The Complete “The Curse of Knowledge” Arc

Note: a short, two post arc, presented here in all its glory and for your enjoyment -C&E

The Curse of Knowledge, Part 1

I wrote a while back about working with Multitasking, anyone? a company that had a statistician — not! This company hired NextStage to help their workers become more productive and we’ve had someone assigned there for several months now, primarily data gathering and modeling. The modeling method we’re using is called process modeling, something very well recognized in cultural and social anthropology and apparently not recognized at all in HR or B2E systems.

People who’ve seen a National Geographics, Nature, Nova or similar show (or who remember when Disney Studios did nature documentaries. I loved those and probably still would) highlighting a tribal culture have seen process modeling without recognizing it. Anyone who’s had “on the job” training has taken part in it. People with children or who work with children practice it without knowing what it’s called. Anyone who’s taken part in an Apprentice-Journeyman-Craftsman-Master career track has done it and probably not known it.

The mother who cooks while her daughter or son is first watching then helping then experimentally cooking preparing the main meal while mother looks on is learning via process modeling. The tribal elder who makes a flint tool while the youngster first watches then helps then tries a few knaps then proudly makes a high-quality spear tip is learning via process modeling.

Process modeling is what occurs when we demonstrate success without any requirement that the other be successful, only that they attempt success when they’re comfortable doing so. It is one of the most powerful and primitive teaching methods known and not often practiced formally as such anymore. It also works best with sensory skills rather than cognitive based skills.

So, anyway, we first had one person demonstrating success via process modeling for several months now and recently added a second one. Their individual success rates are both close to 90% and this is phenomenal considering most and not all others in the company are lucky to reach 10-15%. It’s taken a while and in the past two months other workers and management (the ones who don’t know the NextStagers are in their midst) have come to ask how the NextStagers are being so successful.

A five minute “training” increased one fellow’s productivity 150% in four hours. He was gleeful with success.

click on image to download a larger one

How successful was this success en large? Over a five month period ten workers selected at random showed the following increases in productivity. Those right most columns are labeled P1 and P2. They are the process modelers. The other columns, A through J, are the ten workers. Process modeling takes time and that’s what gives it much of its power. In this case, five months and at the end of those five months all had richly improved and four of the ten were working at the modelers’ levels. Those four — once the NextStagers are through and move on — will become the modelers for the next “generation” of employees. This is how learning is passed on generationally in all cultures. Without such learnings cultures and civilizations die.

I bring this up and demonstrate this increase in productivity because it goes back to the statistician who isn’t what I’d consider a statistician at all.

The Curse of Knowledge, Part 2

The truth is, process modeling is always successful when certain base line conditions are met. But how to explain this to a statistician, especially explaining to the statistician that the numbers he was looking at weren’t where he should have been looking.

A real challenge in any educational environment, especially ones in which a given methodology has acquired protected status, is convincing stakeholders that the protected methodology is invalid. This problem is compounded by surrounding that educational environment with a business paradigm. It’s kind of the enigma wrapped in an illusion. Put a bow of misunderstanding your metrics on top and you have The Curse of Knowledge; someone knows just enough to convince others to look in the incorrect place for something that doesn’t exist there, then uses whatever they find to claim understanding.

The Curse of Knowledge. It’s not just for breakfast anymore!


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Stonewall’s Findings: The Genetics of Politics

I’m often asked if NextStage is continuing its study of politics this primary season. Yes, we are. It’s proving quite a fascinating bit of research.

Stonewall, one of our developers, found The Genetics of Politics in Scientific American. In short, the desire to vote or not might be hardwired into the neural patterns of individuals.

That in itself might be interesting but also “yeah, so?”.

The “yeah, so?” is that voting is a social activity, as in group dynamics, social behavior, …, you know, all those things that marketers are starting to realize they need to understand in order to reach their audiences better?

Might be worth a read in that sense…


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