Empathy Maps: How To Understand Your Customer

An empathy map helps you identify with a customer’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Product teams often use empathy mapping to improve the user experience. In this article, learn how to build an empathy map and use it to improve your business strategy.

Have you heard the saying, “take a walk in my shoes?” That’s empathy in action. When you foster empathy, you visualize yourself living someone else’s life. This soft skill improves your understanding of how others navigate the world.

Empathy mapping is also useful to identify customer needs. By creating a detailed user persona and imagining yourself as that user, you can gain valuable insights about the customer experience. These insights can translate to product improvements and a stronger sales strategy.

What is an empathy map?

An empathy map is a tool that helps you discover how your target audience thinks, feels, and behaves so you can better understand their wants and needs. The map typically includes four quadrants: think and feel, say and do, see, and hear.

Before you can use this tool, you must first build a user persona or scenario to represent one of your target audiences. There are two main “methods” to persona creation. One is a persona description. For example, you might have the “confident shopper” or the “curious buyer.” This type of persona explains, in broad strokes, what motivates someone. It can help product, marketing, and sales teams understand their overall audience.

The second type of persona is a specific person, and this is the type you’ll use for your empathy map. This persona is a made up person that has a name, an age, likes, and dislikes. Putting a specific name, face, and age to a persona makes it easier to empathize with them.

When to use an empathy map

You can use empathy maps any time you want to learn more about your audience and gain perspective into how they think. Empathy maps are most helpful during product planning, but you can also use them to improve a product once you’ve created it.

Empathy maps also serve as a reflective tool for marketing campaigns or sales strategies. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for gaps in your current strategy, an empathy map will offer guidance and support.

Who uses empathy maps?

  • Product teams to ensure they’re keeping the end user in mind during the design process.
  • Marketing teams to improve business strategy by identifying customer pain points and desires.
  • Design and developer teams to gain insight into user experience (UX) and user interface (UI)

Empathy mapping should be a group activity—you and your team members can brainstorm what the user experience may be like and streamline your ideas into the most accurate portrayal.

Read: 4 types of concept maps (with free templates)

4 elements of an empathy map

An empathy map has four quadrants that work together to get you into the mind of your end user. In addition to those four quadrants, you’ll also describe your persona’s pains and gains—or customer needs and expectations. The pains and gains will serve as a guide, while the remaining four elements help you explore a customer’s life from their point of view.

Pains: What are the pain points in the user’s life? What are their needs?

Gains: What are the user’s expectations for meeting their needs?

  1. Think and feel: What are the user’s major worries and aspirations? What are their values? What preoccupies their mind?
  2. Hear: Who are the user’s main influences in their life?
  3. See: What does the user see in their environment that influences them?
  4. Say and do: What does the user say and do to meet their needs?

To make filling out your empathy map easier, pair it with a user persona. That way, you know who your customer is before assessing what their life may look like. Remember that in order for your empathy map to be effective, you need to pair it with a user persona that describes a fictional individual. If you don’t already have a customer persona in mind, briefly describe the persona above the empathy map.

How to build an empathy map

Your company likely has more than one customer persona. To understand them all, create separate empathy maps for each persona. Use the steps below to build an empathy map, then incorporate the process into your workflow so team members can repeat it as needed….Read more

By: Team Asana

Source: Empathy Maps: Understand Your Customers [Free Template] • Asana

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10 Things That Happen When Students Engage in Project-Based Learning

We often hear about the need for students to learn how to program in order to be ready for STEM fields and the Information Economy. It’s what we’ve been hearing for over a decade. However, there’s a fascinating piece from the Washington Post that explores how the so-called “soft-skills” might be even more vital than ever.

For years, Google focused on hiring the best computer science students who excelled in their core content area, positing that innovation required the best computer science minds in the world. But when they tested this hypothesis, they were shocked by the results.

According to the article:

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Don’t get me wrong. Students need to master content standards. But Google’s survey proves that many teachers have been saying for years: that the so-called “soft skills” aren’t soft at all. Fortunately, when students engage in PBL, they develop these skills and disciplines needed to thrive in the Creative Economy.

But it goes beyond economics. When students engage in PBL, they experience the sheer joy of learning. They are able to hit a state of creative flow and learn that there’s something deeply profound about creativity. They become self-directed, independent thinkers.

The following are some of the trends that I notice when students engage in project-based learning. This is not a scientific study so much as observations I’ve noticed from my own experiences. However, I am currently working on a larger literature review on the benefits of PBL. I’ll be sharing it out within the next month. Many of the ideas in the following video are backed up by research (like the soft skills, the “stickiness” of information, and the moderate increases in student achievement).   

#1: Students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.

When students engage in PBL, they often get the chance to work on collaborative projects, where they work interdependently to solve problems. Initially, this was really challenging for me as a teacher because I hated group projects as a student. I hated doing all the work and then watching everyone else get the credit. But then I realized something. Collaboration isn’t just a skill.

It’s a discipline. It’s something that takes years of practice. So, I started to embed structures that would help guarantee that every student participated in collaborative projects. It didn’t work every time but slowly, I watched students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.   

When students genuinely collaborate in PBL, they learn how to speak up and listen. They learn how to ask incisive questions, how to contribute to the team, and how to give and receive critical feedback. Which leads to the next point . . .

#2: Students learn to see nuance and multiple perspectives.

When I did that History Day Project in the eighth grade, I encountered perspectives on the integration of baseball that I would have never experienced in reading a textbook. The same thing happened with my eighth grade students. When they were immersed in a PBL environment, they got to wade into the nuance of multiple perspectives.

Teachers can tap into this idea by specifically asking students to consider new perspectives. During the initial inquiry phase, it can help to let students ask multiple questions on their own and then share their questions together. When they engage in research, it can help to ask students to find sources from various perspectives and deliberately wade into the nuance of the ideas. As they ideate together, you can utilize a structured brainstorming approach that encourages them to examine ideas from multiple angles.

#3: They become divergent thinkers.

The best project-based learning units encourage students to tackle problems from a unique perspective. This is at the heart of divergent thinking. It’s the ability to explore problems from different angles, use materials in different ways, and ultimately grow into innovatorsHere’s where creative constraint comes in. Teachers often have to work with limited resources or tight schedules. They have to hack the standards to tie them into a PBL unit. But in the process, they are helping students to think outside the box by “thinking inside the box.” Here’s what I mean:  

When students learn to “think inside the box,” they are practicing the type of divergent thinking that they will need in the future. This is the type of thinking that can’t be replaced with artificial intelligence or automated with a machine.

#4: They learn project management.

When I talk to people in business, in the arts, and in the STEM fields, I often hear people mention that they wished they had learned how to do project management when they were younger.  If we want students to think like artists, entrepreneurs, and engineers, they need the chance to engage in project management. When students have full ownership of the project process, they learn how to engage in project management. Here, they are able to set goals, monitor progress, make adjust, and reflect on their learning.

Project management is about more than just setting a schedule. It’s the idea of following through on your plans and continuing with tasks even when nobody is looking over your shoulder. It’s what happens when you learn how to set meaningful, realistic goals and break those down into tasks.

#5: They develop a maker mindset.

One of the most tragic things I hear students say is “I’m just not the creative type.” I don’t buy it. I don’t believe there is a “creative type” out there. We’re all creative. Every one of us. And PBL is a great chance for students to own the entire creative process, leading to a maker mindset where they can think like designers, artists, and engineers. When this happens, students are able to embrace a larger definition of creativity and value the creative contributions of those around them.   

We often hear that our current students will work in jobs that don’t exist right now. But here’s another reality: our current students will be the ones who create those jobs. They will have to rewrite the rules.  Some students will be engineers or artists or accountants. Some will work in technology, others in traditional corporate spaces and still others in social or civic spaces. But every single one of them will need to think creatively in their jobs.

As students work through PBL, they are able to experience a broad spectrum of creative thinking. They learn how to think like an artist but also think like an engineer or a hacker. At one moment, they might be building empathy by doing an interview. In another moment, they might be doing prototyping in an engineering project and or engaging in information literacy for a publishing project.

Over time, they see that creative work is interdisciplinary. And this ultimately leads to a maker mindset, where students learn to view the world differently and find new solutions to complex problems. Which leads to the next point . . .

#6: They become problem-solvers and critical thinkers.

PBL encourages students to solve complex problems by engaging in inquiry, research, and ideation. This is the kind of work that you don’t accomplish in filing out a packet or doing a worksheet. It requires students to view problems from multiple angles and sometimes even navigate multiple systems in order to solve these complex problems.

Not only are they solving the problems but they are taking it to the next level and actually creating the solutions. So, they are able to see that problem-solving actually connects to real-world contexts. I remember when we were doing our Tiny House projects and a student said, “I get it now. I understand why people need to know proportional reasoning.” He needed a complex problem, rooted in a real-world experience, for that concept to make sense.

Note that this doesn’t always work. There are moments when it gets frustrating. However, that’s also part of the problem-solving process. Students get the opportunity to fail forward. Which leads to my next point . . .

#7: They develop iterative thinking.

Project-based learning includes a phase for revision. In some cases, it’s more about feedback and revision while other projects require testing and revision. But the idea is the same. Students test, revise, and iterate. This is one of the areas where I see a big disconnect between school (where you are graded once and move on) versus life (where you are constantly improving and iterating).

I want students to learn how to figure out what’s working, make sense out of what’s failing, and then create a better iteration.  But this requires a shift toward mastery-based grading as well as the freedom to make mistakes. For all the talk of “high standards,” iterative thinking only works when students experience slack. And yet, when they have this permission to fail, they can then improve their work and develop endurance.

#8: They are more likely to develop a growth mindset.

Iterative thinking ultimately leads to a growth mindset. It’s counterintuitive but the best way for students to have higher standards is to experience the permission to fail. This doesn’t mean we embrace failure but that we treat failing as a part of the learning process. After all, fail-ure is permanent and fail-ing is temporary.

Note that failing isn’t fun. It actually sucks when stuff doesn’t work out. And that’s an important reminder. Sometimes PBL isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s really, really frustrating. I have had students cry when something didn’t work. It wasn’t because of a grade, either. They were simply so into their project that they wanted it to work. But eventually, when it did work, they were able to develop a growth mindset.

#9: They grow more empathetic.

One of the PBL approaches we will explore is design thinking, which is centered around the idea of empathy. In some models, empathy is the starting point. Other times, it occurs in the research and ideation phases. But regardless of when it happens, if students are going to launch heir work to an audience, they need to design products out of a place of empathy.

This is one of those areas that goes far beyond the corporate world. We have a crisis of empathy in the U.S. I see it every time I go to Facebook. People talk over one another and lob easy insults at the opposite side. Trapped in their echo chambers, they move into a place where they miss the pain that others are experiencing. But I think we can change this as educators when we ask students to engage in empathy-driven design thinking.

#10: They increase in metacognition.

When I first saw the metacognition cycle, I thought, “Man, this seems so similar to aspects of PBL.” This is because PBL encourages students to plan, monitor, and reflect throughout the entire process.

So, if we want this for students, they need to work on projects. Real projects. The kind of projects that they get to own. And ultimately that requires a teacher who is wiling to take the leap and make PBL a reality.

Source: 10 Things That Happen When Students Engage in Project-Based Learning – John Spencer

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Four Ways To Create a More Inclusive Workplace

Getty Images (Image credit: Getty Images)

If diversity means celebrating our differences we must respect and value a balanced range of perspectives and ensure we have a range of different voices in our team that are equally supported and heard.

Corporate culture, like many other parts of our patriarchal societies, have been designed with the lived experience of straight, white men in mind. But what about the rest of us? What efforts can we each make to turn our offices into environments where all professionals, regardless of their background, can flourish? Here are four ways to make work more inclusive:

1. Take stock of the identities that dominate your office

Research shows our lived experiences shape everything from how we think about the world to our motivations and cultural behaviours. Is there a particular type of person that’s well represented across the leadership team and beyond? If so, how could that dominant identity group impact company culture and views?

What risk is there that certain perspectives represented amongst your customer or client base are being missed due to your team make up? Spark up conversations with your team about whose voices matter to your work but are not represented in the team. Think of ways to expand your community and outreach to include these voices.

2. Recognize where you have privilege and therefore blind spots

Professor Michael Kimmel famously said, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” That means that privilege i.e. unearned advantages we gain through our identity, which we have no choice over, can be difficult to discern unless we actively consider the experiences of other people in our society who don’t share the same opportunities, choices and other advantages we have.

For example, as a cis gender heterosexual woman I have never had to experience the anxiety that comes with using a restroom in public buildings, or fear violence when walking hand in hand with my partner on holiday in exotic countries.

3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Look at the tragic events we’ve witnessed these past few years from the murder of George Floyd to the fatal shooting of Chris Kapa, both at the hands of the police. And let’s not forget the death of Belly Mujinga, who passed away from coronavirus which she contracted after an infected passenger spat at her at the station where she was working.

It is undeniable that our identify has a huge impact on how we navigate the world, and it has a huge impact on how others treat us. This is an uncomfortable truth that we must engage with regularly so we can take action to make the world more fair and equitable. Be willing to challenge racism, and other forms of discrimination wherever you hear them or see them.

4. Focus on your vision of the future

Fighting for equality and fair treatment of all identities takes guts. It’s not easy. The more you become aware of privilege and discrimination, the more you will see it play out in everything from the media, think about toxic headlines in the newspapers, to banter at the office, think of the types of jokes you’ve heard that made you stop and think. What has helped me do the work I do, challenging bias wherever I see it, is focusing on the future.

In the future I want to see more women especially Black women and other women of colour, leading teams and companies and really – doing whatever they want. Without the obstacles they face today. I wish this for all marginalised identities underrepresented at work everywhere.

Abadesi Osunsade is the Founder and CEO of Hustle Crew, a careers community for the underrepresented in tech and a diversity and inclusion consultancy on a mission to make teams more inclusive. Hustle Crew Membership is for anyone who wants to be an inclusion ambassador in their community, with weekly resources and monthly workshops to teach you how to drive change from £12/month. 

By: Niamh McCollum

 

Niamh McCollum is Features Assistant at Marie Claire UK, and specialises in entertainment, female empowerment, mental health, social development and careers. Tackling both news and features, she’s covered everything from the rise of feminist audio porn platforms to the latest campaigns protecting human rights.

Source: Four ways to create a more inclusive workplace | Marie Claire UK

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Critics by University of Massachusetts Global

As you analyze your own company culture, you’re likely wondering if your team has cultivated a positive or negative experience for your employees. If your company has difficulty attracting top talent or exhibits low employee morale, McCusker says these could be signs that your workplace culture needs improvement.

“I absolutely believe you can reverse a negative company culture — however it takes a lot of work, and likely some significant changes,” she adds. “It’s not a project, it’s a movement.”

Creating a positive company culture: 4 Expert tips

McCusker explains that the key to creating a positive work culture is knowing that it cannot be reverse-engineered. What works for one company, she elaborates, can’t be authentically replicated elsewhere. This is because workplace culture is not something that’s owned.

“It is the result of millions of little decisions over the lifetime of a company,” she says. “Because it’s organic, it will quickly change when left untended.”

As you strive to cultivate and maintain a positive culture within your organization, consider the following four pieces of advice from our business experts.

1. Identify your organization’s core values

While there’s no surefire recipe for achieving positivity within your work environment, every organization can benefit by analyzing a few key aspects of its identity. Sam Pardue, CEO and founder of window insert company Indow, highlights three cornerstones of a positive work culture: mission, vision and values. “They are simple, but hard to execute in a credible way,” he says, noting the following about each:

  • Mission provides the intrinsic motivation which makes employees excited to accomplish great things at work.
  • Vision helps them understand the destiny they are helping to create.
  • Values are the ways everyone agrees to work together.

If you hope to build up an employee base that is passionate, engaged and productive, begin by identifying a foundational mission your workers will find exciting.

2. Establish trust by representing those values

Culture coach and consultant Lizz Pellet notes that workplace culture travels from the top down. “Leaders create culture,” she says. “How members of a group take their culture cues is the way they see and perceive how the leader behaves — so what leaders focus on is critical.”

Pellet explains that if an organization’s leadership team is employee-focused, empathetic and authentic, it will send a calming message to employees that their leaders are there for them. That can help keep help improve engagement, productivity and even profitability.

McCusker agrees that cultural representation among leadership teams is crucial: Having a positive culture means seeing leaders at all levels living the values out loud. “It means having an employee experience that, at all touch points, is reflective of the company’s beliefs and values,” she adds.

3. Maintain clear and consistent expectations

One element most all of us need to achieve a sense of harmony is consistency. While teams across industries strive to achieve innovation in their product offerings, predictability is actually something many employees seek in a positive work culture. Pardue says it’s critical that your workers are able to fully grasp what’s expected of them.

“Employees want to know what the rules are, and that they will be enforced equally and in a predictable way,” he offers. “Unpredictability in management actions causes contempt and distrust — and ultimately destroys the culture.”

McCusker agrees that maintaining expectations at every level is essential. “I once heard a CEO say that if you are not willing to fire your top performing employee over behavior that is inconsistent with the culture, then your culture is not very strong and you do not truly believe in it.”

4. Ensure your employees feel valued

Creating a positive work culture isn’t simply about workplace happy hours and catered Friday lunches, notes senior partner at Partners in Leadership Jared Jones. “Real culture is rooted in an employee’s daily experiences, which in turn shape their beliefs,” he says. “These beliefs inform their actions, and actions lead to results.”

One survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that over 90 percent of employees who feel valued at work say they’re more motivated to do their best. That drops to just 33 percent among employees who don’t feel valued by their employers.

“Companies led by executives who create positive experiences by consistently offering and asking for constructive feedback, recognizing employees’ efforts during company meetings and even just saying ‘thank you’ on a regular basis lay the groundwork for a positive workplace culture,” Jones explains. He adds that the more employees see this type of behavior, the more valued and connected to the organization’s goals they’ll feel.

Build a positive workplace culture

Investing in your organization’s wellbeing calls for an honest assessment of your company ethos. Take time to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Then, let the insight from our business experts guide you in creating a positive work culture that can support your organization’s future success.

Once you lay a good foundation, it might feel like the sky’s the limit. You can learn to harness that energy and funnel it into positive results from the beginning by setting goals that are both challenging and attainable. Learn more by reading our article, “How to measure organizational performance: The secret to effective goal setting.”

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Related contents:

MPs to examine civil service office plans amid ‘seismic shift’ in working culture Civil Service World

There are 7 types of bosses, says workplace culture expert—and only 1 is worth working for CNBC

 
 
 
17:09 Wed, 05 Oct
08:34 Thu, 29 Sep
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5 Mindset Blocks That Stop You From Learning From Your Mistakes

Illustration: Getty Images

Way back in 2014 I wrote about a growing movement among entrepreneurs. In 42 cities across the world founders would meet for “F***Up Nights,” which are just what they sound like — an opportunity for those on the difficult path of starting a business to share their biggest flops and failures. Since that story, these nights have spread to 185 cities.

Sharing your most embarrassing stumbles doesn’t immediately sound like buckets of fun, so what’s behind the unlikely popularity of these events? Community is certainly part of it. Failure feels worse when you think you’re uniquely prone to it. But so is learning. There are few better ways to learn than trying, falling on your face, and vowing to never do that particular thing again.

The unexpected popularity of F***Up Nights demonstrates the immense potential to learn from failure. But science shows that most of us miss out on a big part of the benefit of our inevitable screw-ups. Research from Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach of University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has shown that, even when the incentives are high, people have a tendency to put their heads in the sand and not learn from their mistakes.

Thankfully, the pair’s work also highlights ways to avoid letting your ego and emotions get in the way of learning from failure. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recently dug deep into these findings, which show both what blocks people from making the most of their missteps and how to overcome these common mental blocks.

1. You make it all about you.

Ego is the enemy of learning. Admitting you’re wrong hurts your sense of yourself as competent and smart, but it helps you correct false beliefs, seek out novel information, and expand your horizons. So how do you ensure you don’t let your ego get in the way of self-improvement? One technique is to try and put some mental distance between yourself and the error you’re trying to learn from.

“This involves thinking of your personal experience from the outside perspective of a neutral third party, asking, ‘Why did Jeremy fail?’ instead of ‘Why did I fail?’ While that might sound cheesy, it seems to work,” explains Greater Good. You can read more about the science behind this strange but effective technique here and here.

2. You keep them to yourself.

“People tend to hide their own failures, out of a sense of shame,” observes Greater Good. But one of the best ways to learn from your mistakes is to turn them into inspirational stories for the benefit of others.

Just like inspirational speakers spin past mistakes into motivational gold, framing your errors this way turns miscalculations into useful life lessons, research shows. “High school students who shared failures with middle school students went on to get better grades than those who didn’t reframe their failures; middle schoolers who gave advice to elementary school students later spent more time on homework,” reports Greater Good.

You don’t have to be a formerly struggling student to put this insight to use. Events like F****Up Nights formalize the process, but even just informally sharing your hard-earned lessons with entrepreneur friends (or online) will help you tease out and solidify the lessons learned from some of your most challenging experiences.

3. You repress your feelings.

Does failing feeling good?  No, it feels awful. That’s not fun, but it is necessary. Pain is nature’s way of encouraging us to learn not to do something. So when you repress the pain, you also repress the learning. Letting yourself really feel your failures is essential if you want them to make you wiser in the long run. So no running away from your feelings or dulling them with substances or distractions.

“Sadness seems to improve memory and judgment, which can help us to succeed in the future; regret can actually sharpen motivation,” Greater Good points out.

4. You forget your why.

When you make a mistake, it’s easy to get caught up in a loop of beating yourself up and second-guessing each step you took. Reflection and unhappiness is part of the process of coping with failure (see above), but an obsessive focus on the details of your screw-up doesn’t actually help you pick yourself up and apply whatever you’ve learned from the experience.

What does? Focusing on why you put yourself in a position to fail in the first place. “Holding a clear long-term goal in mind — such as becoming a doctor or learning to sail — can help us to tolerate short-term failure and override information-avoidance,” explains Greater Good. As Simon Sinek might remind us, understanding your why is a great way to increase your resilience in the face of life’s many inescapable setbacks.

5. You beat yourself up.

Again, failure isn’t supposed to feel great. But as explained above, beating yourself up about your missteps is demotivating and distracts you from extracting valuable lessons from failure. Sure you should reflect on what went wrong, but you shouldn’t waste energy ruminating endlessly on your shortcomings.

Instead, research suggests you should try some self-compassion. “Many recent studies suggest that you’re more likely to grow if you speak kindly to yourself, as a loved one might speak to you, in the wake of failure,” claims Greater Good.

Also, rather than viewing failure as a testament to your personal weaknesses, remind yourself that error is a human universal. “It’s not a question of if you’ll fail — it’s when. The only real question you need to answer is what you can learn from the experience,” the article sagely notes.

A F****Up Night is designed to transform failure from an isolating and shameful instance of personal weakness into a community-building learning opportunity. But you don’t need a group of like-minded (and equally fallible) founders to view failure this way. You just need the research-backed mindset adjustments and simple techniques mentioned above. After all, failure is a terrible thing to waste.

By Jessica Stillman

Source: 5 Mindset Blocks That Stop You From Learning From Your Mistakes | Inc.com

Critics by Francesca Gino  and Bradley Staats

Failure can trigger a torrent of painful emotions—hurt, anger, shame, even depression. As a result, most of us try to avoid mistakes; when they do happen, we try to sweep them under the rug. This natural tendency is heightened in companies whose leaders have, often unconsciously, institutionalized a fear of failure. They structure projects so that no time or money is available for experimentation, and they award bonuses and promotions to those who deliver according to plan.

But organizations don’t develop new capabilities—or take appropriate risks—unless managers tolerate failure and insist that it be openly discussed. The psychologist Carol Dweck identified two basic mindsets with which people approach their lives: “fixed” and “growth.” People who have a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talents are largely a matter of genetics; you either have them or you don’t. They aim to appear smart at all costs and see failure as something to be avoided, fearing it will make them seem incompetent.

A fixed mindset limits the ability to learn because it makes individuals focus too much on performing well. By contrast, people who have a growth mindset seek challenges and learning opportunities. They believe that no matter how good you are, you can always get better through effort and practice. They don’t see failure as a sign of inadequacy and are happy to take risks. When making hiring and promotion decisions, leaders often put too much emphasis on performance and not enough on the potential to learn.

Over time, Egon Zehnder, a global executive search firm, had developed a sophisticated means of evaluating candidates that considered not only their past achievements but also their competencies. However, it found that in numerous instances, candidates who looked equally good on paper performed differently on the job. Why? A partner at the firm, Karena Strella, and her team believed the answer was individuals’ potential for improvement.

After a two-year project that drew on academic research and interviews, they identified four elements that make up potential: curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. They developed interview questions to get at these elements, along with psychometric measures applied via questionnaires. This new model now plays a key role in the search firm’s assessments of job candidates. Egon Zehnder has found that high-potential candidates perform better than their peers with less potential, thanks to their openness to acquiring new skills and their thirst for learning.

It is common for people to ascribe their successes to hard work, brilliance, and skill rather than luck; however, they blame their failures on bad fortune. This phenomenon, known as the attribution bias, hinders learning (see “Why Leaders Don’t Learn from Success,” HBR, April 2011). In fact, unless people recognize that failure resulted from their own actions, they do not learn from their mistakes. In a study we conducted with Chris Myers, we asked participants to work on two different decision-making tasks spaced one week apart.

Each task had a correct solution, but only a few people were able to identify it. We found that participants who took responsibility for doing poorly on the first activity were almost three times as likely to succeed on the second one. They learned from their failure and made better decisions as a result. Leaders can use the following methods to encourage others to find the silver lining in failures, adopt a growth mindset, focus on potential, and overcome the attribution bias.

.

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Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds

In 2013, James Evans, a University of Chicago sociologist and computational scientist, launched a study to see if science forged a bridge across the political divide. Did conservatives and liberals at least agree on biology and physics and economics? Short answer: No. “We found more polarization than we expected,” Evans told me recently.

People were even more polarized over science than sports teams. At the outset, Evans said, “I was hoping to find that science was like a Switzerland. When we have problems, we can appeal to science as a neutral arbiter to produce a solution, or pathway to a solution. That wasn’t the case at all.”

Evans started his study on Amazon. You know the heading that says, “Customers who bought this item also bought”? Evans and his colleagues analyzed the top 100 items in this list for two “seed” books: Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father and Mitt Romney’s No Apology. They repeated this process for each book in the top-100 list until they ran out of new titles.

“The resulting ‘snowball sample,’ ” Evans and company wrote in their 2017 Nature Human Behaviour paper, “contained virtually all books in the largest strongly connected component in Amazon’s directed co-purchase network,” or 1,303,504 unique titles.

After performing a co-purchase network analysis—the sort used to study co-citation and co-author networks—on this dataset, the scholars concluded that political ideology guided people to science books. With some curious results. Liberal readers preferred basic science (physics, astronomy, zoology), while conservatives went for applied and commercial science (criminology, medicine, geophysics).

“It seems like conservatives are happy to draw on science associated with economic growth—that’s what they want from science,” Evans said. “Science is more like Star Trek for liberals: traveling through worlds, searching for new meanings, searching for yourself.” Science turned out to be “a huge example of confirmation bias,” Evans said. “You expect something to be true, you want it to be true, you read books that affirm and confirm those truths.”

The thing most disturbing to me is the onslaught of claims about fake information and fake news.

Looking at the polarized results, Evans had an idea. What would happen if you put together a group of diverse people to produce information? What would the results look like? Evans knew just the place to conduct the experiment: Wikipedia. Evans and Misha Teplitskiy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard, and colleagues, studied 205,000 Wikipedia topics and their associated “talk pages,” where anybody can observe the debates and conversations that go on behind the scenes.

The scholars judged the quality of the articles on Wikipedia’s own assessments. “It’s based on internal quality criteria that is essentially: What do we want a good encyclopedia article to be? We want it to be readable, comprehensive, pitched at the right level, well-sourced, linked to other stuff,” Teplitskiy explained.

In their Nature Human Behaviour paper, “The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds,” Evans and Teplitskiy concluded that polarization doesn’t poison the wells of information. On the contrary, they showed politically diverse editor teams on Wikipedia put out better entries—articles with higher accuracy or completeness—than uniformly liberal or conservative or moderate teams. It’s a surprising result and so I caught up with Evans and Teplitskiy to offer their interpretations.

What does Wikipedia tell us about diversity?

James Evans: People talk about the importance of diversity. It’s not diversity in general; it’s diversity in specific. If you have these different ideologies, it’s associated with different filters on the world, different intakes of information, and so when it comes to constructing reference knowledge on an encyclopedic web page that’s supposed to thoroughly characterize an area, you do a much better job because you have a lot more information that’s attended to by this ideologically diverse group.

Editors working on a social issues page said, “We have to admit that the position that was echoed at the end of the argument was much stronger and balanced.” Did they begrudgingly come to that? They did, and that’s the key. If they too easily updated their opinion, then they wouldn’t have been motivated to find counter-factual and counter-data arguments that fuel that conversation.

We found that more diversity is associated with longer conversations. If they were immediately willing to give up on these things, then it wouldn’t have produced the sustained competition that ended up generating the balance that they, themselves, came to appreciate.

Which pages on Wikipedia benefit most from political diversity?

Evans: Political pages. The second most are social issues pages, which have a substantial political content. Even science pages benefit because sciences resonate with different political ideologies. And there’s no question that the science articles that benefited the most were the science articles that are associated with political polarization.

I would be surprised if we didn’t see that across the science pages associated with the environment, which include climate change, but likely a lot of other things, including biodiversity. Those are kinds of science articles that benefited the most from political polarization because they’re the ones, unsurprisingly, for which diverse political perspectives end up offering really different filtered information.

Misha Teplitskiy: Psychologists and organizational scholars call this “task relevance.” It’s the idea that diversity in ideas should help only for tasks for which diversity is relevant. You expect ideological diversity to be most relevant for politics, less so for social issues, and less so for science. The surprising feature there is that it’s at all relevant to science, but generally we expect it to matter less and less the farther you get away from task relevance.

The evidence for our contribution to climate change is unimpeachable. So might a Wikipedia entry that encouraged diverse opinions not produce a high quality result? Would that run counter to your study, to the importance of diversity?

Evans: You’re saying there are some things where diversity can just generate noise. In general, one could imagine this, and there’s a wonderful book called Merchants of Doubt which explores precisely this issue, that companies in a number of areas increased the amount of apparent diversity in a decreasingly diverse consensus about, for example, smoking’s influence on lung cancer.

That’s certainly taking place in the world. But for some reason, and this is a tribute to some of the standards in the context of Wikipedia, people discipline each other and are effectively disciplined by higher-level editors. There’s also a whole host of different perspectives that people might take with respect to global warming.

Even though there might be general agreement that human activity is increasing greenhouse gases and higher temperatures, it could be one assumption has you thinking there are human solutions to human problems, and another one has you thinking of the importance of human stewardship over the earth. So different perspectives aren’t just generating artificial conflict in these contexts.

At the same time, our experience is for broad topics. There are few places where there’s enormous amounts of certainty in the sciences. My guess is in places where there is strong certainty, we’re not going to see a big effect from political diversity. Political diversity is not a magical substance. If the distribution of political perspectives aren’t correlated with useful information about the topic at hand, then you’re not going to see a benefit. You’re going to see noise. You might even see a detriment.

What do you think about fake news?

Evans: The thing most disturbing to me is the onslaught of claims about fake information and fake news. In some sense, all information is fake. All of it has a purpose, an angle. But the fact that now it’s just so easy to claim that it’s fake without any particular support for that claim, and it’s popular to do so, means it’s easier to discount alternative information than ever before.

Angles are useful. They motivate people to look in a certain place, to search out information that you probably wouldn’t have searched out if you weren’t motivated by the possession of a belief. Angles end up having a lot of value, unless you discount them all. It begins with Trump arguing that everything’s fake news and then people arguing that Trump’s producing fake news all the time.

There’s this cloud of fakery out there, and, of course, it’s exacerbated by the proliferation of bots and other things generating noise. I see that in mass media news in the same way I see it online. It’s a new level. It’s like we’ve just discovered that there’s bias in the system and so everything is biased, categorically, and we can agree or disagree with it at will.

I hope that we can begin to persuade people to really value the importance of bias, that bias is critical to how we view things, that there isn’t an unbiased position.

Why are the highest quality articles overseen or written by an ideologically diverse group of people?

Evans: More collective insight is generated when you draw people who have non-random and minimally overlapping sets of information or knowledge exposures and you put them in a forum that’s well-regulated by a set of norms, which can be appealed to and are, in fact, appealed to. I was really struck by the fact that people often experience this. When they experience balanced debates on these sites, they really described the process as painful and beleaguered but the outcome as satisfying.

Teplitskiy: Ideologically diverse teams end up debating more. These people are carrying different bits of knowledge. When they bring it together, they’re spending more effort to aggregate it into good content. Even aside from increased effort, we’re also finding that the kinds of debates they have are a bit more focused. They zero in on a smaller set of issues and really hash out those issues that are presumably most problematic.

They end up having more conflict and rely on policies more for regulating what we call their “task conflict,” or conflict that’s oriented around creating content, and they also have a lower relational conflict—they gang up on each other less and harass each other less on a personal level compared to more unbalanced teams. Those that are more balanced have a lower harassment prevalence.

What happens when editor teams are politically unbalanced, or overwhelmingly left- or right-wing?

Evans: When you have a single person going in and describing a set of pages as, “They look like Russian propaganda,” those people don’t recognize that they are entering a system of 30 or 40 people who have constructed this page in conversation, and they are coming in and really just trashing that characterization.

Almost invariably, they just got beaten up, labeled as trolls, sent out of the community on a rod with tar and feathers. The homogenous group has a sense of, “We’ve built the social contract and then this person is coming in from the outside.” We found empirically, in our study, that there was a lot more toxic language when you have these imbalances.

Teplitskiy: Our data is suggestive. You would prefer diverse teams that are in a moderate position. Shifting in either direction away from the middle or the moderate position as a team is negatively associated with quality.

Are there some key lessons that groups that produce or evaluate ideas can take from your Wikipedia study?

Teplitskiy: One lesson that our work raises is around branding or creating a culture and letting people know about it, and letting it be the mechanics of how you organize a platform. One interesting thing about Wikipedia is it’s got a very strong culture. If you want to play in the sandbox, you should be ready to back up your claims, cite your sources, cite sources that are reasonable, listen to others.

That clearly discourages some people from joining, people who are not willing to play by reasonable rules. They do more filtering up front on who can play, not in a heavy handed way, but more by signaling their culture strongly, and people who don’t like it don’t stick around.

Compared to the science-book study, the Wikipedia paper sure seems to hold out hope for consensus.

Evans: Yes, and I hope that we can begin to persuade people, with this kind of paper, to really value the importance of bias, that bias is critical to how we view things, that there isn’t an unbiased position. Only when we begin to demonstrate the value of bias can we battle the cloud that bias is bad. Everything’s biased, so we have to reach into our core values and use those to guide our way through this world. There’s a strong scientific value behind bias, so our hope is to begin a conversation about the value of polarized crowds.

What can scientists learn from your results?

Evans: My hope is that not just scientists, but people with opinions and political stakes in general, can seriously consider the fact that people who don’t share their political viewpoints have something valuable to say—and even if they don’t have something valuable to say about a particular political topic, that their different experience and perspective has likely given them access to other kinds of information that will be valuable and new to you.

That’s the key to unlocking the potential of polarization: to allow people to constructively contribute to knowledge projects and other projects together. If you know enough about Wikipedia to open up the talk page, which anybody can do but almost nobody does, you’ll see extensive discussions going on. You’ll see people carefully, painstakingly employing diverse perspectives that are perceived by experts as being systematically better. It just produces more robust knowledge because there’s less ideological filtering going on.

By: Brian Gallagher

Brian Gallagher is the editor of Facts So Romantic, the Nautilus blog. Follow him on Twitter @BSGallagher.

Source: Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds

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