Quintessential Morons

Quintessential morons are not those folks with a shortfall in intellect, but those folks with a shortfall in awareness of the limitations and boundaries of their personal world view.

The latter group are not open to changing themselves because they remain unaware of the need for, and benefits to themselves and others of, personal change.

The world is stuffed full of quintessential morons.

Chances are, you’re one too.

– Bob

What Is Quintessence?

Let’s start with what it’s NOT. Quintessence (I’m talking here about the approach, not the book) is not:

  • A framework
  • A method
  • A methodology

If it’s any ONE thing, It’s most like a detailed model or map of a well-functioning, or sane, CKW (collaborative knowledge woirk) organisation. A bit like an anti-DSM, or Prof Martin Seligman’s positive psychology P.E.R.M.A. model.

Quintessence’s roots lie in psychotherapy. Often referred to as Talk Therapy. And more specifically, in therapy as applied to groups, communities, and organisations (rather than individuals).

Quintessence (the approach) is aimed at helping organisations surface and reflect on their collective assumptions and beliefs, with a view to shifting their culture into closer alignment with their business goals.

I’d be delighted to explain further, if you’re interested.

– Bob

How Do You Set Up A Salary Model That Has Everyone’s Approval?

Remuneration policy reflects an organisation’s culture. It’s a calling card for your company and a key lement of employer branding. Given current recruiting challenges, it also determines who wants to join or stay with your company.

What Is A Salary Model?

A salary model, or remuneration policy, is a system of guidance that an organisation uses to determine each employee’s remuneration (a.k.a. package). A typical salary model takes into account things like merit, length of employment, and pay compared to similar positions.

Everyone’s Approval?

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

~ John Lydgate

Salary models are almost always contentious, and the source of frequent fractious arguments and ill-will. Few people favour being treated just like everybody else, seeing themselves as individuals. Yes, fairness has a role to play – humans and capuchins both being accutely attuned to the notion of fairness. But who adjudicates what is fair when it comes to salaries and other remunerations?

At Familar, and now at TheQuintessentialGroup, we seek to treat people as adults, and encourage adult-to-adult interactions. Accordingly, we believe that only the individual in question is at all placed to decide what is fair, and thus to determine their personal individual salary or other remuneration. Our experiences at Familiar showed this idea as entirely workable, and helped us learn the amazing up-side to such a salary model.

This perspective also aligns with the Antimatter Principle: “Attend to folks’ needs”. Who else but the individual can truly decide what their needs are, salary-wise? Needless to say, the Antimatter Principle stands proud at the heart of TheQuintessentialGroup’s approach to community-building, and to business.

So, for clarity, this salary model states:

Each fellow decides his or her own salary (or other remuneration, depending on engagement model). Each fellow is free to change salary or other remuneration levels as and when – and as often as – they see fit.

Note: This particulalr salary model is the salary model of choice for TheQuintessentialGroup.


One wrinkle that did emerge at Familiar, given the totally alien nature of this salary model, was the difficulty some folks had in deciding on the specifics of their package. We discovered that support and dialogue amongst fellows (along with full transparency for all) helped greatly with resolving this difficulty.

Another, more general wrinkle is the collective assumptions and beliefs of the decision-makers and those that sign off – or don’t – on the salary model. The headline of this post is about winning everyone’s approval. Managers and executives that have a sublimated Theory-X view of the world probably won’t approve of this salary model. Which I find sad, for the people and for the performance of the workforce (and thus, of the organisation).

– Bob


“Has everyone’s approval” seems to me a pretty low bar. I’d prefer to see a salary model that “everyone loves and raves about”. How about you?

At Face Value

I’ve hired a lot of people over the years. Both for my own businesses and on behalf of clients.

One thing most of these hirings have had in common is taking the successful candidates – well, all the candidates, really – at face value.

Which is to say, believing the things they say about themselves – about their character, their abilities, their experience, their needs, etc.. A bit like UPR (Unconditional Positive Regard).


At the time, we needed an IEEE 754 floating point package for our commercial Modula-2 compiler. At that time our compiler only supported integer math, and for greater commercial appeal we decided floating point support was also necessary.

So we looked for someone with floating point implementation experience. We found someone who said he had such experience, and we took him at face value.


Let’s dive into our experience with Niklas. He was a student from Germany looking for some summer work experience in London. We had a chat over the phone, and invited him to join us. He took us up on the offer, and came to stay and work with us. His work was outstanding. Everything he had claimed, and more. He accomplished the necessary in two months. It would have taken me six.

Trust or Doubt

How likely is it that new hires are going to be impressed that the hiring manager, team or organisation doubts their word? Is doubt any constructive basis upon which to start building a positive relationship? Lack of trust, much?

How do you deal with candidates’ claims and representation of themselves? Scepticism or respect? Doubt, or trust?

– Bob

The Purpose of Organisational Psychotherapy

Following on from my previous post, concerning the Fifth Absolute of Quality, which reads:

The purpose of quality is customer success, NOT customer satisfaction.

it occurs to me that maybe there’s some clarity or insight to be found in similarly describing the purpose of Organisational Psychotherapy:

The purpose of Organisational Psychotherapy is to see folks’ needs met, NOT to see them happy, or satisfied. 

(Note: “Folks”, here, encompasses some or all of: customers, employees, owners, managers, suppliers, regulators, and society at large). See also: The Folks That Matter™️.

 This does beg the question:

“Why does meeting folks’ need matter? Where’s the point in that?” 

I invite you to consider the description of the purpose of quality, above. This describes the purpose of quality as customer success. “Customer success” can only be defined by the customers themselves. And each customer may have very different ideas as to what constitutes their “success”.

Similarly, with Organisational Psychotherapy, each of the “folks” may have very different needs, and these folks are, each, the only ones that can define these needs, or, more accurately , the only ones that can declare when their needs have been met. 

Organisational Psychotherapy implicitly assumes that when folks’ need are being met, both those folks, and the folks attending to their needs, have a more joyful experience.

So, “seeing folks’ needs are met” is in many ways akin to “customer success”. And as to the begging question: Why do (some) organisations prioritise “customer success”? Best ask them, maybe?

– Bob

What Is Normative Learning?

The phrase “normative learning” seems to many to be arcane, obscure, even impenetrable. But the idea it labels is simple enough:

Normative approaches are those that deliberately attempt to change norms, attitudes and beliefs.

Compare the normative approach to change, with its less effective cousins, rational and coercive approaches to change.

The phrase “normative learning” therefore, labels learning that:

  • Arises from direct experiences, often, experiences of counter-intuitive truths.
  • Changes individual and/or collective norms, attitudes and beliefs.
  • Results in changes in behaviours.

Change is a Normative Experience

As John Seddon eloquently puts it “Change in a normative experience”. Which is to say, that effective change (of attitudes, assumptions and beliefs) relies on people experiencing things for themselves, and learning from those experiences about which of their assumption are falsey or inappropriate. 

Only when behaviours change can we say learning has happened.

– Bob

Further Reading

Seddon, J. (2019). Beyond Command and Control. Vanguard Consulting Ltd. (Chapter 2, p 26-29).

Chin, R., Benne, K.D. and Bennis, W.G. (1969). General Strategies for Effecting Changes in Human Systems. Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). (Chapter 9).

Naïve Realism: The conviction that one’s own views are objective and unbiased, whereas the other’s views are biased by ideology, self-interest, and irrationality. This conviction prevents serious consideration of the other’s supposedly biased views and leads to the formation and maintenance of a one-sided perspective. In turn, this perspective may deepen misunderstandings, disagreements, and antagonism between individuals and groups.

See also: Fundamental Attribution Error, Naïve Realism (Psychology), Naïve realism (Philosophy of Perception).

Further Reading

Nasie, M., Bar-Tal, D., Pliskin, R., Nahhas, E. & Halperin, E. (2014). Overcoming the Barrier of Narrative Adherence in Conflicts Through Awareness of the Psychological Bias of Naïve Realism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, [online] 40(11), pp.1543–1556. Available at: [Accessed 29 Jan. 2022].

%d bloggers like this: