Tag Archives: Cognition

Career Navigation by Embracing Uncertainty

John Krumboltz

John Krumboltz

John Krumboltz of Stanford echoes the message in an earlier blog post, Is Career “Planning” Actually Career “Improvisation”? in his book, Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career  Luck is no accident

He notes that people can’t control outcomes of unpredictable life and career situations, but he advocates paying attention to thoughts and actions that hinder progress toward goals — and to modify them with small steps.

Related Post:
Creating Productive Thought Patterns through “Thought Self-Leadership”

Increased mindful attention to habitual patterns can set the conditions for desired outcomes by planning contingencies for undesirable eventualities.

Part of this process is being:

  • Open to possibilities that diverge from an original plan
  • Willing to consider unexpected opportunities
  • Able to risk mistakes and rejection.

This may see demanding and undesirable for goal-directed people with a plan, but Krumboltz’s research demonstrates the effectiveness of these guidelines and other familiar recommendations:

  • Research areas of interest
  • Network
  • Ask for what you want
  • Keep learning
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Similarly, Daniel Pink advises flexibility in career “planning” in his anime-like The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need and questions whether there can be a career “plan”, given many unpredictable possibilities.The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

Like Peter Drucker and Donald Clifton before him, Pink urges building on existing strengths and finding ways to compensate for less strong areas, rather than investing effort in remedying them.

Donalid Clifton

Donalid Clifton

In addition to familiar suggestions – persist in taking on ambitious challenges while learning from them – he recommends focusing on solving problems for others, and finding a niche to deliver valuable results.Now Discover Your Strengths

This service-orientation pays dividends as a career development strategy and in “making a difference” in the community and one’s family.

DrivePink’s later book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us ,   draws on Frederick Herzberg’s delineation of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg

People are motivated, Pink says, by career roles that provide opportunities for:

  • Autonomy, exerting control over work content and context
  • Mastery, improving skill in work over time through persistence, effort, corrective feedback
  • Purpose, participating in an inspiring goal

Related Post:
Finding Work You Love, Measuring Your Life

Pink’s TED Talk demonstrates his passionate advocacy for replacing traditional rewards and recognition with “Motivation 2.0” that provides opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Edward Deci - Richard Ryan

Edward Deci – Richard Ryan

Draw on strengths

Pink cites Edward Deci’s and Richard Ryan‘s Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) that investigated variability in intrinsic motivation, and Deci’s Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation which advised managers to adopt “autonomy-supportive”   behaviors to encourage employees’ intrinsic motivation.Why we do what we do

These varied studies suggest the value of flexibility in career “planning” to capitalize on serendipitous opportunities, and seeking work roles that:

  • Draw on strengths
  • Enable intrinsic motivators like autonomy, purpose, mastery, and affiliation, instead of focusing primarily on monetary or status rewards.

-*How do you navigate your career in the face of incomplete information about future outcomes?

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Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur (E.piphany, Zilog, and more) and Stanford consulting associate professor, argues that entrepreneurs need two types of “wisdom” or cognitive processing:

  • Pattern recognition based on a “constrain stream of data processing in the background”
  • Epiphanies that “serendipitously snap together”, outlined in Four Steps to the Epiphany.

He provides examples of pattern recognition in each of the four phases toward “epiphany” in building a business:The Four Steps to the Epiphany

  • Customer Discovery, which assesses market potential and customer preferences
  • Customer Validation, in early sales
  • Customer Creation, including strategy definition, startup launch, and iterative product  experimentation
  • Company Building, which prepares to “Cross the Chasm” in Geoffrey Moore’s model.
    Robert Baron

    Robert Baron

    Crossing the Chasm

Robert Baron of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute echoed Blanks emphasis on pattern recognition in his Academy of Management Perspectives article,

Opportunity Recognition as Pattern Recognition: How Entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to Identify New Business Opportunities” which he said enables entrepreneurs to evaluate:

  • Economic value
  • Newness
  • Desirability

by comparing existing “mental models” or cognitive prototypes and real-world exemplars to new offerings.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

He quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “…I should …wish…for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which. . .sees the possible…”

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis says that pattern recognition is a critical skill for in intelligent decision making, and cites Tor Nørretranders’s The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size to point out that most cognitive processing is outside of normal awareness.

In fact, his research suggests that over 99.99% of the processing in the brain happens at a subconscious level, and is therefore beyond our “control.”

Tor Nørretranders

Tor Nørretranders

She added to Blank’s description of “processing in the background” that synthesizing past
experience, intuition, and common sense and sorting out the “noise” can equip people with relative accurate “best guesses” about future occurrences.

The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size-Tor NørretrandersHowever, if the filter is overzealous, individuals may overlook opportunities because “cognitive dissonance” makes it uncomfortable to integrate information that doesn’t fit with an existing mental model.

Another cognitive bias is overlooking the potential impact of “wild cards” refer to low-probability, high-impact events.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the related idea of black swans: unforeseen rare, difficult-to-predict, high-impact, rare events – such as financial crises, natural disasters.

He observed that these occurrences are often explained away when hindsight reveals individual and collective “blindness” to uncertainty and its large role in these rare historical events.
His book recent book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, posits that randomness  enables strengthening processes under pressure and can catalyze positive change.

AntifragileHe celebrates volatility as a sign that recalibration may be more achievable than after long periods of stability enable risks to accumulate until a catastrophe.

Applied to career choices, he argues that a seemingly “secure” corporate job disguises dependency on a single employer – often an “at-will” employer, though he discounts the value of “economies of scale” in this work arrangement.

As a result, the unlikely possibility of unemployment leads to cataclysmic reduction in income.
In contrast, occupations with variable earnings, like sales or professional services, acclimates the individual to cyclic or unpredicted income reductions, and practice enables mitigation planning.

This perceptual bias impairs people’s accurate anticipation adaptation to changing.

Pattern recognition can be increased by mindful attention to thinking processes, and frequent self-reminders to scan for perceptual bias and unconscious cognitive processing.
However, other people’s unconscious cognitive processing can be an advantage for marketers, according to Douglas Van Praet, who suggests taking advantage of these via six steps to robust marketing in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) MarketingUnconscious Branding

  1. Interrupt the Recognized Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action.

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©Kathryn Welds