118: The Hazard of Finding Truth in Scientific Research (Part 1)


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Carol’s Question for us: Review the need for a method to examine what lies behind the research, the interpretation, and the application into business programs.

Business second opinion has implemented a resource for viewers to call in and leave suggestions for future podcast content. This week a Microsoft leader brought to light the science offered by the new neuroscience studies brought into the business. The subject struck Carol as an intriguing topic to dissect the scientific method and its lack of questioning human worldviews.  In this podcast, she gives light to how one can be blinded by their own biases and give light to how one’s worldview shapes their success.


Five worldviews over human life


Carol deciphers five worldviews that have emerged in different eras of human life. She notes that we are led by a few which are shifting what can be conceived of by we are often dragging old eras with us.  

  1. The oldest worldview that pervaded all societies might be called the Royalty worldview.
    • Based on the idea that people are born to rule and lead because they are in a family of intelligence and deserve it.
    • This was what drove the idea of Rulers, Church powers. They were ordained, usually by God, and others were their subjects to be guided by their wisdom—or power.
    • We have less research driven by this but the subject continues to emerge and be open as to whether something people are born with or can be learned. It is often implicit and effects methodology.
  2. The second worldview that emerged centuries later is the machine worldview, which became dominant in the industrial revolution.
    • Its foundation is in the belief that human are like machines and you have to import energy into them and create structure like you would a machine. It cannot be self-fueling.
    • Like the machine which needs gasoline, it needs the increment of input to improve the productivity of production, focusing on labor.
    • It is often called Scientific Management or Taylorism (after Frederick Taylor).
    • It was created with the worldview of humans as a part of the machine system and therefore the “science” studying humans as working like machines.
      • Scientific Management was framed by the worldview of humans as fixed systems that could be studied like a machine and then the results gave a way to do that.
      • The worldview from the moment of sourcing ideas to the application were all framed by this worldview and was not neutral in their study.
    • As with many ‘studies’ that are found to be scientific they are later displaced by another worldview and fall out of favor more and more over time. But some people, don’t move along including what we call science.
      • So, the first question we have to ask is ‘what worldview is guiding, the sourcing of ideas, design of the question to be studied, design of the methods, conducting the study, interpreting the study and then design application for the interpretation of the findings.”
        • In this case, it led to time and motion studies, assembly lines that removed any investment in the outcome except for personal return. Most manufacturing gave this up long ago, but the work forms still exist.
        • You will see people as interchangeable parts. That is fundamental to the machine worldview. It takes some digging into a proposed study and how people got to that point.  You have to ask in each of the six phases does it seemed to be based on humans as part of the production line, or does it see them as alive and guiding the work. We will get more than that in Worldview #4 and #5 in the next podcast.
        • You will also see studies as trying to isolate variables as if people can be divided up like the machine. E.g. their motivation, the effect of skills training on productivity.
          • “Parts” of human activity are studied on something they want to know. Everything else is held as “fixed” and cannot move or be manipulated in the study.
          • One modern example is the idea that everything is done with the brain in mind and the science of the brain. So-called NeuroScience. It is the constant, isolated variable which gives internal processing, ability to be self-governing and many other things that cannot be studied by looking at the brain, into a fixed place.
          • If we want to look at other ways of being human and participating in systems, we have to create another separate study. E.g. we have done this with emotional intelligence for some time and a group of practitioners has treated it as an isolated overarching variable. But it leaves out more. So, organizations end up with a dozen or more programs trying to cover it all. And one program like emotional intelligence dominates for a while, only to be overtaking as King by neuroscience and now there is Design Thinking which is a makeover of problem-solving which is also Machine based thinking. With machines, you can only fix problems unless you design a whole new technology which is not part of design thinking in the current versions.

       3. The next era of Worldview we might call the Behavioral Worldview.

  • After Scientific management was shown up for its shortfalls by one enterprising Cognitive Psychologist, it took a few years to shift worldview in a way that was embraced in the societal norms.
  • John Watson, the founder of Behaviorism, from his chair at Johns Hopkins University saw a problem and presented it to major industrials with a request to fund research they quickly embraced.
    • His worldview saw humans as able to gum up the smooth flow designed by their Machine view into Scientific Management.
    • He pointed out to J.P. MorganAndrew CarnegieAndrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller, among other, industrial leaders in the first and second industrial revolutions, that they had a problem.
      • They could not control their workers in the same way technology had given them control of production. But he could do that for him if they funded his lab to study human behavior. Which he received and proceeded to study rats.

Recognizing the truth and guidelines in the Behavioral Worldview

  • First, find out the history of the findings they are working with. If it is in a lab, it was likely not humans. And if it was with humans, like still isolating the variable and was likely still designed with the underlying idea that people need external influence and manipulation to change. e.g. reinforcement, incentives, rewards, the extinguishing of behavior from feedback (part machine and part behavioral).  
  • There are organization and leadership interventions assumed from the beginning, studied in isolation and suggested in the results. It is often showing up in leadership and management research. The organization and its wise leaders (hear royalty worldview).
  • Many of the offerings from the behavioral view are now kinder and gentler versions of behavioral science to ameliorate the worst of early external management and ways to improve the downside.
  • For example, how to do feedback so people ask for it.
  • You will see in the next Worldviews that are displacing the behaviorists, that humans don’t need to ask for feedback for growth and change. It is still assumed to be an externally managed process which people agree to and there take it better.
    • NeuroScience ideas are offering most of their interpretation of the brain science with the behavior Worldview still as the frame even when they say they are not. You can tell because it still assumes external stimulation or intervention needed (and therefore requesting it or managing it somewhats in performance reviews) is not behavioral. But it is all still external and having individuals getting the truth from others that they will never see themselves. A 100-year-old idea which has been set aside with those who embrace the Self-governing Worldview. I understand why the Neuroleadership Institute offers their ideas still permeated with the behavioral view. Their clients, like Microsoft and others, are still operating from that Worldview.


Example of examining a Worldview


David Rock, founder of Neuro Leadership in Harvard Business Review Feb 22, 2018, Tell Employees What You Want Them to Strive For (in as Few Words as Possible) and Strategy and Leadership August 27, 2009, Managing with the Brain in Mind.

  • This is not about the intentions of The NeuroLeadership Institute.  While praising the intentions for their work, Carol suggests the institute would take their success a lot further if they had to capabilities and plan to examine the six phases, which we all go through, in seeking to understand through research and to look at each phase from  understanding how their Worldview is affecting what they see and espouse.
  • For example, Harvard Business Review, Feb 22, 2018, has an article entitled, “Tell Employees What You Want them to Strive For (in as Few Words as Possible)” by David Rock.
    • It sounds like being clear and direct to avoid confusion for most people. But, the title gives us lots of clues the perspective of the interpretation of research and design for application. It speaks from a Worldview of the idea that people need to be filled up, have an energy import from outside, in order to know how to proceed and be focused. A Machine view of a Closed system that cannot gain its own path, but must be told. It also exposes a Worldview
  • From Managing with the Brain in Mind in Strategy and Business.
    • Machine Worldview is based on Existence or Fixed View: They speak as if the brain scanning tells them what something is and how it happens. E.g. “understand what goes on in the brain when people feel rejected by others. (the research question) versus a living system view and Self-governing view where people can be developed to not have a reaction to such a situation. People are seen as like machines that outside experts design ways to accommodate to a fixed response. More examples under the Living Systems and Humanist Worldviews.
    • Hypothesis Stage is also from a fixed worldview- “humans evolved a social connection in conjunction with physical brain region because for humans it is necessary for survival.” It is a fact that cannot be changed.” They report research showing that, “When imaginary people, in a research staged game with the subject, get shut out by others, they feel angry, snubbed and judged. Even when they learn they are not be unfairly treated because there were not real people involved. they will still, they feel angry.” And now you have to compensate and manage around this rather than develop the people, which is done very effectively if you have the Worldviews that evolved much later. They are seeing the brain as  machine much like Descartes did or a clock as Sir Isaac Newton assumed.
    • And reading the articles you can see how Stage Five, Interpretation of research,  is also fixed: they are state in the article, in present tense, but as if it is permanent, using static language, that shows the research shows humans as fixed, rather than it can be changed. They do not see the brain is malleable and the management suggestions are all ‘what managers need to do to account for and manage this design “seeming” flaw of the human brain function.  Quoting: “Most processes operating in the background when the brain is at rest are involved in thinking about other people and yourself.” In Living Systems Worldview, we call this being in an “internal considering state,” not as that is how they are forever.
      • As a result of this interpretation, they are not advising their clients to develop this self-managing capacity in people but assume it must be accommodated and managers change how they are managing. “Leaders… engage their employees … and create and environments that foster productive change.” People are not developed to be self-managing.
    • Rock goes to great lengths to explain they are not using behavioral theory and learned that it is not enough. But they are using a more archaic Worldview of Brain and being as a fixed machine that can and must be managed from the outside. And work practices designed to accommodate this fixed brain. But like machines they are seen as, the environment is designed to manage them. This is also embedded in the behavioral Worldview. Humans are assumed to not have insight and there is no internal processing. Behavior can only be studied by others looking at them and manipulating them by external processes, whether environment design as here. Or incentives as the behavioral theorist suggest. The externally determined belief is inherent in both World Views. Behavioral theory was built because they wanted to give managers and owners more power to change people.  Even Rock admits that is flawed theory but does not do to the next evolved perspective, but falls backward to the Machine Worldview.


SCARF Social Behavior Model

The suggestion that the development of human capacity to deal with these shortfalls is actually possible is only a hint missing the proven ability to do so, much less having been done and much more beyond just awareness, is not included in the changed practices in the SCARF model they use. The offerings are all manager and management practice accommodates to deal with the discoveries of reactions people have (seen in brain research). SCARF is he acronym for how to accommodate. This is all about Worldview in the sixth phase-application translation. It is all based on a Machine Worldview.

  1. Status– “avoid organizational processes that create threat to status. Give Praise (a behavioral process that undermines the three core human capacities in a Living System Worldview, e.g.  internal locus of control.) This to me is criminal since it leaves behind human potential development of each human in a system
  2. Certainty– that the brain needs predictable. It this is what you design for you design our resilience which Living Systems world view shows us how to develop and people don’t need certainty. But the undeveloped person will want this. NLI advised creating a perception of certainty to build confidence instead of developing people to love uncertainty which is the only culture that works for innovation. Dumb down by sharing everything more transparently. The plans, the reasoning. Structure. Be specific. Break down complexity into simple. My goodness. This is such a low image of what humans can rise to. The latter two Worldviews who how to build capability not have to accommodate to it.
  3. Autonomy‚—to decrease stress, give people more freedom. “even the perception of reducing autonomy generates a threat response.” The Humanist Worldview knows this is the wrong working of the base brain. One that has not been developed. The introduction of Developmental Organization completely eliminate the need for accommodation by building infrastructure for development in readiness to be self-governing, self-managing people working with promises they make to the market and pursue in the context of a Corporate Strategy they members help create, not got to know all about. More on this in The Regenerative Business written from a Living Systems and embedded Self-Governing Worldview.
  4. Relationship: Rock cautions that people must be put together carefully that minimizes the potential for threat responses. Always protecting the people from their own undeveloped brain capacity. Find a way for them to recognize one another as in the same tribe”. In a Living System view. People self-organize around the external world that all workers are connected to. They are in Market Team and discover together and decide what to do.  It shifts where the `1identity is. Not with other workers who look like us or don’t. But with the customer, Earth, Communities. They shift from internal considering (thinking about ourselves and effects of all events on us)  which is what drives all the SCARF model , to external considering (what we serve). It is a very rapid way to redefine relationship and people build those connections very quickly from internal to external considering and identity
  5. Fairness— the advice to leaders is to be careful about playing favorites and not trigger the unfairness thought. To make things more transparent so that all can see. In other words, to calm this fear by changing the leader’s awareness versus developing them all, workers and leaders, to work in self-to self-relationships.  Developing the capacity to see the world and work this way, e.g. Role to role, takes about 1/3 of the needed accommodations away. Plus, it makes more whole human beings who can exercise the whole being. They will not have to always see the organization as needing to accommodate their human brain fragilities, even when they change jobs.


Six questions to ask in understanding the phases  we go through to examine how our Worldview is affecting what we see and espouse.

  1. Where did the ideas come from that drove this research? Listen for the language they use. This takes practice to hear the history (which I try to imbed in every podcast to develop a level of Critical thinking Skills in this regard. How was the study done? If brain science, what do the researchers consider in finding the question/hypothesis they start from. It is an isolated variable, about humans as external determined. If you did, and LISTEN TO THEIR LANGUAGE- an amazing clue to the Worldview- you can tell how they are framing it
  2. Ask why that question was chosen? What was it narrowed that way? And review the worldview against it, the language and the methodology? Is it based on fixed humans, individuals to be managed from outside, averages of people. Don’t let people swarm you with case studies (which got really going strong with Self-Governing Worldview) and brain research. Most brain research is after being one variable, is imbued with behavioral assumptions (e.g. externally determined, based on averages from the transfer of mammal studies to humans)
  3. Now examine the methodology design of the study from these five Worldviews. Learn to see if the research methodology is founded in these. They likely are so the question if finding out how.
  4. (5 and 6) And the conduct of the researchers in the conduct of the research. This is harder but was core to my dissertation work with the doctoral candidate I had keeping a journal using these World views at these six phases in their work (e.g. sourcing of ideas, selection of hypothesis/question to explore, design of methodology, conduct by researchers carrying out the methodology, creation of the summary of findings and  mental activity involved in transfer into practices. Every stage is likely to lose the worldview you think you are in. I find that people routinely take my work conceived, designed and delivered from a living systems worldview and dumb it down to a lessor, incomplete, Worldview, mostly to protect their people from harm (confusion, rejection of way of working, all out of fear they will not be able to manage it from that worldview. Or they as a leader will fail in using it. Or because they do not do as  often say, “take risks” to do the more powerful path and grow yourself to be able to deliver. It takes a lot of courage to question our own way of engaging with the world and education. Nothing has to be implemented quickly but the mind needs to be built that can work with its own Worldviews and ability to choose them and engage them intentional.


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2 Responses to 118: The Hazard of Finding Truth in Scientific Research (Part 1)

  1. Avatar
    Frank Thun September 13, 2018 at 6:49 am #

    Very helpful, esp. the hint that neuroscience-based leadership models still rests not even on a behavioral but upon an archaic Worldview of Brain and being as a fixed machine that can and must be managed from the outside.

    I think I understand the “living systems” worldview to a certain level. What I wonder about is: Is the “Living Systems” view actionable? What kind of interventions can one do in the short and mid-term?

    I know that actionable is a secondary concern if compared to “truth”. Still, I wonder about what can be done. I am stuck with building an environment where people can perform. And that sounds like a behavioral way of thinking, of manipulating people into certain behaviors.

  2. Avatar
    Caroll Sanford March 30, 2019 at 9:46 am #

    Living systems is a worldview which changes what you work on and how you do so. It changes the actions. For example, the major action is education the mind to think and see systems as alive. I have educated business members to see customers on “seeing how they live” their lives and how to design products that are more innovative and unique versus the dead version of market research that customers answer questions. As Steve Jobs said, don’t ask them what they want or need. That creates no innovative space. Watch them “living their lives” and give them what will change that. Most people cannot do that. So educating the mind that sees things as alive. I have over 100 case stories in my four books on how to “DO” Living Systems work.

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