The photo is of Kelly Hicks, Social Worker of the Year. I post it because Kelly, based in Darlington, recently sponsored Nicky’s Talk for Health among service users in her community. The programme was so successful that Kelly and her colleagues are determined to install TfH as a permanent feature of their work in supporting recovery from mental illness.
Groundbreakers are all too few in these times when most of us spend at least part of our day mentally under the duvet, hoping that the troubles will leave us unscathed.
Both Nicky and Kelly refuse to be hushed in their dedication to pointing out that all of us face mental disturbance at some times in our lives – and few of us really work through these problems without a friend, confidante or helper.
I commend Talk for Health to you as a serious option for anyone who wants to get more out of life. See it here: http://www.positive-therapy.co.uk/
This week I want to offer you a copy of my latest paper, published in the International Journal of Market Research, Volume 54, Issue 3, this month. Called Working in Depth it provides what I hope is a comprehensive description of the value of face to face work – and the principles underpinning it – derived as they are in my practice from the European schools of psychology, rather than the American: in particular from Gestalt and Existentialism.
My approach is essentially about enabling the whole person to be present in the session: if you like brief, snappy expressions, I would some it up as: “People before Products”.
I believe that many of the over-simplistic and plain wrong findings we get from formulaic ‘Question & Answer’ sessions arise from the fact that we only have 20% of each person in the room. We already know how tricky it is for everyone to get in touch with and express their real motives (see the work of Kahneman & Tversky), but there is a real opportunity to accomplish that if we set up a safe environment for in-depth work where people can join together to explore less obvious and less noble reasons for their choices and behaviour. Without a safe place where people have time to look inward, such in-depth work is impossible.
Here, without more ado is the paper! Please email me and let me know what you think – good or bad!
Here is a link to a lovely site put together by someone who is active in the area of trying to normalise mental illness and get us away from the medical model. The site is built around the idea of mental wellness – and I believe this is a growing and necessary reframing of views about mental events that will provide a huge benefit both to sufferers and to all of us. It will help make us all less afraid of each other and of difference.
The site also provides a powerful endorsement of Nicky’s Talk for Health (click on the image on his front page), with the authenticity of someone who is prepared to discuss weaknesses as well as strengths, a key piece of feedback for anyone trying to make something better than the stuff we already have. Great work Martin!
An extraordinary account of the sinking of the Costa Concordia on Channel 4 last night. The whole story was told through videos taken on smartphones by those on board. I have never seen anything quite so completely a ‘personal digital record’ of an event. No voice overs, no patronising explanations of what the front/back/sides of a ship were – or what hitting a rock meant! And no summing up by experts or the usual pundits,
There is an opportunity for a transformation in reporting the world here, with Channels performing the role of aggregators rather than editors showing you things from their perspective.
It would be fantastic to have such an account of the war in Syria – potentially with personal clips from all sides/perspectives in the conflict. What seemed a breakthrough in last night’s hour-long programme was the addition of sound: those capturing the events captured both the voices of others and a sound picture of panic and uncertainty – and on occasion added their own questions or comments to the pictures. We came to know several of those on board through their footage and it created a new kind of identification, a story through multiple eyes that I haven’t seen before.
It even completed the tale by showing some clips of survivors back at home, reliving their experiences and reflecting on them. As one dad tried to euphemise the events and minimise trauma to his kids, he called it ‘an adventure’. His young daughter quicky corrected him: “Dad! It was a misadventure…”
Captivating television brought to us by the people who were there.
Anyone who enjoyed the empathy exercise on our Facilitation training may be interested in Nicky’s programme Talk for Health , which teaches similar techniques in much more depth. Her next programme starts 30 May and there is a 25% discount for friends of the Langmaid Practice. The influence of this work is spreading. Talk for Health groups have run in several parts of the country as well as London.
Here’s the information..
GET EMOTIONALLY FIT THROUGH TALKING!
Talking with friends or colleagues can be wonderful when you are feeling stressed or have a challenge.
But have you ever noticed how some conversations can you leave you feeling drained while others leave you feeling refreshed and uplifted?
Find out how to have conversations that nourish the mind and soul in the next Talk for Health Programme run by Nicky Forsythe at the Positive Therapy Company. Dates are 4 Wednesday evenings and 2 Saturdays between 30 May and 11 July. Find out more on http://www.positive-therapy.co.uk/?page_id=390
You can also check it out in Wellbeing in the City’s lead article this week…
Article of the Week:
Get Emotionally Fit Through Talking!
How to have conversations that really count – personally and professionally
“The word is not the route to the psyche. In the beginning was not the word, but the act.”
Jacob Moreno is the founder of Psychodrama, the use of theatrical performance and staging to re-enact events and circumstances from life. Trained as a doctor in Vienna 1912-1917, he rejected Freudian theory while still at medical school. In his autobiography, he writes that he told Freud after a lecture that he gave: “I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their home, in their natural surroundings. You analyse their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyse them and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.”
Starting in 1921 he began experimenting with drama as a way of treating psychiatric patients in groups. He founded The Spontaneity Theatre which used improvisational drama as a means of treatment.
In the 1920’s he also developed a set of ideas which he termed Sociometry – a research method for looking at the social structure of groups which involved Sociograms illustrating these structures. Moreno moved to the USA in 1925 and held position at Columbia University. These ideas are very useful in group work.
- Humans are not just biologically determined (as Freud thought) but have a spiritual side and are influenced by their social context. “He did not believe in Freud’s model … Freud came from biology, Moreno was inspired by the great religions of this world. Freud was atheistic. Moreno was not.”
- He emphasises the importance of creativity and spontaneityin human life. Children have a lot of these things but they get squashed. Life produces constraints, society demands conformity, and therefore people get mired in habitual ways of responding where their spontaneity is stifled. He believed that therapeutic intervention should have the aim of enabling people to reconnect with their spontaneity and thus allow them to:
- be more integrated as people
- be able to respond more flexibly and creatively to new situations, and in the way they lead their lives
- Psychodrama as an intervention is designed to bring these aims about. He developed a range of techniques within Psychodrama such as role reversal and empty chair (before Fritz Perls).
In Zerka Moreno’s words (in an interview with Victor Yalom Ph.D. on psychotherapy.net)
“The easiest way to think about [Psychodrama] is ‘the mind in action’. Instead of talking about your concerns we say ‘Don’t tell me. Show me! Showing means to act it out … it helps you to express yourself in a new way .. a way that life doesn’t usually permit [in order to] make you more integrated.”
“We’re all broken and need to become more cohesive, more integrated from within. Through the catharsis of integration, we become balanced, within and without.”
You can find a download of this summary here: Psychology on a Page 11: Psychodrama
By far the best thing if you want to experience this style of work is to do one of our Action Techniques Days.
The best early film we made summarising the methods and aims of our co-creation process, called Big Talk. Big Talks were done during the 1990′s by British Airways (6), BUPA (2), Singapore Airlines (3), Holiday Inn (3), Guinness (2), Gallaher (1), Visa (1) among others.
In this film you can see both the methods of co-creation at work and hear from the Marketing team what they were hoping to achieve.
Rogers’ theory of the self is humanistic and phenomenological. However, in spite of a ‘New Age’ fascination with Rogers, his work is neither ephemeral nor lacking empirical foundations. He always stood for embracing and evaluating evidence from the phenomena and experiences of the people he met and the meanings that they made of their lives.
His theory was based on 19 propositions that I have reduced to the 12 most important for our Course and practice:
- All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience of which they are the centre.
- The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is “reality” for the individual.
- A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self. [This is my favourite: a wonderful description of how we emerge from our background in a way that allows never-ending re-evaluation and renewal!]
- As a result of interaction with the environment, and particularly as a result of interaction with others, the structure of the self is formed – an organized, fluid but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of characteristics and relationships of the “I” or the “me”, together with values attached to these concepts.
- The organism has a basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the organism. On occasions this can lead to maladaptive behaviour.
- The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.
- Behaviour is basically the goal-directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced, in the field as perceived.
- Emotion accompanies, and in general facilitates, such goal directed behaviour, the kind of emotion being related to the perceived significance of the behaviour for the maintenance and enhancement of the organism.
- Most of the ways of behaving that are adopted by the organism are those that are consistent with the concept of self.
- In some instances, behaviour may be brought about by organic experiences and needs which have not been symbolized. Such behaviour may be inconsistent with the structure of the self but in such instances the behaviour is not “owned” by the individual.
- Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.
- Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of threat to the self structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences.
Additionally, Rogers is known for practicing “unconditional positive regard,” which we have adapted for our Course and practice as a ‘culture of acknowledgment’. You will find many more examples of the influence of Roger’s on my thinking and practice here, published in the IJMR (International Journal of Market Research, May 2012): Paper Website Version
Here is a pdf of this page for your records: Psychology on a Page: Carl Rogers
This is the first in a series of videos that show more dynamic (active & expressive) techniques in action. On our Advanced Qualitative Course you can find out how & when and how to set up Tantrum and other Action Techniques in a group session.
Clearly, it is not easy to do this kind of thing in a crowded, over-furnished fake sitting room, such as you find in the typical viewing facility or recruiters home. But if you have chosen a setting for your group that will allow more expressive, free-form work, this is a wonderful exercise for unleashing desires…often revealing deep unmet needs.
The exercise in the film took place among a group of 70 participants and as you can see, everyone is having a go in their own way. It was this exercise that produced the unreasonable desire to “travel the whole journey on a magic carpet, or failing that, in a bed.” The project was British Airway’s 21st Century Flying innovation workshop, involving passengers and staff.
In 1997 this seemed impossible, but now you can take a comfortable limo to the airport with Virgin Upper Class, not quite a bed but the next best thing and nearly every major airline has fully flat beds in business class. Unthinkable at the time, but Tantrum helped it emerge into the world!
I am very proud of the difference that these innovations have made to countless journeys.
Please click on the thumbnail to watch the video.
As the co-creative work for airlines with passengers and staff increased in the late nineties I was proud and delighted to be asked by Singapore Airlines to help with passenger and crew co-creation for the cabin of the new A380.
In the video you can see passengers speaking about their desire for a seat and a bed. Underlying this were several deeper desires. The first we expressed in our analysis as the wish for a ‘gradient of intimacy’ so that your space on the aircraft, like your space at home would progress from public to private areas. Also under the guise of ‘configurability’ (one of the consistent customer wishes for their seat/space on board) we uncovered the three essential ‘ways of being’ that passengers adopted in long-haul flying – you can think of these as ‘office’, ‘restaurant’ and ‘couch’, or more ergonomically as work, rest and play. These suites add a fourth zone, the most intimate – or bedroom – to the configuration.
As the airline gathered confidence after the delayed maiden flight of the A380 in 2007, they started to bring the idea of moving from public to private space in your own area alive with copy like: ‘even the most private areas have been created with you in mind…and when you’re ready to sleep a fully flat bed equipped with a flush mattress appears’ – thus acknowledging passengers desires for a transition from a seating environment to a separate sleeping space – and subtly hinting that this bed is not the seat flattened out with all its crevices beneath you! You will see this executed in a more confident in-house video in the second of SIA’s promotional films in the short clip.
It came to pass that Big Talk – our co-creation method – found particular acceptance in the ‘imagibuilding’ of passenger experiences in the air. I will post more videos of passengers’ visions shortly.
Thanks are due here to Mac Andrews and Nicky Forsythe, my brilliant partners in all of the early co-creation programmes. Couldn’t have done it without you guys!
Click on image to see video.
I think I can confidently say that this was the first market-research sourced co-creation product in the UK. It is certainly the first to be captured on film from the moment of insight through to the delivery of the innovation. The passenger you will hear speaking in the first part of the video is actually a BA staff member. This is the beauty of the Big Talk method of co-creation – staff genuinely get to visit their ‘customer side’. Which one of us has not faced the cramped box in the loo, full of luggage as we try to freshen up or change an outfit for a meeting?
There are one or two interesting bits of New York diction, ‘slep’ for slept is my favourite.
After the first speaker the film moves to a 10 second commercial from Saatchi announcing the Arrivals Lounge, the first of its type in the world. Finally there are the first few seconds of a review of the lounge including interviews with users. I have cut most of this from the website upload, to keep it reasonably brief. If you would like the whole film (there are another 4 minutes of customer feedback) let me know.
This innovation could never have happened without the huge energy and commitment of Jayne O’Brien at British Airways. From the breakthrough sessions Jayne went on to champion a series of innovations, alongside the then marketing director, Pat Stafford who initiated the project. Shortly afterwards Jayne herself made Marketing Director at British Airways.
Many of my closest colleagues will have seen this film already, so take another look if you’ve forgotten – if not I am posting it here to bring it to a worldwide audience and as a precursor to the introduction of the Charter for Breakthrough Psychology which follows next week. I still believe that this is the best, most inspirational, yet democratic innovation process around!
Wendy’s wonderfully clear and intriguing introduction to Behavioural Economics. Well worth a view!
You will find a link to Wendy’s site on the right hand side of this page. I will be publishing my own take on Behavioural Economics during the next weeks.
Here is Mark’s entire talk from the MRS Brand Research conference in June 2011. He introduces the key idea from his new book and any of you who have read (or meant to read!) Herd should grab a copy of this when it’s out! You will find a link to Mark’s site in the right hand area of this page.
For anyone not familiar with Mark’s work, he emphasises how much of what we do is influenced by the social aspect of our nature. We spend a lot of time observing, learning from and copying each other. When you think how different this is from the huge influence of psychotherapy – where the proposition is that you can be anyone you want to be – and, above all, be an individual, you’ll appreciate how welcome and controversial Mark’s perspective is. Being the kind of rigorous and scientific thinker that he is, Mark has assembled a formidable array of evidence for his point of view. Some of it is mentioned here. As are the mysterious Mountains of Kong!
Some thoughts on the ethics of market research and where I stand.
This is a pigeon in a Skinner Box. These were the kinds of boxes used in the early behaviourist experiments where the rules of Stimulus > Reward and reinforcement schedules were worked out. Something you may not notice and which has got conveniently forgotten is that this pigeon is standing on a grid through which electric shocks can be administered. Yes, in early days Behaviourism was as interested in punishment as reward. Could you get more work from reward or punishment or from a cunning mixture? There has always been a chilling lack of compassion behind this kind of ‘investigation’. Who knows to what ends unscrupulous people might put the insights from this kind of thing.
Lest we forget, there is an ethical issue underlying the use of control procedures to do experiments on living creatures. You would not be able to use these Skinner Boxes now without producing public outcry. Nonetheless there is a growth in the attempts to use controlled experiments with matched samples on human subjects. The most common of these are the Random Controlled Trials of pharmaceutical development, where one sub-group is given the new medicine while the others get a placebo or an existing remedy.
Should the new medicine prove helpful or harmful, it could be advantageous or disastrous to be in the experimental rather than the control group. But you do not know which you are in when you sign up for the trial – or whether the people running the trial will let you know if there are problems or benefits emerging. If it is a drug for treatment of Stage 4 cancer, will they switch you to the new medicine should it work to grant you extra months of life? Even if they don’t do it during the trial, will they give it to you when it is approved for being willing to take the risk? Will they hell.
For these sorts of reasons, it becomes more difficult to recruit samples for RCT’s and more and more unemployed, vulnerable and desperate people take part – and more trials are done in countries where regulation is lax, help is cheap or the press uninterested. In defence of RCT’s you can argue that they are a potential step along the way to better health for human beings.
What’s this got to do with market research you say? Well, with the new enthusiasm for Behavioural Economics or experimental social psychology as it is properly called, there is a willingness to enroll groups of subjects in controlled tests where one thing is compared to another to see which condition or stimulus produces the desired behaviour (usually purchasing or adoption). Usually you do not inform the ‘respondents’ (MR speak for subjects) of the conditions or variables in the experiment. To some extent these experiments rely upon naïve subjects.
In this and other market research techniques, the treatment of people as experimental subjects is alarming. Another such area is the growth in use of invasive brain scanning technologies like MRI and EEG’s to see which area of the brain ‘lights up’ when we show people a product. My own family has endured more than 30 EEG procedures – and watched the doctors struggle to make sense of them – to the point where the only decipherable readings were obtained from sleep EEG’s (readings done when the subject is asleep). The idea that Market Researchers can ‘read’ these immensely complex encephalograms is frankly, ludicrous.
Common MRI side effects are:
Not to mention the anxiety that naturally accompanies the prospect of exposing your body to huge magnetic fields. I can understand that someone with a suspected tumour might be willing to submit to these procedures, but for the sake of trying to figure out how to optimize packaging or press advertising? Are we really that desperate to make a sale? What about our community and looking out for each other?
We have been here before. Following on from Skinner, social scientists became ready to fabricate conditions under which people could be tested in ever more extreme settings. The Milgram experiments in 1963 famously encouraged people to deliver electric shocks to strangers, following the instructions of ‘experimenters’.
In 1971, in the Zimbardo Prison experiments, students were allocated the roles of prisoners and gaolers, to explore the emergence of evil or brutality:
In this project, so caught up did everyone become in their roles that the experiment had to be abandoned to prevent real damage and lasting harm:
“Playing the roles
It was only when one of his colleagues intervened that the experiment was finally stopped. In total it only lasted six of the planned 14 days. Young men previously found to be pacifists were, in their roles as guards, humiliating and physically assaulting the ‘prisoners’ – some even reported enjoying it. The ‘prisoners’, meanwhile, quickly began to show classic signs of emotional breakdown. Five had to leave the ‘prison’ even before the experiment was prematurely terminated.”
What is my point here?
When you start to think about people as subjects in an experiment or game you quickly lose sight of them as human beings. This leads to what Fromm calls objectification – a state in which people are mere representatives of a larger group of people – a sample. In market research these subjects are objectified as consumers. They show up to your sessions not as Billy and Sally but as users or lapsed users. Often behind a mirror, joking and sneering sit a superior group, representatives of the producers. The viewing room is notorious for disrespectful, mildly drunken behaviour.
You might ask why does big business want to pay for these and other experiments in market research? The answer is that business is endlessly searching for means of control and influence over populations. It wants to find the DNA of choice, it wants to be able to move you irresistibly to its desired end, whether product, investment or service. And it doesn’t much care who you are, only that you comply.
I don’t suggest for a moment that market researchers and business executives are wicked or unscrupulous people. It’s more invidious than that. It is an adoption of investigative standards that is driven by cultural norms. We can do these procedures, we can measure behaviour, map brains, see nerve activity in the clinic or hospital, so why not use them for better business? Everyone else is doing it, so what’s the harm?
The point is surely that their use in clinics is for the benefit of the patient, the intention is to improve his or her well-being. In Market Research the point is to find out how to influence people to sell them stuff. One is surely a noble cause, the other is venal.
I believe there is a better way. That’s why I invented co-creation in 1991. I had had enough of sitting with ‘respondents’ in fake suburban living rooms, I believed in making the agenda open and transparent, the invitation clear and specific – to create together for the betterment of everyone involved. That’s why I don’t like viewing rooms or spying on people for commercial gain. That’s why I won’t lie or pretend to people that things are any way other than they are – because that enrols me in colluding in deception.
Co-creation was not some fancy technique or cool process: it was invented to restore a democratic, consensual, level playing field between producers and their customers. It was developed to use dialogue, empathy and co-invention to excite and engage everyone. My hope was that by standing in each other’s shoes both sides of a potential transaction would become more engaged with the other, become more social, more appreciative of each other. I still cherish that hope, though the re-emergence of the experimenters disguised as Behavioural Economists and the enthusiasm for this kind of experimentation among market researchers scares me silly!
The key to discovery is letting go. Once you have formed your group or team, you need to set them free on their journey with whatever brief(s) and resources you plan to make available. This need to let go is one reason why I have focused so much on disinhibition in my group work – hoping to let go of my own inhibitions as well as everyone else’s!
Last time I talked about tips for evaluation. This time we’re talking about discovery projects where you are setting out to uncover things that haven’t been found before. Such projects might have innovation as their goal, or to update and catch up with changes in attitude or behavior due to time or new arrivals in the market place.
If you are briefed to discover & innovate, then the diagram below gives you a strong sense of the ideal shape of your research sessions. As you can see the major part of the session is devoted to opening up or divergent thinking which is very different in shape and nature from the kind of control-oriented work you might do in an evaluation group.
Here the forming part of the group or session is crucial, you are going into unknown territory with strangers so you need to be able to count on each other. Although this ‘unknown territory’ exists in an urban or suburban comfortable room or viewing facility, or perhaps a hotel meeting room – don’t think this doesn’t mean people won’t be anxious – they will. And so will you! Whatever you do don’t adopt a ‘nonchalant’ or devil-may-care attitude as if you were a complete expert, which almost certainly covers nervousness – and is likely to create mimicry in the group as they copy you, the most powerful person in the room!
Here is the shape of the Discovery Journey with key markers along the way:
If you have difficulties interpreting this on-screen you can download a pdf of the discovery diagram here:
We will return to the Phases or stages in this journey in future Tips, but notice if you will similar journeys of your own, where you have opened yourself up for new experiences. Going on holiday is a favourite [although if you’re a worrier like me, you may have packed everything but the kitchen sink!] Think of a time when you took things as they came, tried out some new stuff and went with the flow: that’s the kind of headspace to employ if you’re leading a creative journey.
More on what all the phases involve soon!
Now we focus in on the heart of breakthrough psychology, the idea of abnorming – born out of my eventual realisation that no theory, no matter how cool, could explain all that we are.
This is the key reason why I’ve bothered to learn about so many of the great ideas in psychology – and to keep them in my back pocket. You never know when they’ll come in handy!
Let me know your thoughts!