"Getting people right is the key to taking your business out of a fog."
What is business? Is it a numbers game or a people game?
Data analytics is a beautiful thing. We can find out all kinds of trends and see what happens when we make certain decisions. But if we want to get data about the behavior of people, there’s another way to collect and analyze it.
Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen, the authors of The Moment of Clarity, say that people are much more complicated than one piece of objective, logical data, and the only way to get the real story is to immerse yourself in the experience of human interaction.
Not only can we gather a much richer palette of information when we interact and notice all that is happening, but our uniquely human skill can make meaning from the flood of input, essentially making sense of it all. ‘Sensemaking’ is what the authors have termed this strategy for meaningful interpretations of data.
This book opened my eyes to new ways of understanding human behavior. And what better arena to study behavior than business? It’s all about people. So why aren’t we involving the human sciences more to solve our business problems? Well, some businesses are, and this book shows you how.
Use your human skills
"When you understand what drives the behavior of your consumers, you will reach a deeper insight that goes beyond the facts of correctness into the experience of truth."
The authors introduced me to a new word, phenomenology, which is the study of how people experience life.
Any phenomenon, whether it be sports, eating, entertainment, weather, or trust can be analyzed by experiential aspects, which are different than hard science data points. Meaning, we can determine a scientific piece of data like how much rain fell in an hour, but the experiential aspect shows how the rain storm affected our mood. A piece of fabric could have three colors, but the American flag will have a much deeper meaning.
“Phenomenology will not reveal the essence of something – say, a car or a restaurant – but rather will show the essence of our relationship to that thing.” Understanding this relationship can help us make meaning from the experience. And the only way to truly understand the ‘experiential aspects’ is to immerse yourself in the experience and notice every detail, especially ones you might normally take for granted or ignore out of habit.
The main point the authors stress is this, “get out of the office and away from the spreadsheets. Don’t start your inquiry with the theoretical. Only experience stripped of hypothesis will reveal the rich reality of humanity.”
Not only will you gather ‘real data’, but your human intuition will understand its meaning in a more sophisticated way than a computer crunching numbers.
An ‘aha’ moment, or moment of clarity, emerges when you immerse yourself in an experience with an open mind.
Have an unknown mind
"Humans, like ostriches, tend to avoid dealing with anything that might change their core beliefs."
Maybe I’m revealing too much of my ignorance, but I learned another word from this book, ethnography – the process of observing, documenting, and then analyzing behavior. It is one of the main data collection techniques for the human sciences.
But instead of starting with a hypothesis and proving it through experimentation, like in the physical sciences, the authors recommend using abductive reasoning. This is when you start with the assumption that you don’t know anything – having an unknown mind – so you can make objective observations and only then make possible hypotheses. This kind of reasoning helps you better generate new ideas. It’s more about looking for answers. And they come in a flash or moment of insight.
But it takes skill to be an ethnographer (which I saw as a published description of Simon Sinek) because in order to be truly objective in your observations, you have to always be questioning your own internal beliefs and biases so that you’re not interpreting the experience from your own worldview (even though you always are.)
I’m going to attempt to be more aware of my own assumptions and try not to have preconceived answers when I’m observing behavior or searching for insight.
Develop a sense of care
"Care is such a fundamental human condition that it is noticeable in an instant – as is its absence!"
The point of all this human behavior study is to make sense of the insights and then apply them to your business to solve difficult problems.
And when you do that effectively, the results will show that someone cares. Care means that something matters to you, that something is deeply meaningful, and therefore, you put all your heart and soul into it. It’s what the authors say is the very thing that makes us human.
Some might call it attention to detail. Others might say it’s what you’re passionate about.
The authors call it “both a sense of investment and carefulness” and not something that you can install in your organization like an app on your phone. It is not explicit, like a manual or a recipe because people often can’t explain it, they just do it.
Some ways the authors offer to develop care are:
- Become a consumer of your own products and put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
- Spend a couple of days on the floor of the company working in different positions.
- Meet people across the organization and talk to them about what they do when they enjoy work.
- Read the magazine, blogs, and books that your customers and colleagues read, and attend the events they would attend, so you can sense what is driving their behavior.
I’m fascinated by human behavior and how systems have such an influence on it. I plan to work on things that I deeply care about, and find ways to care about the things I’ve been asked to work on.
How can you be more of an ethnographer and use phenomenology to solve the problems in your business?