to interpret. According to both methods – the traditional ones and the new one – all our test takers were very stable emotionally. In other, words, we didn’t get big enough differences between individuals. This might mean that both the traditional method and the new one have failed to measure this or simply that our test-takers all indeed were very stable. In this respect, we have to keep on experimenting.

Rethinking recruitment continues. If you want to stay tuned with the progress please follow us on Facebook: Cresco Metrics.

Recruitment process is by nature such that it awakens expectations and hope in the candidates. Every step in the process of being applied, being interviewed and finally having a personnel assessment makes the candidate hoping of being recruited to the position of her dreams. It takes time for the candidate and for the HR-person or manager involved to run through this laborious process – and sometimes the not-so-fitting candidate is chosen.

Only one candidate experiences a positive outcome – she gets a new job. The rest of the candidates will be probably frustrated even if the recruitment process was excellently organized. They might already have imagined themselves in the new position – how they could get some new inspiration and motivation to their career, how they could proudly tell their neighbors and relatives about their new job, etc. This is the name of the game and we all know it, but still on an emotional level this disappointment can harm the image of the recruiting company. We cannot disguise our emotions, even though rationale tells us that this is just life.

So, what to do to lessen disappointment or even prevent it? Recruit all? Of course not, but give everyone something and make this tedious process more pleasant for both the company and the candidate. And remembering that pleasant can also mean more accurate.

Usually the process on the candidates part begins by sending an application and then waiting. And waiting. And waiting more, as the recruiting manager and HR are nearly overwhelmed by the incoming applications. So, why not let all the candidates do something while they wait. Something that would benefit them immediately and give them transparency (read also realism) about the process. The benefit would be immediate feedback about their competencies and how they are doing in the recruitment process: Is their fit good the company and position? Also general feedback about their competencies could be given.

Furthermore, though there are good IT-systems to help screening the applications and CVs, it is still has been nearly impossible to set criteria for prescreening that would really tell us about the potential of the candidates. It is a fair possibility that some of the most potential candidates are left out because they for example have not enough of work experience in a specific area.

Why not use assessment tools for all candidates that are interested and give them feedback. Feedback along with a possibility to learn are usually very rewarding on a personal level. Both feedback and transparency in the recruitment process would in the long run build good corporate image. Furthermore giving the candidates a possibility to show her talent already in the beginning of the process would give a fair chance to every applicant and prevent companies from errors due to irrelevant cutting criteria in the application phase. Besides this the whole process would be speeded to match the clock speed of modern business.

Give everyone a chance to show their talent, give everyone feedback, and ensure that your best candidate is in the process all the way through.

Predicting the future sounds like humbug but in fact it is something very innate to humans, and a huge part of everyday business. People make sense of the world by building models and operate in different environments based on the predictions based on the models. In the business world, people sell each other probable visions of the future with the help of statistical inference and modeling. In many areas of business, modeling and predicting helps people make informed decisions, decide how to prepare for the future, providing a sense of control and a feeling of assurance.

When it comes to people, there is a saying that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. People tend to repeat patterns of behavior, and repeating patterns of behavior enforces them, making them more likely to be repeated. Most of the time predictions based on this law of human behavior work well. Experts, like psychologists, can make pretty accurate predictions about how a person will succeed in a work environment e.g. by simulating different facets of this environment and making observations. Just like economists or statisticians can predict growth or decline.

However, when there is a need for finding potential and thinking creatively, it does one good to remember that in essence the future is unpredictable. No method can provide 100 % accuracy or state 100 % probability. There is no way of knowing the future before it occurs. In fact, it can be a liberating experience to un-know it. Especially when trying to discover something new, if the models we use as the basis of our thought are pictures of the past, how can they support visions of the future?

The pressure to come up with new ideas in business is continuous. However, business decisions very often need to be based on predictions. Will there be a market for this product? How does this product respond to the needs of different customer segments? Wild, improbable ideas may be born easily, but many lose their true creative edge when molded by expectations based on what has worked previously or on a dated picture of the customer. Sometimes, what we end up with is the same old, same old and customers are not impressed. They were waiting for something new. Producing something new requires letting go of the feeling of sometimes false security created by looking into the past.

In addition to modeling of the future that guides business decisions, people are also intuitively at it all the time. Most of this happens automatically. Our perceptive and memory systems build models and expect future events for follow these models. More often than not, they do. And if a violation of the model occurs, we adjust it and keep on predicting. The human mind needs a sense of predictability to experience continuum of the self. Without it, we could not operate in the world. It is thus very difficult to stop modeling and predicting. Un-knowing the future requires conscious effort.

Reminding yourself of known improbabilities is one way to start un-knowing. With all the constancy there is in the world, it is fun to think about how our mere existence is in fact a highly improbable occurrence. If you were to ask some cosmic consultant about whether to put your money on “life as we know it”, she would advise you not to. The likelihood of a planet existing as Earth is, at this distance from the Sun, with this constellation of elements, not to mention the likelihood of the human race following to evolutionary path it has, is mind-bogglingly far-fetched.

So what does this all have to do with our everyday lives? We all know about how our expectations can mold the way we view the world. If you have a feeling that something will happen, you will start observing your environment with perception colored by this anticipation. Even the most self-proclaimed scientific, rational and objective person tends to look at the environment in a way that supports her own world view. And with abundance of information, scientific and other, in modern society, it is very easy to find evidence to support your own view. However, getting stuck in one’s own paradigm can stunt personal growth or create dogma. Updating your views with personally improbable information is one way to keep developing and learning in a creative way. Personally new perspectives and ideas can be found most easily by putting yourself in situations and creating connections you would not consider, that are not recommended for you based on your past preferences but still meaningful. Through un-knowing the future and approaching improbability in a brave way, new discovery is possible. And even so probable that you could put your money on it.

Within a turbulant economy and in the midst of an individualist culture, people feel the pressure to find different ways to make themselves an appealing investment for a company. When the social loses its significance in joint creation of wellbeing, people turn to themselves for help. People seek to better themselves in a number of ways during their free time as well as at work. A somewhat ridiculous example of the pressure for self-development and self-help on the modern information worker are the gyms offering treadmills not with TV shows to lookat but simultaneous brain training games. Sounds appealing, enhance your cognitive capacity AND do your cardio at the same time!

Extremes aside, people do invest a lot of time and effort into becoming better and feeling better at what they do. In essence, this is a positive trend, highlighting personal responsibility and ability in self-development. However, with all the offerings and help for self-improvement out there, one may get a little lost, like in the gym example above.

How do you know when and what type of self-development is needed? A simple answer is: when contentment ends. When viewed from an environmental perspective, sometimes there are rules in play that force action that is not good for you or at the end for the environment. This is the case for instance when an employee has to work in an organization according to rules that she feels are not supporting her best efforts; lord knows how many people are at the moment doing for example work in a manner they know is not their best, in unsatisfactory circumstances, or with people they feel are not helping. However, there is no need to succumb to the situation. These are moments where the rules have reached their limits, they are inadequate and do not serve a purpose. These situations open a window of possibility for change: the possibility to take a step back, observe the situation, revise and transcend.

It is quite easy to notice rules and restrictions in your operating environment that make you unhappy and inhibit your success. Discontent about your own actions or thought processes is however easily subdued or avoided. Noticing what inhibits yourself from being better in your surroundings as well as in your own thoughts is vital for going forward. There is no reason people could not step back, observer, revise and transcend in their own minds as well.

What is it that separates highly successful individuals, excellent performance or wellbeing from their opposites? Luck or circumstance, the predispositions caused by individual genetic makeup and the environment, such as the networks we choose to belong to and build, all play their part. However the individual is not a dummy but a willful agent in the world. What are the actions that a person can take that help reach excellence and be better?

It seems that in the end te answer is very simple – reaching good quality and continuing development require: 1) challenging your own views about what you are doing 2) recognizing points of discontentment 3) making a conscious effort to do things better and 3) using your time correctly. Seems pretty manageable. But when looking at the popularity of services and consultation telling people to do just this, it also seems we need some help in the process.

The thing that connects most self-development programs, psychotherapies, meditation, yoga, life-coaching and career counseling, basically anything that promises you development, wellbeing, problem solving is that they aim at making use of the mind is “a combinatorial and recursive system” with the metacognitive capacity to have thoughts about thoughts as well as thoughts about thoughts about thoughts (you can continue this sentence for as far as your metacognitive capacity permits).

Recognizing and developing this particular cognitive capacity would be the first step for any person aiming at developing either outer or inner faculties. It would help in all the steps needed: noticing where and how things could be better in your own actions, understanding what is needed for improvement, what you do not yet know and how you could find this information as well as finding ways to motivate yourself into action. It seems that the power for becoming better is an innate faculty and one that to a great length defines human nature. Without clear and insuperable environmental or deeply rooted genetic obstacles for development, we find there are no more excuses…



Thank you Linda Nordberg and Vesa Putkinen

Photo credit: ZeroOne, Flickr

According to a case study by Jarmo Suominen at MIT on campus mobility, creative thinking and new discovery does not solely happen in labs, meeting rooms or classes but all the more in leisurely and informal places like out at a park where people go out for picnic lunches. In general, a big theme in the explanation of innovative thinking and creative information intensive work is “encounter”. People seem to be at their most creative when around and in contact to others. New ideas come about in relaxed settings and in contact.

What does fruitful encounter require? As it seems, the surroundings matter. Although a work place may have designated rooms for interaction around work subjects, the most rewarding and rich places for coming up with new ideas are ones that are less obvious, or ones that do not deliberately try to direct people’s thinking towards work. These places include coffee shops, lunch restaurants or parks where colleagues can easily get to from the work place and that aren’t specifically built and designed for efficient working. They are also places where people across business areas and departments can meet, share information and create unusual connections. As work places and offices typically aim at getting cost-effective solutions from human beings as well as the office solutions, what people are mostly surrounded by may not be the most fruitful place for creative thinking.

What do the places that spur on creative thinking have in common? Coffee shops, parks, bars and restaurants are designed for recreation and pleasure. They aim at helping people enjoy themselves in each others’ company, have their needs met, making people feel relaxed, safe and at peace. These spaces are not designed for containing, controlling and streamlining the use of human resources, they are meant to produce good feeling. One way they do this is by supporting relaxation through a combination of thought-out choices and structure but at the same time freedom of choice for the customer. When entering a park of coffee shop, the person can freely choose where to sit, what to do although the surroundings obviously permit only a limited set of actions. Through relaxation, feeling of safety and satisfaction, people can enter into encounters through a positive and energetic mindset.

If a company wishes to support the creativity of its employees and coming  up with innovative new products is a core function, it may be unwittingly be working against these goals through tightly set boundaries for work time and work place. Most employers may think that it is not their responsibility to be there for employees’ “recreation and pleasure”. Employers are however required to provide work tools and other requisites for completing the work they are asking employees to do. The main question here is: is the office a good tool for creative work?

The need to control processes and streamline human action as part of production may have lead to environments that stifle new thought. A process can be defined as repetition of a function that has been defined beforehand. If a company wishes to create something new, they need to free their employee minds from previously defined processes and environments that encourage repetition towards freer interaction and thought.  Making offices more leisurely, personalized and relaxed may be one way to increase creativity at the workplace. At a minimum, it is essential to make sure that people are situated at the office so that are able to relax, concentrate and yet freely interact. This is something that sounds simple, but when you think about how offices are typically arranged, there are a lot of small things that could be changed with big results. For instance, the open office where people sit behind each other creates a, evolutionarily understandable feeling of insecurity – someone can be lurking behind your back.

Nevertheless, even though the office could be transformed to resemble a coffee shop, it will still not be as spontaneous as the outdoors. In the search for new ideas that produce new connections, chance and randomness are important.  Allowing more choice about work places and supporting voluntary, undefined out-of-the -office encounters and engagements with other people is one way for companies to support creative thinking.

Photo credit: travOC, Flickr

Finland’s innovation system has previously been one of the world’s top systems. However, recently we have begun to fail in global comparisons of development of the information society and international competitive ability in innovation. What factors influence the capability to produce innovation? How could knowledge intensive work be better supported in Finland? The reasons behind the lack of new innovation may lie in the way that knowledge intensive work is led and organized. The quality and value of knowledge intensive work suffer within corporate structures that aim to control instead of support the metacognitive aspects of individuals’ thinking.

National economic productivity and competitive edge have been defined in the government platform to need new and broader innovation for instance in the areas of technology, research, education and organizations. However, with Finland’s increasing disability to produce new innovation and recent loss of global competitive power in this area, new structures and ways to produce innovation and develop the information society are needed. As national economy comes to rely more and more on innovation instead of industry, the systems supporting development of knowledge intensive work become highly important.

From the individual’s point of view, value creation through enrichment of knowledge requires continuous self-awareness with observation, evaluation and development of own thought processes. With a word, knowledge work is learning. From a structural point of view, knowledge work is acting within networked contexts, which further complicates the cognitive demand of information processing. Successful knowledge intensive work happens through flexible and dynamic arrangement and ongoing learning in cooperation with others. The quality and value of knowledge work are defined through the efficiency of learning and the uniqueness and applicability of the results of learning.

With this definition of knowledge intensive work in mind, the relevant question is: how do current organizational structures support individual learning? It seems that through highly defined management processes, a lot of cognitive activity that is an essential part of the knowledge worker’s thinking is actually defined as the responsibility of management. The over-managed organization contains corporate functions that should be re-internalized into individuals’ thought processes in order to support learning. Processes such as motivation, time management, choice over tasks, communication with others or personal wellbeing cannot be defined by someone else and successfully guided by external structures in a way that would still permit creative and flexible learning. People cannot be creative individuals if they are viewed as human resources that need to be managed. With less management of choices related to work and internal thought processes, individuals’ thinking and learning will become self-led and creative activity happen naturally within the most fruitful interpersonal contexts.

However, only decreasing management functions will not lead to desired results. The whole concept of work needs to change, along with traditional conceptions of work-roles, work places and other structural aspects. Human centric, task-based work is a model that defines knowledge intensive work in a fundamentally different way. The basic idea of the concept is that knowledge intensive work is learning and cannot effectively be defined by work roles, places and organizational structures. Knowledge intensive work is about specific task content and the learning and cooperation of individuals interested in the content. Applying the concept of human centric task-based work to how knowledge intensive work is conducted would provide the needed support for organizational and individual learning that enables creative thinking and new innovation. The concept of human centric work as a new mode of function could also in itself be a step in developing the information society in Finland and supporting national economy through increasing the value of locally “produced” knowledge intensive work.

Thank you Esko Kilpi


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