What Organizations Can Learn (Not to Do) from Six-year-olds

[article]
Summary:

In a book called Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood, I came across some intriguing research about rigid thinking. The research entailed asking three groups of kids—four-year-olds, six-year-olds, and eight-year-olds—to balance rods of different lengths on a pencil. All three age groups were able to quickly figure out that to balance a rod, they had to place it at the midpoint.

In a book called Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood, I came across some intriguing research about rigid thinking. The research entailed asking three groups of kids—four-year-olds, six-year-olds, and eight-year-olds—to balance rods of different lengths on a pencil. All three age groups were able to quickly figure out that to balance a rod, they had to place it at the midpoint.

Then the researchers weighted the rods at one end and again asked the kids to balance the rods on the pencil. Any predictions about what happened?

When the eight-year-olds discovered that that the rod wouldn't balance at the midpoint, they were initially confused, but they quickly adjusted and shifted the rod till they found a point at which it would balance. According to the researchers, the eight-year-olds had created a theory that the midpoint would normally be the place to balance the rod. But they were able to allow for exceptions, and when the theory didn't work, they tried alternatives, and ultimately succeeded.

The four-year-olds took the exercise in stride and simply moved the rod back and forth till they found the point at which it balanced.

No such luck for the six-year-olds. They kept trying to balance the rod at the midpoint, and when it kept tipping over, they became frustrated and angry, claiming that the task was impossible.

According to Hood, the six-year-olds "were so convinced by the theory that things balance in the middle that they were unable to see that there might be exceptions." (p. 93) He points out that these kids were like adults who are inflexible in their behavior and too stubborn to abandon ideas that have proven wrong.

Do you ever encounter behavior like this in your organization?

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, TechWell.com is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!

Upcoming Events

Sep 22
Sep 24
Oct 12
Nov 09