Brave New Online World & Organizational Psychology

Centuries of study of the way humans interact have given us a deep body of psychological knowledge on our mental or emotional traits. The world of organizational psychology applies to the way we interact and collaborate (or not) in organizations and workplaces.

Centuries of study of the way humans interact have given us a deep body of psychological knowledge on our mental or emotional traits. The world of organizational psychology applies to the way we interact and collaborate (or not) in organizations and workplaces.

The video above is a conversation with Michelle Johnston, an Industrial and Organizational Consultant at CPP, a world leader in personality, career, and organizational development assessments.

Our ways of interacting together online, whether socially on our own individual terms or collectively through business networks are a very new phenomenon, and throws up all sorts of interesting questions about impact and influence on organizational behavior as a whole.

Michellle discusses how poorly we understand the way we behave online - some personality types are unguarded in certain contexts, with information they wouldn't normally share in a one to one setting. Issues of anonymity in interactions with groups and from my perspective the way a new online rat race is emerging as employees learn how to be highly visible with online collaborative communities colors our professional relationships.

For an additional perspective to the above, management gurus such William Edwards Deming, the  American author and consultant taught management how to improve design and therefore service through product quality, testing and global market sales, particularly the application of statistical methods for consistency.

The Japanese manufacturing revolution was heavily influenced by Deming, who spent a lot of time working there in the 1950's and '60's.

Wikipedia: Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called a System of Profound Knowledge, consisting of four parts:

  1. Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services;
  2. Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements;
  3. Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known;
  4. Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.

The last two bullets above were significantly informed by understanding of human psychology as it pertained to the manufacturing revolution of the previous 100 years or so ...which in turn was informed by apprenticeships and guilds from earlier eras.

Our foundational understanding of the way we interact en mass online is very limited. We have arguably just hit the first wave of critical mass on sites such as Facebook, Mixi and Renren, where we choose to interact with friends, relatives and colleagues on our own terms.

Inevitably all forms of human life are moving into these communal spaces - debt collectors, spammers etc - to mine your social graph as we lose the first blush of innocence of connecting and interacting online.

Orchestrating how people work together is very different to choosing to hang out where everyone else is, which is how social network sites scale up.

With a burgeoning Enterprise 2.0 software market to serve the collaborative needs of business networks and its invasive twin sister, the social media marketing business, there has never been a greater need for greater understanding of online organizational pyschology in order to help inform the next generation of Deming style thinking.

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