Buzzword Buzzkill

It seems like using buzzwords and acronyms can spice up your communications. But, more often than not, your audience will just get confused. We’ve got some tips to avoid being a buzzword buzzkill in this video.

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Now Available: The Road Ahead White Paper

Knowledge management and records management can seem like they’re on opposite sides of the table. One side argues to create and retain more information, because then it becomes more findable. The other side wants to be able to properly dispose of documents to reduce the costs of maintaining them. In truth, they often have the same need for organization, and they face the same discoverability challenges, the same barriers to effective labeling and tagging, and the same questions of where to store things. 

To bring the parties together and lay out a roadmap for success, we’ve developed a whitepaper that discusses what happens when these two seemingly opposing forces meet: “The Road Ahead: Knowledge Management and Records Management Converge with Office 365.” We teamed up with Colligo, HELUX Systems, and Vana Solutions to bring you a comprehensive discussion on how to achieve information governance that satisfies both the knowledge management and records management needs. Whether you’re a well-versed veteran looking to the future of information governance or just starting out on your journey, this paper will guide you on the road ahead. 

Get The Road Ahead white paper

Book Review-Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality

What does being “a person of integrity” mean? Though most people would immediately think of moral, ethical, or right, there is a deeper meaning to integrity. It’s about wholeness. It’s about being one person and not different people in the same body depending on context. Henry Cloud explains in Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality how integrity is much more than simply ethics and morals – though that’s not a bad place to start.

Context

Before diving into the details of the kind of character that Cloud describes with “integrity,” it’s important to share that I’ve been a fan of his work for years now. Boundaries, which he co-wrote with John Townsend, is a cornerstone of my recommendations for people struggling to find ways to go through life. His books Safe People (also co-written with Townsend) and Changes that Heal, Cloud connects the kinds of people we need to be in relationships to the need for boundaries. His more recent book, The Power of the Other, helps us to understand how others impact us – often without our knowledge.

Integrity isn’t the latest book that Cloud has written (The Power of the Other holds that distinction), so this was a chance for me to go back into the foundations of Cloud’s thinking and writing and look at more basic components of how we get along with one another.

Wholeness

At the heart of Integrity is the understanding that we need wholeness. We need to have what I’ve described as an integrated self-image (see my reviews of Braving the Wilderness, Happiness, Beyond Boundaries, and many more), which circumscribes all that we are instead of carving out only the parts of our identity we want to allow others to see. Many authors have hammered away at this topic, as they’ve sought to capture and relate the sense of completeness that philosophers have struggled to share for ages.

The fundamental problem with wholeness is that it is difficult to explain. It’s like trying to explain a plane to a tribe that has never met modern civilization. Until you’ve seen a plane, it’s hard to make sense of them in your brain. Even after seeing an airplane, that doesn’t mean you can build it. As you’ve stumbled across people who appear to be wholly integrated, you may think to yourself that they’re interesting. But, for the most part, there are barely clues to how they became so whole, complete, and integrated.

Feedback

One of the ways that people become more whole is to see their blind spots, and that comes through feedback from others. There’s a simple truth that you cannot see everything. From the blind spots in our eyes where our optic nerves connect to the fact that we can’t see the soles of our feet when we’re standing, there are limitations to our own perception. (See Incognito for more.) We need others to help us develop a more complete picture of the world and ourselves.

Feedback is often difficult to take. It often highlights an aspect of ourselves that may be true but we conveniently ignore or gloss over. It’s often painful to adjust our self-perceptions to include our limitations and opportunities for improvement.

However, truly whole people invite feedback and seek to better understand themselves and their worlds – even if it’s difficult at times. They’ve figured out how to recognize the value that it brings to them more than the immediate sting, much like the athlete who pushes through their pain in exercise to gain stronger muscles and better endurance.

Connection

Feedback can drive us apart – or it can bring us together. We’re all wired for connection. It’s a fundamental part of the way that we live. Our togetherness has been woven into our very survival since well before our written language. (See Mindreading, The Righteous Mind, and The Evolution of Cooperation for more.) Books (The Dance of Connection, for instance) and entire careers have been made on our need for connection with one another.

A wholly integrated person isn’t incomplete in one sense. They understand who they are and don’t rely on others to complete parts of themselves. Simultaneously, they’re aware of their fundamental need to be connected with others. This paradox of being complete and at the same time acknowledging the need for other people is what makes wholehearted people interesting.

Grace

Whenever there are two people involved in a relationship, there must be some level of grace. Grace is a gift, an unmitigated favor, bestowed upon another person to accept and redeem their faults. Done well, grace is given with the humility of acknowledging that we give grace because we need grace ourselves. We will make mistakes, we’ll be blind to our limitations, and we’ll struggle.

Because we need grace ourselves, others must need it. Though we all suffer from a fundamental attribution error – attributing our setbacks to situations and others’ to their character – we at some level know that we’re not perfect. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on fundamental attribution error.) It would be disingenuous to expect grace from others and offer it to ourselves but then not offer it to others in return.

Trust

Cloud is a bit fuzzy with his use of the word “trust,” sometimes using it to mean trustworthy and other times meaning the giving of trust. I’d offer that I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about trust. While you must be trustworthy and learn to appropriately trust others to be a whole person, I’m not sure that this well understood. (My most recent capstone on trust is at Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy, Revisited if you want a longer explanation about trust and how it works.)

Cloud appropriately flags person of integrity as trustworthy because they are worthy of trust. Persons of integrity also have a greater capacity to give the gift of trust to others. They can see where and how people can be trusted and can extend trust in more situations and to a greater degree than people of lesser integrity.

The Work

While being a person of integrity is a good thing with a host of benefits to yourself and those around you, it’s not easy. Just knowing what needs to happen doesn’t make it happen. People of integrity have typically worked long and hard to become the person of integrity they want to be. It’s hard work, and it take determination and grit. (See Grit for more.) It’s more than the willpower to pass up the chocolate cake. It’s an enduring commitment to seek to become more than they are today.

In the end, a person of integrity is willing to accept the feedback and accept the assignment to make themselves better. Perhaps they’re even willing to take a nudge to read Integrity.

ARMA InfoCon 2019 Interview

A few weeks ago, I did an interview with RJ Mauro leading up to the ARMA InfoCon this year. We discussed some of my information governance background, the future of the information profession, and the conference itself. It was posted on YouTube, so you can check it out by going here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBHrkyY4Ngs.

You can learn more about ARMA InfoCon on their website, https://www.arma.org/page/infocon.

Getting the SharePoint Site URL in a Microsoft Flow

Working with clients on deployments in the Microsoft world isn’t always easy. Some clients want to develop in one environment (or tenant) and then move that development to a new tenant. Invariably, there are steps that get missed. When they do, the production deployments break, which impacts users – and it’s frustrating.

One of the problems with Microsoft Flows is the need to update the source URL for the SharePoint operations. If you trigger based on some list event, and then want to update another list in the same site, you’ve got to enter that URL again.

The first solution to this is to define a variable at the top of the flow and then use that variable for the Site URL for every SharePoint operation. That helps, because it centralizes the setting of the site URL to a single place. However, it’s still easy to miss when you’re doing a deployment.

A way to enhance this is to use an expression to set the variable so that it’s always the right URL, but that’s not easy.

In your trigger inputs – trigger()[‘inputs’] – there’s a variable called path. The problem is that this path looks something like /datasets/https%253A%252F%252Fthorprojects.sharepoint.com%252Fsites%252FTEST/tables/f0de155c-08bc-4a46-9772-74dde8a1ece0/onupdateditems

To get the SharePoint path out of that, you need to do a few things. Initially, I tried stripping the last three levels in the URL iteratively, but that proved to be unwieldy. What I ultimately realized is that the lengths of the start and end of the URL are fixed, thus I can use hardcoded values for the lengths to trim rather than relying on the slash delimiters. For this URL, I can use the following statement to get the SharePoint portion.

substring(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’], 10, sub(length(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’]), 69))

Of course, I still have some replacements to do to get my encoded characters back, so the statement becomes:

replace(replace(substring(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’], 10, sub(length(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’]), 69)), ‘%252F’, ‘/’), ‘%253A’, ‘:’)

That’s relatively clean. I just initialize my variable to this, and we’re good – if the trigger is an On Changed. It turns out the URL for On Created is slightly different. (It ends with onnewitems.) To cover both, I added an if statement to test whether it’s a new or changed event and ended up with:

if (greater(indexOf(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’], ‘onupdateditems’),0),
replace(replace(substring(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’], 10, sub(length(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’]), 69)), ‘%252F’, ‘/’), ‘%253A’, ‘:’),
replace(replace(substring(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’], 10, sub(length(trigger()[‘inputs’][‘path’]), 65)), ‘%252F’, ‘/’), ‘%253A’, ‘:’))

Now, I’ve got one formula that I can give developers to get the SharePoint Site URL for the current site, and I don’t have to worry whether the URL gets updated during a deployment or not.

Book Review-Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

I was in a darkened room listening to two presenters with their different vantage points on opiates in the workplace, and during the talk, they mentioned the book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. I disagreed with what seemed to be the presenters’ fundamental premise that drugs are evil, and are to blame for the problems we face as a society, but that made me more interested in reading the book they seemed to be drawing from. Perhaps, in my desire to understand addiction, I had somehow ended up on a side street rather than a main thoroughfare of perspectives on addiction.

As I began to read, I realized that, much like my perspective in my review of The Fearless Organization, there’s a component of the problem related to the coverage in the book – but that there are many factors that have received insufficient coverage. In the case of Dreamland, it’s not just about the morphine molecule but also about people.

Oxycontin

The poppy plant, and the opiates it produces, have been with us since the start of civilization between the Tigress and Euphrates rivers. Morphine may have only been first distilled in 1804, but its history travels back much further than that. However, as recently as 1999, pain management became important to medicine through the work of the American Pain Society. Press Ganey surveys became powerful forces in medicine to assess patients’ satisfaction with their doctors. The lower the pain, the better the scores. Even today, patients are asked whether they feel as if their pain is well-managed.

Though the American Pain Society promoted pain to be the fifth vital sign, it is different than the other four, which can be measured by calibrated instruments. Pain is whatever the patient says it is – and that opens the door for problems.

About the same time, in 1996, in the search for the perfect, non-addicting version of the morphine molecule, Purdue Pharmaceuticals took oxycodone, a synthetic opioid, and packaged it in a time-release pill called OxyContin. The aggressive marketing of OxyContin along with other factors led to a massive increase in the use of opiates – in the form of OxyContin – to treat pain.

Pharmacological Theory of Addiction

At that time, it was believed that high and low feelings created addiction. It was further believed that OxyContin solved this problem by continuous dosing, and therefore it was non-addictive. However, the story has its problems. The first is what was purported as strong evidence that people who were prescribed opiates didn’t get addicted – as was previously believed. The “strong evidence” was a single paragraph written as an editorial about the results of the progression of abuse in inpatient settings – not the outpatient prescriptions OxyContin was being suggested for. The editorial was written based on a database query of those inpatients who developed addiction which as a result of controlled settings was relatively few. In short, OxyContin was sold as non-addictive. An army of drug representatives sold it to doctors this way, who, in turn, prescribed it for patients.

There was another problem, too. OxyContin contains a high dose of oxycodone. It was the time release formula that made this make sense. If you don’t crush the tablet, all is fine. However, like a child who is told not to do something, the cat slipped out of the bag. If you crush the tablets – which you learned not to do by a warning label – you can remove the time-delay of release, resulting in a dose of oxycodone all at once and creating a euphoria.

The understanding of morphine and related opioids is that they overwhelm a receptor in our brains – the mu receptor. In doing so, they are far more powerful than any high that people can get naturally. It’s also understood that, after the influence of opioids, these receptors take some time to recover. In effect, the belief is that no one stands a chance against a morphine-based drug.

Retraining the Brain

Support for the idea that opioids can reprogram a brain comes from Toxoplasma gondii. It’s a parasite that infects cats. It’s excreted in their feces and ingested by rats. T. gondii, Dreamland reports, “reprograms the infected rat to love cat urine, which, to healthy rats, is a predator warning.” There’s a problem with this. When I went to investigate this fascinating idea, it seemed more far-fetched than reality. When humans are infected with T. gondii, they are higher in extraversion and lower in conscientiousness (fear). This is the kind of behavior you might define in rats as loving cat urine: less fear and greater extraversion.

While it’s possible that opioids literally reprogram the addict’s brain (or even the first-time user), it seems like this is more like propaganda than reality. (See Chasing the Scream for more on how drug addiction has been propagandized.) It’s certainly possible that opioids change biases in the brain, and acclimatization happens, meaning higher amounts of natural endorphins are required to activate the same response as was previously possible. But, again, this is a far cry from reprogramming.

The secondary support for the reprogramming idea comes from the fact that addicts will do things that are harmful to them. The problem is that they’re only harmful in the long term. Humans use stress to get a performance boost and pay the long-term consequences. (See Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.) It’s true that our ability to defer gratification and do long-term planning is a large part of our success. But it’s a far cry to say that anyone who eats an extra cookie at the picnic is an addict. (See The Marshmallow Test for more about the positive impacts of delayed gratification.)

Addictive Tendencies

If you rule out that drugs are inherently evil and can reprogram the brain, you’re left with the reality that people are getting addicted, and they’re getting addicted at a very high rate. There’s something going on. It seems to be that “something” is susceptibility to being addicted. Some would argue that we can be genetically predisposed to being addicted. The answer might be a bit more complicated than that.

The Globalization of Addiction shares Bruce Alexander and his colleagues’ work, including a very interesting experiment called “rat park.” The research indicated that rats will continue to drink morphine-laced water until they kill themselves, but Alexander and his colleagues found that’s only true when the rats are bored. If you give the rats a social interaction and playthings, they much prefer that to overusing morphine. In short, when you deprive rats of the kinds of stimulation and community they need, they turn to drugs.

If our addictive tendencies are anything like rats’ tendencies, it’s because of things that are missing in our lives. We see this trend happening today. Robert Putnam has written about how our communities and connections are unraveling in both Bowling Alone and Our Kids. (Each book approaches the problem from a different lens.) Sherry Turkle in Alone Together writes about how technology has changed the way we interact, making us simultaneously more connected and disconnected. In short, the breakdown in our communities is leading to more capacity for addiction.

Interestingly, it may be one of the reasons why successful programs involve communities, such as Delancey Street (see Change or Die and Change Anything for two places where this program is cited) and twelve-step programs (see Why and How 12-Step Groups Work). Even the growth of gangs seems deterred by improving communities, as they tend to be another way people escape their existence. (See Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order for more.)

Drug Community

Communities may be a way of staying out of drugs – but once you’re in a community that centers around drugs, it becomes harder to get out. When all your friends are users or dealers, they’ll inevitably pull you back in. (There’s a story related in 12 Rules for Life about Satan touring Hell and showing off the cauldrons – including the one with no need for protection, as anytime a Russian starts to get out, the others pull them back in.) So, while community is necessary to avoid addiction, it can, at times, create a safe haven for drug addiction.

That’s what happened when OxyContin gained acceptance in the medical community and at large. It’s not that abuse didn’t happen before – it did. What changed was the constraints that limited addiction were removed, and, as a result, addiction soared. What started with honest primary care physicians prescribing a little more than they should because they’re weren’t well-trained in pain management degenerated in to pill mills.

Pill Mills

If you want to tell the difference between a regular doctor’s office and a pill mill, all you have to do is look at the parking lot. Dreamland recounts, “If you see lines of people standing around outside, smoking, people getting pizza delivered, fistfights, and traffic jams – if you see people in pajamas who don’t care what they look like in public – that’s a pill mill.” What’s a pill mill? It’s a cash-only business, where “patients” pay a fee to get a prescription for narcotics. The visits are notoriously short, and the doctors don’t suggest alternative treatments or understanding pain better. It’s a “just take this and it will get better” approach with no thought given to the root cause or how to stop the pain. All that’s hoped for is temporary relief.

These pill mills spawned their own systems. People would get put on disability not for the somewhat trivial monthly amount but because it also gave them Medicaid. And Medicaid would pay the sometimes $1,200 fee for their drugs. The street value of the drugs was often even higher than this. The result is a system where those with a little money would pay for the exam fee at a pill mill and split the pills they got after filling the prescription. The elderly would sell some of their drugs to make a little bit of money. It seemed like anyone addicted to pills would need to support their habit by selling some of them.

Another solution was to steal. Walmart grew in rural America and brought economies of scale and globalization. In turn, it shut down local retailers, who couldn’t compete. In many Walmart stores across rural America, theft is just a part of business. The Walmart greeters aren’t really there to greet people as much as they are there to deter theft. However, addicts weren’t deterred and instead found ways to work around the system.

Dial for Drugs

The socioeconomic system was primed. Many people were hooked on pills they couldn’t afford. They needed a cheaper solution, and it came in the form of a phone number. Mexicans from Xalisco began taking calls and delivering drugs to addicts. Farmers and their children barely subsisted on sugar cane they could grow. However, poppies and the black tar heroin harvested from it was very lucrative in the United States. They created a system of drivers, and selling small amounts made heroin more accessible and cheaper than it had ever been. Some reports are that a one-gram hit of heroin cost roughly the same as a pack of cigarettes.

The Xalisco boys would come into town through an addict who got them connected to the community – usually in exchange for supplying their addiction. They’d find methadone clinics – which were sometimes described as game preserves for addicts. Handing out a phone number and some free samples, they’d quickly develop a clientele. That would be the start of a new drug cell.

Police Presence

The system worked well. Drivers never had much heroin on them and what they did have were in balloons in their mouths. If they were about to be arrested, they’d swallow what they had. Even when that didn’t work, they never had enough to be perceived as a threat, so they either got small sentences or were simply deported. The drivers were mostly illegal immigrants, all from the area of Xalisco.

The Xalisco boys made a point of blending in. Simple cars and apartments were traded in frequently. Just enough for them to run their system. Even after the largest scale drug enforcement action ever executed, there was only a one-day blip in the supply of drugs to most cities. The structure was an organization of individual small business owners, each trying to bring heroin to a place that wanted it.

The Cost

The cost wasn’t measured in dollars. It was measured in lives. It’s tragic. Drug overdoses in some communities outpaced deaths due to automobile accidents. It killed indiscriminately. It was no longer limited to skid-row junkies that no one knew or cared about. It happened to children. It happened to businessmen, politicians, policemen, and the wealthy. Still, it was quiet for a long time. The shame and stigma wouldn’t let go. Slowly, the story changed. Slowly, people began to recognize the truth that had been forgotten and ignored – that treatment is more cost-effective than incarceration. Medical professionals started treating the addicted not as pariahs but instead as people who needed help.

People still die every day of drug addiction. They die directly through overdose and indirectly through the complications of drug use. We haven’t – and cannot – stop it, no more than we can stop the legions of drug dealers from trying to make a profit. However, the tide is slowly changing. We’re recognizing that we need to support and help rather than condemn and confine.

The Road Back

The road back from the path that liberalized the prescription of painkillers and the systems of drug dealers that our police were ill-equipped to fight is long. Those who succumb to addiction are prisoners who need to be set free. They need to understand that their lives can be filled with positive things. They need to understand that they can accomplish something – and that something can lead them to their own Dreamland.

Footnote

There’s so much more to Dreamland that I didn’t share. My point wasn’t to convey the entire length and breadth of the book. Instead, in this review, my hope was to share the core of the very real problem that gripped, then strangled, much of America. My hope has been and always is that anyone struggling with addiction can escape their prison and find their own personal Dreamland.

Communication Control to Collaborative Communication

In many organizations, there are two main streams of communication: the officially-sanctioned media and what’s actually used to learn the information. Instead of taking a “command and control” approach to these communications, there are ways to make it more collaborative.

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Book Review-The Burn Book: 8 Key Strategies to Recognize and Extinguish Teacher Burnout

I’m not a teacher in the traditional sense. Sure, I’m an educator. I stand in front of classes and teach, but not in the way that Colleen Schmit means “teacher” in The Burn Book: 8 Key Strategies to Recognize and Extinguish Teacher Burnout. As a former kindergarten teacher, she means teacher in the kindergarten-through-12th-grade sense. Still, I wanted to get a sense for how teachers experienced burnout, so I started reading.

Independent Book Publishing and Speaking

First, it’s important to note that several of the books I’ve published have been self-published. I even laid out the math of self-publishing in my post Self-Publishing with Lulu.com. It talks about the finances to get a book done and what you get back from it once it’s published. I also explained that self-publishing wasn’t for the publishing revenue.

There’s a well-known reality in speaking circles that a book makes you more credible and more valuable. There are numerous services that exist to help speakers publish books to create more credibility. From extensive editing services and flat-out ghost writing to services like Lulu.com, they are designed to get someone listed easily.

This is important, because The Burn Book feels very much like a book that was designed to increase Schmit’s credibility as a speaker. She speaks once in the book about needing to teach occasionally to maintain “street cred.” She also discusses her work doing professional development workshops for teachers. While I don’t fault the desire to get credibility, I’m sometimes frustrated when I’m looking for a well-researched and well-thought-out book on a topic. The Amazon listing for the paperback version of the book says 120 pages – but the Kindle version reports 59. In any case, the book is short.

Work Wife

Schmit recommends that teachers get a work wife (her preferred term) or a work husband. The intent isn’t something adulterous. Rather, she advocates a close relationship with a peer and mentor who can help you become a better teacher. My problem with this is that a friend of mine was deeply – and appropriately – offended when her former boss called her a “work wife” in front of the team.

Certainly, having others who can help you up when you’re feeling down and provide a path forward when your waypower is lacking can be helpful. However, I’m not sure everyone’s spouse would appreciate the recommendation. (See The Psychology of Hope for willpower and waypower.)

Blame, Shame, Guilt, and Sarcasm

Schmit appropriately recommends that teachers avoid blame, shame, guilt, and sarcasm in their classes. I’ve written several times about shame and guilt. Having said that, shame is bad, and guilt can be, but isn’t necessarily, good. (See I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) for more on shame and guilt.) I think the key here is to respect your students and try to help, not harm, them.

What About Burnout?

Honestly, I missed the connection to burnout. There was the occasional reference thrown in – but, all in all, it felt like this was a book about how to be a good teacher that got wrapped in a thin veneer of language that seemed “hot” to make it interesting.

If you’re a teacher and want to know how to be better, then by all means, pick up The Burn Book. If you’re looking for an understanding of research on burnout or different perspectives on burnout, there are better options.

A KISS of Cognitive Load

KISS is a common acronym: Keep It Simple, Stupid. This video explains why it’s important for your communications.

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Book Review-Solve Employee Problems Before They Start: Resolving Conflict in the Real World

Every once in a great while, you get to experience serendipity – a happy accident.  In this case, we had asked Scott Warrick to review our book, and in the follow up we got to see his latest book, Solve Employee Problems Before They Start: Resolving Conflict in the Real World.  Terri and I have taught conflict resolution for several years, and the opportunity to look at it from another point of view was welcomed.  When you’ve got a chance to look at how another expert looks at the challenges, the smart person jumps at it.  That’s what I did.  Despite the backlog of books coming out of the SHRM annual conference, I read it quickly and found, while there were definite differences in our points of view, the similarities dramatically outweighed the differences.

Emotional Intelligence

Early on in our work with conflict de-escalation and resolution, we started with emotional intelligence.  (For more, see my review of Emotional Intelligence.)  We certainly believe that the ability to develop emotional intelligence in employees is critical to changing the frequency with which you’ll need focused conflict resolution skills.  We maintain it as the first set of lessons for every employee in our Discovered Truths program, but, in conflict resolution, we took a step back from it.

The feedback we got was that it is like using a slow cooker to cook a burrito.  Our customers needed something that they could bring to bear directly against the conflict, not a preventive plan that they could develop over time.  However, as Warrick points out, emotional intelligence is a foundation.  If the people you’re working with don’t have a basic level of emotional intelligence, it’s very hard to get to any sort of a resolution.

I view teaching emotional intelligence in your organization as a sort of vaccine against poorly managed conflict.  The greater the emotional intelligence, the less likely it is that you’ll need to mediate conflicts to get to a good resolution.

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Like many contemporaries, Warrick pulls from Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry’s and Jean Greaves’ work.  However, the model he uses for emotional intelligence includes components that aren’t a part of the familiar, four-part model.  He leans on Reuven Bar-On’s emotional intelligence model which consists to 15 scales divided into 5 major areas:

  • Self-perception skills
  • Self-expression skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Stress management skills

The model is the one that MHS sells as an assessment that is based on Bar-On’s original research. It is an impressive test.  However, while I agree that these skills are important, the definition of interpersonal skills seems nebulous, and the relationship to decision-making skills seems to be unclear.  (See Klein’s work in Sources of Power and Seeing What Others Don’t for how we really make decisions.)

In a follow up conversation with Warrick he and I were able to drill into empathy and how to teach this component of interpersonal skills.  However, my primary concern is the interpersonal skills is in the area of Interpersonal relationships.  I’m not sure there’s a way to assess this in a way that makes sense universally.

More broadly, I struggle with the complexity of the Bar-On model since it creates a level of complexity that I don’t know that most people cannot internalize.  It’s one of the reasons that even though I love Reiss’ work on the basic motivators (See Who Am I?) that I don’t expect people to be able to use it without a productivity aid.

Neuroanatomy and Homicide

Warrick incorrectly limits the use of CT and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to structural views of the brain.  In a follow up conversation with him, he made it clear that he’s not talking about functional MRI (fMRI) and that some of the most powerful advances in our understanding of neuroanatomy come from functional MRI (fMRI) systems, which indicate the flow of blood in the brain – indicating a recent consumption of oxygen and glucose.  In other words, it can show what is and isn’t active in the brain.  (See How Dogs Love Us for one way that an fMRI was used to understand emotions.)

He also limits the use of Computed tomography (CT) to structural scans as well, however, computed tomography angiography (CTA) is used to show the flow of blood.  It does this by taking multiple images and comparing the results.  This leads to an understanding of how the blood flows.  At some level, you could consider this structural in that it’s showing the pluming of the body, however, at another level it’s demonstrating the flow of blood through the body – which is one part structure and one part about the way that the body is constricting blood vessels to route blood.

Warrick is a big fan of a SPECT (Single Proton Emission Computed Tomography).  It’s essentially a positron emission tomography (PET) scan that uses substantially lower doses of radiation.  From a numbers perspective the costs for a SPECT seem to be 30% higher than the cost of an fMRI with limited discernable advantage.  fMRIs appear roughly ten times as frequently in research than SPECT.  His comments were that SPECT were more often used in clinical observations and fMRI in research applications, but I couldn’t support this with any data I could find.

There’s also references to the inhibiting function of the left frontal lobe on the amygdala.  This is a generalization based on the famous case of Phineas Gage, who had a tamping iron get driven into his skull, thereby destroying some of his ventromedial prefrontal cortex.  (See The Blank Slate for more.)  There are places where one brain area inhibits or regulates another, but nothing as coarse as is suggested here.  (See The Hope Circuit for a specific example.)

Similarly, there are some conclusions regarding the relative tendencies of humans to be homicidal as compared with the murderous nature of our animal cousins.  Surprisingly, the research here, in general – not Warrick’s — has been awful.  12 Rules for Life points out that humans appear to be becoming less homicidal as time progresses rather than more, as is sometimes reported.  Even simulation models, like those discussed in The Evolution of Cooperation, point towards humans having been successful due to their cooperation – and, at times, the need to punish freeloaders.  Jonathan Haidt reaches the same conclusion through different means in The Righteous Mind, where he attributes our dominance of the world to our ability to “get along.”  The Nurture Assumption speaks about Jane Goodall’s observations of the violence.  The quick summary is “chimpanzees don’t cotton to strangers.”  All-in-all, we’re a violent species, but whether we’re more violent than our primate cousins seems to be subject to some disagreement.

Two Systems

Warrick explains that we have two different factions in our brain fighting for control.  One faction is led by the amygdala and the other by our frontal lobes (or neocortex).  Kahneman explains the struggle in Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Kahneman and Warrick reach the same conclusion that the automatic, lizard, emotional brain, can lie to the neocortex, primate brain.  Further, it’s possible to become emotionally flooded, where the neocortex is effectively taken out of the picture.

Jonathan Haidt’s view is slightly different with his Elephant-Rider-Path model, which has the emotional elephant always in control but usually ceding this control to the rational rider.  (See The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch for more on this helpful model.)

Warrick’s neuroanatomy isn’t precise here.  Recent work indicates that the limbic parts of the brain – including the amygdala – receive a copy of some sensory data that arrives ahead of the data being provided to the neocortex.  (Neocortex means new brain or the primate brain.) This means the limbic portion of our brains can literally react quicker.  Warrick uses a conceptual model like Kahneman’s, where the data is processed by the limbic system and then forwarded to the neocortex – but that doesn’t appear to be technically accurate.  (See Incognito and The Hidden Brain for more about the way that we process signals in our brains.)  Still, the conceptual model is enough to address the point that we can become emotionally hijacked.

The Silent Scourge – The Retreaters

One would think that, in a book dedicated to solving employee problems, the people who were conflict-avoidant would be the heroes.  However, the opposite is true.  Much like how John Gottman explains in The Science of Trust how stonewalling is one of the worst things that could be done to a relationship, so, too, does Warrick believe that those unwilling to say what they’re truly thinking are tearing the culture of the company apart.

The pressure must go somewhere.  When someone doesn’t agree and doesn’t speak, they experience an intrapsychic pressure that needs to be dissipated.  Though it’s technically possible to safely channel this into other outlets, few people do this.  Most either complain to others, thereby creating a culture of talking behind people’s backs and eroding the trust necessary for organizations to function, or they eventually blow up, breaking the feeling of psychological safety.  (See Trustology for more on trust, and The Fearless Organization for more on psychological safety in the organization.)

Understanding and Agreement

Warrick makes the point that you should listen to the opponent – and that no one in 30 years of conflict resolution work has been able to accurately explain the other party’s point of view.  He also explains that you should listen so at least you understand the other party.  Too few people do this.

We mistakenly confuse understanding for agreement, and we can’t agree, because ours is the “right” answer – because it’s ours.  (See Thinking, Fast and Slow and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) for some of the hidden biases that influence us.)  Because we’re so focused on reaching agreement, we don’t make time for understanding.  The truth is we’re afraid that, if we understand the other person’s point of view, we might lose our sense of being right.  Learning – which is what we’re doing when we seek to understand someone – is an inherently risky process, and it’s one that we’ll only take when we feel safe enough.  (See The Adult Learner for more.)

Disagreeing with Tact

Warrick also explains that it takes a great deal of tact and thoughtfulness to disagree with someone else.  We need to be careful not to attack them and stay focused on the ideas.  We need to reward them with places where we see eye-to-eye or value them.

During this review, I’ve been trying to do just that.  To share where I disagree with Warrick while recognizing the value in his messages and the great value that his book has for everyone that reads it.  If you can find ways to disagree with tact and thoughtfulness, perhaps you’ll learn how to Solve Employee Problems Before They Start.