20191011 - LASCOT2019 - 7 (plus or minus 2) ways your brain screws you up, Jasmine Zahno @jasminezahno and Joseph Pelrine @josephpelrine

by Thierry de Pauw on


7 (plus or minus 2) ways your brain screws you up, Jasmine Zahno @jasminezahno and Joseph Pelrine @josephpelrine

As we are working with agile teams, we are constantly revisiting the things we learned at university as a psychologist. We try to hand this back to university, but they are ... meh

So we bring it back to the community.

What we try to share is the most relevant knowledge we have right now.

Joseph met Jasmine through her partner Joseph knew from coaching. He told me his wife is a psychologist.

Women and Red
- young women in red are sexually more attractive to men
- women chose red over other colors when meeting an attractive man
- when woman view another woman wearing red close to her partner they tend to protect her partner

Men's music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context

This is what we do: we read papers and we do research

There is a lot going on in our brain. Especially when working in a very analytical environment.
Often we believe what our brain produces is the Truth => that's a myth

I was always told at school that humans only use 10% of their brain.

  • @EverydayKanban: I am so using this from now on! Great start to today’s @LeanAgileScot by @josephpelrine @JasmineZahno #lascot https://t.co/QqNwC4NXLE

Some brainy facts:
- we use most of our brain at all times, even while sleeping @jasminezahno @josephpelrine
- there is no evidence for the left brain/right brain hypothesis @jasminezahno @josephpelrine
- there is no evidence for the "learning type" hypothesis
- the brain's neuroplasticity allows us to learn things even in old age @jasminezahno @josephpelrine
Example: you have to learn languages at an early age, that is not true, ok it is easier at an early age, but you can learn at all ages

  • @AnnaArmstrong: Some “mind blowing” facts to challenge common misconceptions! My favorite: “The brain’s neuroplasticity allows us to learn things even in old age.” Don’t let your age stop you from learning new things! #lascot @LeanAgileScot https://t.co/XVOaJJtbYR

I (Jasmine) went back to the science of Willpower

is the ability to resist short-term temptation in order to meet long-term goals

Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future?
it seems pretty women tend to inspire men to invest in short term goals instead of long term goals

willpower predicts good adjustment, less pathology, interpersonal success and wealth
willpower is something you can train, it is not something you have or not @jasminezahno @josephpelrine

  • @AnnaArmstrong: RT @EverydayKanban: If you use all your willpower to suppress your emotions you have none left for cognitive work. Psychological safety is needed #lascot @LeanAgileScot @JasmineZahno

How much influence does willpower have in professional life?
- finding of this study: "Justice is what the judge ate for breakfast"
=> try to keep your sessions less than 90min and relax (that is not reading mails)

  • @cacorriere: We have about a 90 minute window of focus before we start shortcutting decisions. Diet, sleep, & other context can impact this maximum time. "Justice is what the judge had for breakfast". #lascot https://t.co/UXTZ4zFOeg

How can you boost your willpower?

  • create an environment where it is ok to:
    • be authentic and express emotions
  • align team purpose and:
    • establish motivation
    • focus on one goal at the time
    • help your team to establish habits for important things
  • help an individual to train their willpower by physical exercise, eat regularly and mindfulness practices
    Example: what I (Jasmine) do before a retrospective is this mummy thing (well I am a mummy): I cut fruit and prepare a nice plate of fruit for the team.

  • @AnnaArmstrong: I appreciate that @JasmineZahno and @josephpelrine not only give sources but inform that there is a lack of result replication of the studies. Love both the sources and transparency! #lascot https://t.co/M8YuXgxq1I

Seven plus/minus two

What does this mean?

Paper: George Miller, The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information

What Miller was measuring is the number of things a person can differentiate in a unidirectional scale

=> one reason why when estimating we limit to 7, because we can differentiate higher than that number

that's why NPS is bogus, because it is three part (??? missed that)

Making decisions

=> looking in some biases

Paper: A room with a viewpoint: using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels

making decisions based on Data:
this builds on system one and system two thinking

Answer as quickly as possible:
- Emily's father has three daughters. The first two are named April and May. What is the name of the 3rd daughter? (Emily)
- Ralph received both the 15th highest and the 15th lowest mark in the class. How many students are there in the class? (29)
(Cognitive reflection tests)

=> many people get the answer wrong

When we try to answer fast, we take lots of shortcuts (system 1). Most of the time that works. But some times it does not. It requires system 2.

We are not as good with numbers as we think we are! @JasmineZahno @josephpelrine
We tend to:
- ignore the base-rate
- we tend to follow the law of small numbers => we belief the small numbers more than the high numbers, we can't differentiate between a million or a billion @JasmineZahno @josephpelrine
- overestimate the likelihood of rare events
- overlook statistics when a story is involved

As we are all humans, we are all a little bit psychologists, right? So I understand your psychology. @JasmineZahno @josephpelrine

Paper: Unskilled and Unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments, Dunning-Kruger
=> Dunning-Kurger effect. The inverse is: the Imposter Syndrome

Paper: Emotionally unskilled, unaware, and uninterested ..., Dunning-Kruger

- young doctors tend to think they are better than they are
- law-enforcement officers think they are better at detecting lies

Human Interactions

two biases that are important for my (Jasmine) work:

  • fundamental attribution error: we have the tendency to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors when judging others behavior.
    Example: I was late for the retrospective and we belief that was on purpose, where we miss the situational context of that person

  • IKEA effect: we have the tendency to overvalue things we build ourselves
    Experiment: let professionals build a box and people build a box and ask how much money they would spend on the boxes => people tend to spend far more money on their own box

Smart People = Smart teams ???

Individuals are each smart on their own
Team => consensus => stupid

collective intelligence is not correlated with individual intelligence

It (Collective Intelligence) is positively correlated with 3 things:
- social perceptiveness (empathy)
- equality in conversational turn-taking (psychological safety)
- gender diversity: women tend to be more empathic

  • @EverydayKanban: Trying to build a smart team should not be done by choosing the most traditionally intelligent people. @josephpelrine @JasmineZahno #lascot @LeanAgileScot https://t.co/d6X86WlQYA
  • @cacorriere: Teams of smart people usually don't make smart teams. What helps with the collective intelligence of a team? Empathy, psychological safety, & gender diversity
    #lascot #DevOps https://t.co/u4F0JmaBzk

What does this mean when creating teams:
- make sure there is enough empathy in the team
- get really good facilitation training

Fine for coming late?

I (Joseph) was one of the first certified scrum masters. And during the training we were said: people coming late at a meeting would have to pay a symbolic fine of 1 EUR.

I was not comfortable with that back then.

Research: setting where some people come late because they have to deposit their children, announce the fine 4 weeks in advance => turned out the minute the fine was introduced the number of people being late tripled
turned a moral obligation into a financial obligation that has a ROI
=> it turned out, the financial obligation was still the best choice: I can't find a babysitter at that price

  • @AnnaArmstrong: RT @malk_zameth: « They added a fine for picking your kid late : this tripled the number of people picking their kid late

Because now you transformed what was a moral obligation into a financial transaction and it turns out people will see it as paying a cheap babysitting service » #lascot https://t.co/D5OTEVdQ2A

How can you help your team?

- all models are wrong - some are useful => only use the Tuckman model where appropriate (because everybody knows it and it helps to keep your team stable)

  • @rdevans_net: RT @wouterla: From the paper introducing Tuckman's forming/storming/morning/performing: not usable in other contexts. @josephpelrine @JasmineZahno #lascot https://t.co/kpKQTvXmuy

- accept that group interaction and therefore also team forming is a complex problem
- no sequential step-by-step ...
- ...

Create an environment where good things can happen => self-organisation
- create as much shared context and container as possible

Trust your team and help them deal with interpersonal issues (we don't need to build a kindergarten at work, something we see so often in organisations). @josephpelrine @JasmineZahno

Make rules and agreements explicit and inspect and adapt them

The seductive allure of neuroscience

You can't inflict a team a person that followed a 2-days #scrum course, did something called coaching over the weekend. My (@josephpelrine) wife is neuro-psychiatrist working at a hospital dealing with the consequences of this.

  • @malk_zameth: They shoutout @CatSwetel for her call for people to stop just empowering people that know nothing about a subj But jump bandwagons #lascot https://t.co/e95wXocSZr