An MIT cognitive scientist Tobias Gerstenberg deployed a fascinating experiment. Dr. Gerstenberg demonstrated a compelling mental model called Counterfactuals. The study, conducted in 2017, is groundbreaking in the cognitive field. The human mind makes very many micro-predictions when facing a situation/decision. To prove this, Dr. Gerstenberg, decided to study the eye movements of people. Eighteen videos were recorded, and the eye movements were tracked using infrared light. The research found that people rapidly shifted their focus to imagine the possible trajectories of the call visually. In other words, they applied Counterfactual reasoning to anticipate what might happen – so the eye is rapidly shifting between Reality and Imagined Reality. The eye can predict what may happen – In this case, it acts as a forecasting tool!.
Understanding this can enable all of us to become better predictors. For a Recruiter, this skill is critical to nurture and grow as they can predict whether a candidate will join them or not. It is not just in micro contexts. Using such counterfactual thinking will benefit long-term planning as well. The earliest such mental models date back to Dr. William Crookes’ dire food scarcity warning
At the end of the 19th century, William Crookes – physicist, chemist, and inventor of Crookes tube (an early vacuum tube), issued a dire warning. The British Isles, he said, were at grave risk of running out of food. His reasoning was simple, the population was growing, but the amount of land under cultivation could not keep pace. Dr. Crookes delivered this at a dinner event, and many of his colleagues were very upset. They called him an “Alarmist,” But it is an alarm that triggered the development of Fertilizers to improve crop yields. In some ways, this alarm kept the world fed (hunger is still prevalent, the recent Sri Lankan food crisis is an example. But crop yields have improved significantly over the last century)
Two weeks ago, at a leadership meeting, I was asked, if I were to identify one new skill that Enterprises should develop, what would that be. After researching, we produced a taxonomy of various skills across Digital, Tech, and Corporate Functions. But one skill, we highlighted is becoming important
The role and responsibilities of a Solutionist. At a high level, a Solutionist is brutally honest about a problem but Optimistic about a solution
Microsoft is attempting to build this group of Digital Solutionists. Such a group will aim to provide the following aspects
- Develop Scenarios and Counter scenarios and how Microsoft solutions and products will fit for the clients
- Develop Mental Models to understand various risks and mitigation solutions
- A framer mindset to arrive at the correct solution (Daniel Kahneman developed this term)
- Example New Zealand FRAMED Covid as SARS so they worked on Elimination while the UK FRAMED Covid as flu and they worked on Mitigation (New Zealand was more successful in handling Covid) (Example taken from the Book Framers by Kenneth Cukier, Victor Mayer- Schonberger and Francis de Vericourt)
- Companies rely a lot on external consultants to do this work. But companies have realized that they need to build this capability internally
Suppose you have a Supply-Demand talent Gap problem. There are two ways to frame this – An Existential Crisis or A Transformational Opportunity.
If we mental model as a crisis, you will do the following:
- Pay unreasonable salaries and get people hired
- Outsource some of the critical functions that should not be outsourced
- Bring in talent that is not up to the mark
If we mental model this as an Opportunity, you will do the following:
- Develop your existing talent with more training and agility
- Be very scientific in recruitment as a whole and enable recruiters to bring the right talent
- Develop learning models
Now the ball is clearly in your court as to how to operate
If we take an Opportunity framework, we can develop models of learning like this. Imagine have these assets readily available. In the diagram below, we have mapped a few feeder roles to intermediate and end roles.