The Next Revolution

The Next Revolution

Photo of some fists held high in common protest

I’m not given to pontificating on the future, but I do like to keep an eye on trends and the bigger (emerging) picture. Not least because I enjoy learning about new ideas, and so as to be ready to take things – such as effectiveness – to the next level, as the world allows.

In the unlikely event you’ve not noticed, I’ll just remind you that my focus over the past year has been on things psychological, and in particular, Organisational Psychotherapy. I’m sure a whole passle of folks think this quite strange for someone who has been up to his eyeballs in technology for over thirty years.

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

~ Wayne Gretzky

I’ve become increasingly convinced over the past several years that the “puck” is going to be in the psychology half of the rink in the future. Actually, I don’t think it’s ever really been elsewhere – but folks are going to begin paying real attention to all aspects of psychology sometime soon.

Just this week Rory Sutherland (“the fat bloke at Ogilvy”) has been speaking at TEDxAmsterdam about how

“The next revolution will be psychological, not technological”.

~ Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy

I find myself in complete agreement with his general premise, as explained in his video from TED Athens recorded late last year (circa: 09:23, in particular).

Slide showing venn diagram of technology, economics and psychology intersecting

This slide from his talk illustrates his point about the value of looking at all three of Technology, Economics AND Psychology – the “sweet spot” where all three intersect – in making business decisions.

“Google is as much psychological success as it is a technological one.”

~ Rory Sutherland

Many in the software field focus on technology – still, although less so these days. Some, particular those with a Product Development bent (cf “The Don” Reinertsen) on economics. And some, like coaches, on aspects of psychology. I feel we’re overdue in taking the latter seriously.

How Soon?

So just how soon is all this likely to happen? How long will it be before things psychological begin to noticeably impact business, politics, and society too?

I’ll hazard a guess and say In my lifetime. Before I retire, even. Although I’m not confident in making a prediction much more specific than that.

As the novelist William GIbson – a much more renowned futurologist – famously said:

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

~ WIlliam Gibson, in “The Science in Science Fiction”
on Talk of the Nation, NPR

Implications for Business

Think of the pervasive influence technology – under the label “IT” – has had on the structures of businesses everywhere.

Think of the IT department for example…, the IT helpdesk…, or the CIO and CTO roles.

Will we see a “Psych” department emerge, with a “Psych helpdesk” offering real-time advice on psychology issues across the business? Will we see a “Head of Psych” or a “Chief Psych Officer”? Will a “Psych department” undertake “psych” projects to deliver psychological improvements and psychological “infrastructure” into the wider organisation?

Maybe, during the transition. But the lamentable –  from a psychological perspective, not least – dysfunctions inherent in these ideas will become apparent soon enough.

I’m sure you can make some extrapolations and predications based on this scenario, too.

Organisational Psychology

Group Dynamics and group psychology has been around as a field of psychology since at least the 1890s. Although (individual) psychology and its close cousin neuroscience will be applied more and more to e.g. marketing, I believe it’s organisational psychology in all its forms and applications that has most to offer business, and society as a whole.

Let’s not forget though, that the concept of an organisational psyche is just a model of reality, and although useful, somewhat “wrong”  (cf. George Box).

To paraphrase Ludwig von Mises:

“It is an enormous simplification to speak of the organisational mind. Every employee in an organisation has their own mind.”

Are You Ready?

Are you ready for the coming shift from technology to psychology? What are you doing to get ready? Is it even a shift you want to be a part of?

I know some folks who live and breathe to work with tech. Working with people from a psychological perspective seems like it might be a nightmare for some.

Even for coaches, and other folks whose roles already involve working with people and their psyches more than technology, it’s going to be a major shift of focus.

Not all at once, of course. But over time, seismic.

Further Reading

Perspective is Everything: Rory Sutherland (TED Athens, video)
The Dilution Model: How Additional Goals Undermine the Perceived Instrumentality of a Shared Path ~ Ayelet Fishbach et al.
Chunking as a Decision Making Tool ~ Jon Griffin
Emotioneering at the BCS ~ Bob Marshall
The Twelve Points of Leverage in a System ~ Donella Meadows

  1. I’m with you here, Bob. I think a general awareness of psychological theory and tools could hugely benefit the way we work. It seems to be a gaping hole in our education that could be addressed at school (where it could benefit our whole future life). In the mean time specialists that can help us learn and apply the theory at work seems like an excellent idea.

    Time to hit your further reading list. Thanks

  2. I think the future in software will be organisational, moving away from traditional hierarchies towards more anarchistic forms of self-organisation and harmony. I see the growth of co-operatives and mutuals and the non-existence of an independent management role. Of course this will be developer led.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Aidy. How does the prospect you describe make you feel?

      – Bob

    • Thanks, Jo.

      Mark and I are already well-acquainted via Twitter. 🙂

      – Bob

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