The Digitization of Psychology

An assumption is often made that knowledge can or will bring about change in human behavior. That viewpoint ignores the reality that emotions play a major role in changing behavior because there are so many knots in the wood of human nature.

In my interview of Amy Bucher, I asked her about live experts vs. avatars vs. chatbots. For consumers interacting with a digital product online, which of these three approaches is most successful in effecting change?

What her research suggests is that avatars serve as an ideal middle ground between a mechanistic approach (chatbots) and a costly, fully human approach (live experts). Why? The answer lies in emotions. By using an avatar’s face on screen, an intimate enough connection is simulated. At the same time, online users don’t feel at risk of being condescended to by a live expert. In other words, the emotion of trust—of being shown respect—gives the nod to avatars, and a reason for live experts to improve their EQ skills.

The Psychology of Using Design to Motivate Change

Released today: episode #30 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Amy Bucher, the author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Amy Bucher, PhD, works in Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow and previously worked at CVS Health and Johnson & Johnson. She received her A.B. from Harvard University and her M.A. and PhD in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan.

This episode addresses both the barriers and levers to achieving behavioral change. Among the barriers are cognitive biases, like a Status Quo Bias, as well as growing both emotionally and mentally exhausted by changes that require too much willpower on behalf of the user. Opportunities to promote change include having accountability buddies to help guide you, and avatars that have proven highly effective in providing information in a trust-building, nonjudgmental manner.

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Quote by Everett M. Rogers from his book, Diffusion of Innovations. "Only 2.5% of people like to be guinea pigs for something new."

“Problems, the problem is you –what ‘ya gonna do, you’re a problem,” snarls Johnny Rotten on the only studio album The Sex Pistols ever recorded. While punk rock isn’t the force it was in 1977, the problem of trying to solve problems, both business and personal remains central to our daily lives. Enter Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg with his own take on the matter. Given that only one in 25 of us is open-minded about participating in something new, our problem solving could benefit from a methodology to push us forward. 

Here is the Danish author’s in a nutshell:

  • Frame the problem– Create a written statement that avoids being too vague, too ambitious, or else not ambitious enough (because a preferred solution is implied).
  • Look outside the frame– Consider expertise outside your group, plus look to prior events and hidden influences for a fresh perspective on the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Rethink the goal– Understand the benefit of the benefit you seek on order to arrive at a more valuable solution.
  • Identify solution sources– Are there instances where others have already solved a version of this problem? If so, learn from those examples.
  • Finally, gain perspective– Admit that you and the various shareholders interested in problem-solving have biases and may be contributing to the problem as well as blocking a superior solution. Remember that successful collaboration requires vulnerability which, in turn, requires fostering an atmosphere of trust for everyone involved.

Stop Solving the Wrong Problem

Released today: episode #29 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, the author of What’s Your Problem? To Solve Your Toughest Problems, Change the Problems You Solve. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Photograph of the author, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg and his book "What's Your Problem?" for Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast

Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg is a globally recognized expert on innovation and problem solving whose clients have ranged from blue-chip companies to The United Nations. His work has been featured in The Economist and the Financial TimesHR Magazine named him a “Top 20 International Thinker.” 

This episode covers the author’s Rapid Reframing Method for solving people-related problems in particular. Specific topics include: how emotions can either facilitate or hinder the challenging of established mental models, how reframing fits the top 3 skills of importance for the future economy, and why “vagueness” is the enemy of change.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc

Coping with Covid-19 Related Stress

University of Phoenix Quote "68% of Americans feel that everything is out of their control"

The number of Covid-19 cases is rising quickly again in America. If Donald Trump’s post-election shenanigans mean he’s serious about running for President again in four years, then it’s time to prepare for the political equivalent of Covid-24. No wonder so many Americans feel uneasy. 

Anxiety is rooted in a feeling that you’re not up to handling the circumstances you face. That sensation can trigger profound, prolonged sadness (depression) because your situation feels hopeless.

 Fortunately, the topic of my podcast this week involves seven habits people can foster to help them cope with adversity. Depending on your personality type and existing interests in life, you may gravitate to one or more of the following habits:

  • Three ways to make physical connections: by 1) exploring nature, 2) by having a household pet, and 3) by listening to your own body through breathing exercises like those yoga teaches.
  • Three ways to enhance your cognitive appreciation through: 4) enjoying the power of laughter, 5) music, and 6) stories. 
  • The final habit is 7) spiritual: using prayers and meditation to anchor in something you do control, your own values and sense of being. 

Rewiring Your Brain to Escape Stress & Anxiety

Released today: episode #28 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Christophe Morin, the author of The Serenity Code: How Brain Plasticity Helps You Live Without Stress, Anxiety and Depression (SAD)Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

photo of author Christophe Morin and his book cover "The Serenity Code". The title to EQ Spotlight podcast "Rewiring Your Brain to Escape Stress & Anxiety"

Dr. Christophe Morinhas received multiple speaking, publishing, and research awards during his career. He holds an MBA from BGSU, and both a MA and a Ph.D. in Media Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. The episode focuses on three transformational steps: better understanding your personality and motivations, practicing self-love, and finally choosing among seven habits those that may best help sustain you and bring you more inner calm.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

The Death of Tired Sales Assumptions

Black and white photo of Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock with arrows to facial expressions and their emotions expressed via facial coding, in the play "Death of a Salesman".
Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock on stage in Henry Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Two plays have most defined how we see salespeople. One is shown here, from the original staging on Broadway of Henry Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman. There’s rage, but most of all there’s sadness in a drama in which Lee J. Cobb (playing the broken-down salesman Willy Lowman) moans: “The only thing you’ve got in this world is what you can sell.” In vain his wife, played by Mildred Dunnock, tries to comfort him.  

“The only thing you’ve got in this world is what you can sell.”

Lee J. Cobb in Death of a Salesman

What’s the other play? It’s David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Again, rage plays a role but really the key emotion is the fear that gets instilled in a crew of salesmen. From the film adaptation that added the character of Blake, played by Alec Baldwin, here is the movie’s most famous moment: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see the second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.”

“We’re adding… to this month’s sales contest…first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado…Third prize is, you’re fired.”

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

Let’s broaden and update the picture. As Daniel H. Pink pointed out in To Sell is Human, we’re all salespeople. Something like 40% of our time on the job is devoted to cajoling—persuading—selling others on what we would like to see happen.

What’s the real key emotion of effective sales nowadays? It’s surprise: eyes-wide-open curiosity. As Colleen Stanley points out in this week’s podcast, a salesperson who’s constantly learning about prospects, their needs, their hopes, their fears, and how to better connect with them, including online during Covid-19, is who you actually want to hire. Yes, steak knives are for losers but not in the way Blake meant. Serving up spoonfuls of comfort and hope would be more like it.

A Few Sales Tips

Using EQ to Build a Great Sales Team

Released today: episode 19 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Colleen Stanley, the author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. 

What does it take to connect successfully with somebody you’re trying to “win over”? 

Stanley is the president of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm. She’s been named by Salesforce as one of the top sales influencers of the 21stcentury and also a Top 30 Global Sales guru.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • In hiring, what should you be on against in both yourself and the job candidate? An eye for the “something” missing that you may or may not be able to resolve is one key.
  • Exploring a variety of buyer personas, including specifically: The Poker Face prospect, The Nitpicker, and The Glad-Hander. How best to dislodge an incumbent vendor so you can make the sale?
  • What is mean by helping a person on your sales team “untell” a story that is hindering that person’s effectiveness.

Dan Hill, Ph.D., is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Why Six to Seven Participants Is Ideal

What size work team is most efficient? Hint: the number of fishermen in this 19th century painting provides the answer. Tom Peters has suggested that teams shouldn’t be bigger than what two large pizzas can feed (about six to seven people). Along those same lines – a listener should ideally be within five feet of a speaker to hear well. Sitting almost shoulder-to-shoulder, that precept limits a group to no more than seven members.

In a year where Learning Pods are sprouting up as private tutors offer in-person learning to small groups of children, I’m following suit. Forget anonymous-feeling webinars; I prefer to foster a sense of community and intimacy, through a highly interactive experience. Until a safe vaccine arrives to save us all, I’m launching EQ Learning Pods capped at six participants each.

The content will cover six areas:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Manager-led Workplace Culture
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Market Research
  • Customer Experience (CX)

The insights presented in these pods arise from my 20+ years of research studies conducted for over 50% of the world’s top 100 companies, plus the information contained in my eight books, speeches, books I’ve been influenced by, and what I’ve learned from hosting great authors on my podcast. The pods have been distilled into 45-minute select portions of content to spur questions and discussion. To learn more, go to www.sensorylogic.com for details, and to enroll. EQ Learning pod sessions are limited to six persons at the cost of $25 a person. I look forward to being your guide!

Deep Listening & Seeing, Deeper Learning

Touching the Soul: Musical and Psychoanalytical Listening

Released today: episode 18 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Roger Kennedy, the author of The Power of Music: Psychoanalytic Explorations. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why is music so powerful in eliciting emotions?

Now at The Child and Family Practice in London, Kennedy is a training analyst and past President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. This is his fourteenth book.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The ability of music to reward close listening because of qualities like movement and the web of interactions involved.  
  • How music can draw on and has parallels to a range of situations, like “baby talk” sounds shared by mother and child, and the sounds animals make (especially in mating rituals). 
  • Discussion of parallels between music and entering a dream state, rich with free association as opposed to a concrete, logically coherent “narrative”

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Working Remotely, Feeling Likewise

In The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, there’s the entry: “ALONE, adj. In bad company.” On the packaging of this mock Fisher-Price product offering, the despair of a crying baby is a burden wine promises to relieve. While “Covid-19” will win hands-down as 2020’s Word of the Year, being “remote” from colleagues, from happiness, and from one’s other numbed feelings, should be on the runners-up list. Look at the upside: at least this parody product isn’t cross-branded with Clorox to include ingesting some bleach to solve your woes!

A World of Zooming and Zapping

Another runner-up for Word of the Year in 2020: Zoom, in all its manifestations. For everything from conference calls to being fired.

Communicating Virtually Is Like Eating Pringles Forever

Released today: episode 16 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Nick Morgan, the author of Can You Hear Me? Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of Author Nick Morgan and his book cover "Can you Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World. The Book cover is blue with yellow and green communication doodles. The title of the podcast episode is Communicating Virtually is Like Eating Pringles Forever.

How can we protect ourselves amid the emptiness and treachery of virtual communication?

Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. He’s written for Fortune 50 CEOs as well as for political and educational leaders, and coached people for events ranging from TED talks to giving testimony to Congress.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What’s the likeliest way to lose the trust of others during a conference call, and how can you best hope to restore it? 
  • Why are most online webinars a disaster and what kind of format improves them best?
  • If powerpoint presentations are no longer the way to go in selling to prospects in online calls, what’s the alternative?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Adverse Circumstances, and a Bad Boss

Now blissfully many years ago, I survived two bad bosses in a row. The first was so capriciously mean-spirited that one day on the job our department secretary, a sweet, devout older woman, called me over with glee to tell me the latest joke making the rounds. “Why is Linda going on vacation?” The punchline was so she could write a new introduction to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Half a dozen lawsuits against the company for being subjected to “mental cruelty” would soon be filed by my colleagues. 

As to the other boss, well, that person ran a public relations operation with New York City real estate moguls as clients (Donald Trump wasn’t among them). By my second week at that firm, my neck was iron-tight and incapable of turning even a quarter-inch either direction with ease due to the stress of working there. When I confided my condition to a coworker, she breezily remarked: “Oh, everybody gets sick here by their second week on the job.”

Many of us have had bad bosses, but the two men I’m highlighting this week have it worse than most everyone. They’re stuck in dire circumstances. The first is obviously Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has to deal with the coronavirus and Trump’s back-biting. The other is Bill Stepien, Trump’s new manager of a campaign dealing with both Trump’s self-induced chaos and a double-digit deficit in the presidential race against Joe Biden. Fauci is certainly the kinder spirit of the two men. Stepien’s biggest claim to fame is being fired by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie for exhibiting “callous indifference” amid Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. Come to think of it that makes for a third, bad boss. That’s because I had taken on being manager of Christie’s first, brief foray into politics. The lure? Christie was challenging a fellow Republican who had claimed women were incapable of being good judges given their menstrual cycles.

What do Fauci and Stepien have to do now? Engage in what I call “reverse innovation”: whereby the situation is so dire that you have to practice creativity and triage both aggressively at the same time in order to have any chance of success. I’ll be elaborating on what “reverse innovation” means in a business context in my video below.

Reverse Innovation: Creativity & Triage

Creativity & Innovation, Demystified

Released today: episode #11 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring Nir Bashan, author of The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode, hosted on the New Books Network (NBn).

Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight Podcast features a photo of Nir Bashan and his book's cover, The Creator Mindset

Why is the corporate fallback being “analytical” (as opposed to nurturing creativity)?

Bashan is a creativity expert who has spent the past two decades devising a formula for sustained creativity. Besides his blue-chip corporate clients, Bashan has also worked on album, movies and advertisements for people like Rod Stewart and Woody Harrelson, won a Clio and been nominated for an Emmy. This is his first book.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Creativity’s three unlikely personal traits (hint: courage is one of them).
  • Why self-doubt and complacency are both threats to successful innovation, and how to overcome each in turn.
  • Design obstacles Bashan has witnessed, plus five more from my book Emotionomics.

Dan Hill, PhD is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Teamwork Versus a Noose

NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.
Joy - the muscle around the eye tightens, creating a twinkle in the eye
happiness - broad smiles, cheeks raised
NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.

Yes, there are people who consider happiness a “trivial” emotion in the business world. “Back to your desk and get to work.” Those might be the words of a domineering, old-fashioned boss. But truth be told, happiness is essentially about embracing others, yourself and new ideas. It’s an emotion that grows the pie. I’ve been thinking about the power of happiness this week because the country’s boss-man, Donald Trump, decided it would profit his campaign or simply his id to attack NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace in a tweet. Wallace’s response: “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”

The noose found in Wallace’s stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama by his race team led to NASCAR in general and racing legend Richard Petty in particular embracing the sport’s only full-time black driver. Due to Wallace’s cap and Petty’s sunglasses, I can’t say for sure. But given their expansive, inviting smiles, I would bet big-time that both guys are actually exhibiting joyous, true smiles, whereby the muscle around the eye tightens and creates a twinkle in the eye.

Happiness is also on my mind this week because, for my podcast, I interviewed a cheerful Caroline Stokes. One of her book’s best ideas is that a new hire would benefit from a small support team meeting at the end of that person’s first week on the job, and again at the 50- and 100-day mark, to help the new hire navigate without “crashing”. Such assistance made me think of Wallace and his 43 team yet again because doesn’t a support team function in effect like a NASCAR pit crew? Change the tires, refuel the tank, and you’re quickly on your way. If only the Trump administration’s response to covid-19 could function half as well.

Getting Up to Speed in a New Job

Released today: episode 9 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Caroline Stokes, author of Elephants Before Unicorns. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe, and give a rating and review on iTunes.

Photo of guest author Caroline Stokes and her book Elephants Before Unicorns, on Episode 9 of Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast "Do You Want To Be an Ostrich?"
This episode covers on-boarding, diversity and more.

How does avoidance of conflict ultimately create more conflict in the workplace?

Stokes is the CEO of FORWARD, and the podcast host of The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter. She is an award-winning leadership coach and thinker, partnering with global leaders throughout their career and leadership cycle.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The emotions that inadvertently inspire the behavior of both push-over and bully bosses, and the likely emotional responses of their direct reports.
  • How the risk of employee disengagement can get short-circuited before it happens.
  • What are steps that can ensure a better on-boarding experience for the new employee, including CEO’s (whose turn-over rate is 50% within the first 18 months on the job).

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

When Change “Gets to You”

Real change is never easy. Witness the couple made famous this week for brandishing guns in front of their five-story mansion in west St. Louis. A stream of Black Lives Matter protesters are walking to the mayor’s house nearby. It’s anger meets anger, and fortunately nobody got hurt.

Now, I admit that when I first saw the media coverage, I half-wanted to laugh. The guy reminds me more of Ned Beatty’s hapless suburbanite character in Deliverance than he does a stalwart Burt Reynolds. So I expected to find fear on the guy’s face. But make no mistake about it, the man and his wife are both mad. Eyebrows lowered, mouths tight, they’re determined but not equally irate. Her eyes are glaringly wide and her mouth is tighter, more defiant than her husband’s. It’s probably good that the wife was carrying the lesser weapon of the two. When I watched the guy on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show, I was surprised to hear that he’s apparently a Black Lives Matter supporter.

All of this just goes to show that when change comes – no matter how warranted – human beings are unlikely to take it well. This is true for work and home life, too. Truly embracing change is the topic and expertise of this week’s guest on my podcast. For her book, she conducted research that found that when companies re-organize to address a changing marketplace (think “needed” change), one-fifth of all managers qualify as worried skeptics. Could that number be higher? The St Louis couple’s reaction suggests that change can “get to us” in alarming ways, even when needed change comes to our own neighborhood.

Amid Change, What Type of Employee Are You?

Released today: episode 8 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast, featuring Charlene Li, the author of The Disruption Mindset:Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail

IdeaPress Publishing 2019

What does it take for a company’s culture to enable ongoing growth?

Li is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership, and is also the co-author of Groundswell. She is the Founder and Senior Fellow at Altimeter, a research and consulting firm, as well as a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Five kinds of employees, and how that that model feeds into the four archetypes of disruptive leaders: steadfast managers, realist optimists, worried skeptics, and agent provocateurs.
  • How mid-size companies can avoid the “permafrost” layer that limits the flexibility of larger companies. 
  • How is the challenge of being a disruptive leader different if you’re female or a minority member versus being a white male?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Anger Management: Emojis Cloud the Picture

Want to send a mad-as-hell email, but you’re not sure which anger emoji to use? Welcome to chaos. My quick study of over a dozen anger emoji options reveals ambiguity and errors. The two most common depictions of anger show widened eyes combined with downward, inward pinched eyebrows. But that pair of facial muscle activities conveys fear as much as it does anger. Also commonly shown: an open mouth that suggests the presence of surprise and fear rather than anger.

Probably the worst anger emoji belongs to emojidex. After all, a distorted mouth depicts feeling sadness and disgust, not anger. What’s the most accurate anger emoji? The one from OpenMoji. Besides the usual eyes wide and eyebrows down combination, it alone shows a mouth with the lips pressed tight together. The second best anger emoji comes from Facebook. The company has added vertical wrinkles between the eyes with lowered eyebrows. That visual detail emphasizes a specific version of anger, focused concern.

Oddly, none of the anger emojis I reviewed had all of the most reliable tell-tale signs of anger. There are three of them: narrowed eyes, a jutting chin, lips pressed hard together (the opposite of an open, gaping mouth). Time to head back to the drawing board for graphic artists seeking to depict anger.

Anger’s Anatomy – A Deeper Look

Harnessing the Power of Perceptions

Released today: episode 7 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring Emily Balcetis, the author of Clearer, Closer, Better:How Successful People See the World. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Ballantine Books 2020

How can we improve our productivity by literally seeing the world differently than before?

Balcetis is an associate professor psychology at New York University. She received her PhD from Cornell University and has authored over 70 scientific publications in addition to being a TED speaker.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What are the four general perceptual shifts that research suggest make a huge difference in improving our odds of success in tackling projects and other initiatives. 
  • Which emotion or emotions may best fit or spur on each of those four strategies.
  • Of all the research studies that went into this book, which one is Balcetis’s favorite. Why did this optical “trick” lead to double-digit growth in the likelihood of making progress.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.