Transverse selection in the military

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transverse-selectionThe consequences of transverse selection are now being exposed in the US military, with one Air Force colonel complaining that the Service’s physical fitness standards select against too many airmen who excel at their actual job requirements.

Of course, physical readiness is certainly important to military readiness, but it is no longer the cornerstone of most military occupations, particularly in the Navy and Air Force.

Like those archaic pike and musket formations that still guide our social construction of what military discipline is all about, the over-emphasis of physical over mental readiness is a lingering trope that desperately needs reform.

In the Information Age, “fit for service” means much more than body fat percentage and push-ups per minute, and clinging to out-dated social ideals of the perfect warrior drives a bad selection process that costs us good Service members, which costs lives, and could one day cost us a war.

Category: Uncategorized

Phaticized work : Gladhanding

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhaticized work is defined as a covert and often unconscious form of corruption in which organizational resources are diverted to personal ends by way of social instincts.

Phatic is a term borrowed from linguistics, where it refers to speech that serves a social function rather than conveying information. For our purposes, phatic refers to any workplace activity that perhaps appears to serve the organization’s mission, but actually serves a social function that either does not genuinely support the mission or undermines it.

Today’s example of phaticized work is gladhanding.

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More proof of the corruptive effects of phatic elements in the workplace

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transverse-selectionUniversity of Pennsylvania social network researcher Lynn Wu recently discovered a perfect example of transverse selection.

After analyzing several years of anonymized electronic communications from 8000+ employees of a tech firm, she found that while instrumental communications about practical matters drove productivity, social communications about sports and primate food-sharing rituals—like lunches and coffee breaks—drove retention during lay-offs.

More importantly, she found that these two types of communication were substitutes for each other, meaning that they can’t occupy the same network space at the same time.

In simpler terms: practical thinkers did the mission, but social thinkers kept their jobs when push came to shove.

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Follow-up on Ebola : Practical thinking is strategic, managing expectations is tactical

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ebolaNot to stray too far into politics, but one of the purposes of New Gov Office is to save government from the corruption and paralysis of tactical obsession.

Recent events indicate a lot of upside-down thinking in our approach to the Ebola crisis.

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Some punctuation we can do without

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We occasionally need to bring our organizational discussion down a notch in intensity, and talk about some rather mundane principles of communication.

Today? Punctuation.

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What to watch for in the Ebola post-game analysis : Avoiding the people factor

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ebolaWhat will we see in response to revelations that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (THPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped the ball on persons infected with or at risk from the Ebola virus?

At New Gov Office, we expect to see the social factors of failure aggressively suppressed, in the all-too-typical hesitation to assign personal consequences for failed performance.

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Phaticized work – Social hijacking of workplace activities is an on-the-books form of embezzlement

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shaking handsThis introduces our series on phaticized work, a covert and often unconscious form of corruption in which organizational resources are diverted to personal ends by way of social instincts.

It’s an on-the-books form of embezzlement, because instead of shifting money outside the organization—requiring the books to be “cooked”—phaticized work commandeers official workplace activities for private ends that have nothing to do with the mission of the organization.

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Transverse Selection as a source of inefficiency and incompetence

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I once worked for a government office admin professional, one of the most powerful GS employees in his agency at the time, who boasted about rejecting a well-qualified candidate for a computer programming position because the guy had worn white socks with dress pants and dress shoes.

We see interview advice all the time targeting the interviewee, advice on grooming and speech and how to compose and format a résumé. “Five Huge Mistakes You Should Avoid During an Interview” is a web headline sure to go viral.

We don’t often see advice for interviewers and hiring officials steering them away from mistakes, however. We seem to simply assume they’ll do the right thing. They’re trained professionals, after all.

This is a dumb assumption.

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Let’s keep our symbols simple – The Slash

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There’s a growing trend to refer to constant business operations as 24/7 rather than 24×7. For math-savvy individuals, this is a headdesk-worthy trend.

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Category: informational

How “Dunning Blindness” can doom an organization

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Dr. David Dunning is already known for the infamous Dunning-Kruger Effect, a phenomenon that is of core importance to organizational theory: People who are incompetent in a given task tend to overestimate their ability, and tend to be resistant to evidence and feedback about their incompetence.

This inability of the less competent to assess their own ability extends to interpersonal assessments. As Dr. Dunning puts it, “To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people.”

We call this phenomenon Dunning Blindness, and would paraphrase the principle this way: The less competent are generally incapable of recognizing the more competent. Think of it in terms of color vision. If Jay can only see in black and white, he’s not going to be a very good judge of the decorating skills of Bob, who has perfect color vision.

As you can imagine, Dunning Blindness has enormous implications for hiring, placement, and promotion. In fact, it likely accounts for a significant portion of inefficiency within organizations, if not a majority of it.

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