How to change a culture.

How to change a culture.

Photo by Pratham Gupta on Unsplash

Article by Angela Cathey

We work with companies to improve their cultures. I’ve noticed this term, “culture” inspires a bit of awe and confusion in both business and behavioral analytic communities.

Business leaders have come to a relative state of agreement that “culture is king” (source unknown) and “culture eats strategy for breakfast. (Peter Drucker)” . There’s less agreement about what culture is and if it is indeed changeable at all.

What is “culture”?

From a behavior analytic perspective, culture isn’t so ambiguous. It’s an emergent quality that arises from the interaction of behaviors. This may sound ambiguous but it makes what business often sees as vital and difficult to change, changeable.

Culture isn’t an amorphous cloud.

It’s the psychological effect of a collection of behaviors. It’s the product of people behaving together or over time (see Houmanfar, Rodrigues, & Ward, 2010) for a more thorough analysis. The import point is – it’s changeable and it’s the product of your interpersonal behavior, biases, policy decisions (laws, strucutres, etc.), and verbal behavior. With everything we do, we show others what we see as important, unimportant, desirable, and undesirable.

It sounds like a lot – but changing a culture is a matter of making different choices. It’s creating an environment that is purposeful, well-designed, and makes the choice to appropriately reinforce or reward what truly ‘matters.’ By looking at the collective behaviors of a culture, a business, and the experiences that relate to them (e.g., psychological safety), we can use behavior analysis to move key switch points and change a culture for the better.

If you’re thinking now, so what’s the answer – what do I do?

1. Start with the realization that the answer is dependent on the problem & desired endpoint. There is no single solution. Thankfully, their are methods and practices that have great evidence supporting them, these include behavior analysis and measurement.

2. With the endpoint you seek in mind, measure actual behavior and how it influences this endpoint.

3. Apply behavior analytic principles to create change and support that change.

4. Continue to measure and apply – real behavior change requires teaching skills to fluency and supporting the use of those skills. It’s not as complicated as it may sound – but it requires real thought and application of science to meet your goal.

What to know more about how to change culture? Contact us for a free consultation.

Sources:

Houmanfour, R., Rodrigues, N. J., & Ward, T. A. (2010). Emergence and metacontingency: Points of contact and departure. Behavior and Social Issues, 19, 78-103.

Remembering the classics: Books that took the science of behavior to a new level.

Remembering the classics: Books that took the science of behavior to a new level.

by Angela Cathey

With the New Year approaching, I’ve decided to put into writing a few of my favorite influences. Some of these are a bit “heavy” and others pure poetry of science. Though any of these books can be said to be exceptional on the whole, for some I focus on specific chapters and what they offer.

I chose these particular works for their “mind-stretching” capabilities. Like good post-apocalyptic sci-fi, they in so many ways, hint of what in human nature may save us or destroy us. I hope that the newer generations of behavior analysts will fall in love with these books as well.

  1. Handbook for Analyzing the Social Strategies of Everyday Life – Bernard Guerin, 2004

Bernard Guerin has the ambition of someone who loves the world and what good science can do for it. He has an integrative style that smacks of an avid reader. He brings together research from sociology, anthropology, and psychology under a behavior analytic framework. This volume, one of his two larger survey works, includes analysis of social contingencies broadly applicable to doing good Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), or Prosocial work. Further, the applications extend to simply understanding the social world in a way that allows one to be a better human to others.

Guerin’s handling of this material necessitates an understanding of the vast applications of behavior analytic principles. As an organizational interventionist, I find his work on allocation of resources in groups impressive. Bernard has a way of rather seamlessly unifying behavioral economics with large-scale contingencies and consumer behavior.

Of equal interest are Guerin’s sections on social strategies, trust, and group dynamics. Again, Guerin presents an impressive account of how one might understand the evolution of trust, and dynamics that influence it, across micro and macro contexts. If you are a behavior analyst interested in creating “real-world” change, this is one you shouldn’t miss.

  1. Analyzing Social Behavior by Bernard Guerin

This volume is Bernard Guerin’s earlier survey of behavior analytic principles as they apply to a wide array of important intrapersonal and interpersonal behaviors. Here Bernard handles a wide array of topics that most behavior analysts shy away from with thorough appreciation of the subjects, and his own limitations. Like Guerin’s other volumes this volume integrates findings from other sciences and provides the scaffolding needed for gaining an in-depth of knowledge of human behavior.

Of particular interest in this volume are his handlings of creativity and chapters like “Zen and the Art of Contingency-governed Behavior.” These chapters are fun and ground the new learner of behavior analysis in the wealth of applications the science affords. Further chapters on the impact of modern communication and media are rich with inspiration for applied researchers and provide great insight for integrative clinicians.

  1. Understanding Verbal Relations – Steven Hayes & Linda Hayes, 1992

This book can hardly be considered light reading, but should be considered essential reading for those in behavior analysis. With chapters like, “Verbal Relations, Time, and Suicide” written by Steve Hayes – it’s one that anyone in the field long enough will want to read. (If for only the reason that you’ll still hear argument over these points decades later.) One particularly good chapter is that written by Linda Hayes, “Equivalence as Process.” Here Linda Hayes describes an interbehavioral (Kantorian) view of events as interactions evolving through the ever-present historical context.

  1. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962

This is a great meta-science text. It takes a look at the science-of-science – how scientific paradigms form and shift under the process of science itself. This is about noticing our field’s influence on the creation of knowledge itself.

  1. Rule-Governed Behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control. Ed. Steven Hayes.

This is admittedly fairly dry reading. It’s an important read due to its thorough handling of rule-governed behavior. This highly influential category of human behavior is known to influence huge swaths of adult human behavior and expereince. With chapters with basic analyses of “knowing,” “understanding,” and “listening,” it’s a dense but worthwhile reads.

  1. Clinical Behavior Analysis by Michael Dougher

Whether your training is centered more based in clinical psychology or directly in behavior analysis, there are few who wouldn’t benefit from a read of this text. The author presents a different view of many forms of “psychological disorder.” This is a good one to read if you’re into considering the impact of the medical model and other ways of understanding variation in human behavior.

  1. Mastering the Clinical Conversation. Matt Villatte & Jen Villatte

We’re now seeing more writing from the clinical and applied RFT folks that are approaching the level of fluidity seen in this volume; however, this is still a great read to start your journey towards learning Relational Frame Theory (RFT).

  1. Relational Frame Theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, and Roche

“Big purple” as it is often referred to, should be a necessary read if due only to its importance in the scheme of behavior analytic theory. Chapters that deal with the role of verbal/symbolic relating as it applies to group membership are useful and interesting.

5 ways technology and behavioral science can create a better world.

5 ways technology and behavioral science can create a better world.

I ran across another article today about how society is slowly devolving, in part, due to technology. This is becoming a more common refrane. Tech leaders are frequently quoted saying they don’t allow their children to play with the devices they create.

The ‘tech elite’ are onto something and we are just coming to terms with it in many sciences. We’ve known for many years, in the behavioral sciences, that the environments we exist in influence us – for better or worse.

We like to think of our experiences simply and tend to perceive only those consequences closest to us temporally, spatially, and socially. We “like” and emoticon ourselves into disconnection as we feel the bright shiny connection in front of us, and in the process, we miss the people sitting next to us.

We as a society are overwhelmed, over-worked, and driven, most logically, to distraction in the screen faces we carry with us. In the Behavioral Sciences, B. F. Skinner (1986) wrote “What’s wrong with the Western World” and described the impact of modern work processes on how we as human’s function. The summary, “distance from the impact of our behaviors, is not a good thing.”

 

In a hyper-connected world – we have customized technologies around natural human desires. We buy ‘shiny’ distraction avoidance tools. As tech has evolved, it has also come to offer us other tools shaped around human values and goals. We now have FitBits and Alexa to help us live better lives.

The missing piece; however, is that the solutions themselves are one-sided. We have learned to embrace algorithms to help us choose movies (Netflix, etc.) and quickly tag pictures of our friends (Facebook), but we distrust technology in its ability to help us truly improve ourselves.

We offer a few ideas from the nexus of Behavioral Science and Technology, to help humanity connect to itself again.

1) Build technologies that adapt to intended purpose. 

When we build technologies without awareness to our own essential humanness we inadvertatly reinforce our worst behaviors. People will always be attracted to ‘shiny’ things, they will want quick rewards AND we need to plan technologies for exceptional #humanexperience right along with our #USERexperience.

More on that, below.

2) Build technologies that help us engage other perspectives. 

In a hyper-connected world, we’ve become sucked into news loos and algorithm echo chambers. We see the news that we “like,” not what we need to see about our own worlds. Unawareness, we are silently told, “is bliss.” It is not, we are progressively more lonely, less able to self-regulate, more depressed, more anxious… and of course, given all this we stare at our phones more unable to handle perspectives that differ from our own.

The solutions we typically hear for this are “put down your phone” and, in deed, this is one solution but only short-sighted. The long-term route is to appreciate that we are human, flawed and beautiful all the same.

If we want to pick a realistic way forward, maybe we should begin to use technology to help us see our individual strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives in relation to one another.

3) Build technologies that make us aware of our strengths and weaknesses, in RELATION.

Remember the human tendency to seek out the ‘shiny’? We tend to look for easy answers, for the “best” answer. What we miss is how to balance ourselves in relation to our world, and those in it. We then design FitBits, Alexas, and solutions around the easy answers that inevitably lead us in the wrong direction. Any healthy behavior can go wrong taken to full tilt, and yet we persist… chasing easy answers.

One way that we can address this is to begin to focus on answers in relation to context. Contextual technologies allow us to notice what the best answer is for the current situation, environment, and purpose.

4) Use Intelligence Augmenting technologies to alert us of when we are falling into our patterns of dysfunction, bias, and unawareness.

 

Intelligence Augmenting technologies are one possible way forward here. Our patterns of avoidance, bias, and unawareness are no secret. The Behavioral Sciences have been using studying how to reduce mismatch between person and environment, and labeling it “psychopathology” for many decades.

It is time that we begin to work across lines to find solutions that bring us together.

5) Build technologies through “open” paticipatory design methods.

One key to advancing us must be opening the doors to participatory development. We need to recognize human motivations and flaws in our processes. If “tech” is not working, it is because “we” are not working towards a common perspective in what we create.

In this world, there are few easy answers; however, one I’d stake my work on is:

We as humans need to work on embracing our natural complexity and celebrating our strengths. If technology can help us do that, we should be working towards that purpose together.

Angela Cathey, MA, LPC

Angela Cathey, MA, LPC

Director Enso Group, Trainer, & Consultant

Angela is experienced in leading and coordinating the operations of research and intervention teams. She has a master’s in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. She has trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) extensively. She has been well-trained in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. She has also trained extensively in treatment of trauma, utilizing Prolonged Exposure (PE) and obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions, utilizing Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

A behavioral scientist’s take on providing effective instructions for optimal learning.

A behavioral scientist’s take on providing effective instructions for optimal learning.

Teaching is a large part of any leader’s position. Whether academic or business, most leader’s are promoted due to others’ perceptions that they have mastered a domain of knowledge. Unfortunately, most leaders are simply assumed to then know how to impart this knowledge on their supervisees/mentees.

Effective teaching is an art and science. Here we’ll discuss guidelines for understanding, breaking, up and imparting your knowledge of complasks for others.

The first step is to understand the task:

Task analysis (TA) is a method for identifying and documenting the process of task completion. Many different methods exist for documenting and analyzing task completion (Tofel-Grehl & Feldon, 2012).

Minimalist Instruction
In its most fundamental form, TA instruction is merely a list of steps.

    1. Read task analysis (TA) article
    2. Do your own task analysis (TA) of a complex task
    3. Present simple step-by-step instructions for task to learnerSimple is important because new learners to a complex task will tend to become frustrated and give up.In addition to helping you impart skills to learners, task analysis (TA) can be a way of discovering how to optimize the efficiency, productivity, or safety of a task

Interested in learning more about Behavioral Science?

Task Analysis for Instruction Optimization

Instruction optimization involves a data-based assessment of instructional effectiveness. Any material or stimulus intended to prompt, guide, or teach a response can potentially be improved if you take the time to identify what components promote the effective behavior.

 

 

From an operations perspective, optimally effective instructions have many benefits such as:

  • Saving time during onboarding and training
  • Reducing the frequency of errors
  • Maintaining knowledge retention over time

Best Practices in Task Analysis Instruction
Learning outcomes and performance can generally be enhanced for most learners by:

  • Presenting steps in smaller pieces (Crist, Walls, & Haught, 1984)
  • Limiting jargon, presenting images, and providing examples (Graff & Karsten, 2012)
  • Presenting images of and describing stimuli that should trigger the response and the expected outcome(s) of a correct response (Tyner & Fienup, 2015)
  • Updating instructions frequently to match task changes (Dixon et al., 2007)

Though these general guidelines should improve the effectiveness of your instructions, optimizing ultimately requires measuring and adapting to what creates the best outcome for your learners.

Build a stronger business with Behavioral Science?

Remember, though examining the effectiveness of your instruction formally may initially require some time investment this cost should be offset by improvements in efficiency and reduction of errors.

Other considerations may also inform whether the expected ROI justifies the cost, including the risk or danger of the task, the criticality of accuracy, the acceptable threshold for errors, the cost and time required to correct errors, and the qualitative experience of those who are performing the task.

Summary

Task analysis is a method for investigating and documenting the process of completing a task that is prevalent across diverse industries. TA instruction is robust for training and guiding task performance, and many best practices have been published to improve its effectiveness. Robust methods from behavioral science are also available to further enhance instructional effectiveness and efficiency.

Bryan Tyner, PhD

Bryan Tyner, PhD

Optimized Behavior Technology

Bryan Tyner is a behavioral scientist and research-strategy consultant. He has a PhD in behavioral psychology from The Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). His research on instructional design, assessment, and optimization has been published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and the Journal of Behavioral Education. Bryan is the founder of Optimized Behavior Technology, an independent research agency that consults on the use of research methodology and data analytics to inform business operations, strategy, and product development. More information about his services is available at www.optimizedbehavior.technology 

References

Crist, K., Walls, R. T., & Haught, P. A. (1984). Degrees of specificity in task analysis. American Journal of Mental Deficiencies, 89, 67-74.

Dixon, M. R., Jackson, J. W., Small, S. L., Honer-King, M. J., Mui Ker Lik, N., Garcia, Y., & Rosales, R. (2009). Creating single-subject design graphs in Microsoft Excel 2007. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 277-293.

Gero, J. S. & Mc Neill, T. (1998). An approach to the analysis of design protocols. Design Studies, 19, 21-61.

Graff, R. B. & Karsten, A. M. (2012). Evaluation of a self-instruction package for conducting stimulus preference assessments. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 69-82.

IBM SPSS. (2016). Multivariate linear regression in SPSS. IBM Support. Accessed April 19, 2017 from http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21476743

May, J. & Barnard, P. J. (2004). Cognitive task analysis in interacting cognitive subsystems. In Diaper, D. & Stanton, N. A. (eds.) The Handbook of Task Analysis for Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 295-325). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Tofel-Grehl, C. & Feldon, D. F. (2012). Cognitive task analysis-based training: A meta-analysis of studies. Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 7, 293-304.

Tyner, B. C. & Fienup, D. M. (2015). The effects of describing antecedent stimuli and performance criteria in task analysis instruction for graphing. Journal of Behavioral Education, 25, 379-392.

Yu, R., Gero, J., & Gu, N. (2015). Achitects’ cognitive behavior in parametric design. International Journal of Architectural Computing, 1, 83-101.

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