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The Final Frontier - The Human Psyche

The popular series Star Trek immortalized the concept of “The Final Frontier,” and many share the view that it will indeed be the exploration of space.

Others feel that the final frontier will be the exploration of the vast depths of the ocean, about which we still know less than we do about Earth’s Moon.

An equally large percentage of the World’s population, especially those who are members of its scientific community, feel the human mind represents the true final frontier.

I feel the latter is much closer to the truth, but that the concept of the study of the mind and unlocking the secrets to how it works is still not quite on the mark. Personally, my own feeling, backed by a considerable body of research, is that the human psyche is the true final frontier.

It’s been well documented that humankind uses approximately 10% or less of its brainpower. This is a concept that is generally accepted, and few people seem to have a problem with that finding. More thought provoking, though, is how much of that 10% do most of us use effectively?

Having studied the issue for more than 30 years I’ve concluded that we are limited not so much much by what our minds and bodies are capable of, but by those limits which we place on ourselves. Psychological roadblocks, if you will.

Our performance, whether at the office or in our personal lives, often can be improved rapidly and dramatically if we are willing to overcome the fears, apprehensions, and anxieties preventing us from doing so.

In his groundbreaking 1995 book: “Emotional Intelligence,” Dr. Daniel Goleman distills an incredibly complex issue down to one main theme; the fact that human beings haven’t really been around that long in evolutionary terms, and though we’ve created a “modern” world, our brains are still wired much the same as they were when our early ancestors were hunting woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed cats. And, in those days, the hunters may have spent considerable time being chased by such animals as well. That’s where the “flight or fight” response that’s hardwired into our brain comes into play. Though we are no longer likely to be attacked or chased by such an animal, the wiring of our brains remains relatively unchanged. Even now our brain still triggers adrenaline flow, faster heart beat, faster breathing, etc., when confronted with a potential threat, real or perceived.

This explains why very smart people can still do very dumb things, or why even the most civilized and cultured people have been known to sometimes resort to verbal outbursts or even fistfights. It explains why an otherwise calm and rational person may scream and act ridiculously silly when surprised by a bug, mouse, snake, bat, or other insect or animal, even though the person is several thousand times bigger and heavier than the animal that probably poses no real threat. It explains why many people are afraid to fly even though statistics continue to show that you are more likely to get hurt falling down the stairs or driving to work.

The problem is that in our business as well as personal lives these sometimes humorous traits can become very serious liabilities. Earlier this year a man ran off the road and passengers were killed and injured when he reacted to a spider that appeared in the car he was driving. His was not the first such case.

In 1941 America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. It was and still is often referred to as a surprise, but it needn’t have been a complete surprise, as there were some who knew the attack was coming and tried to warn others but their words fell on deaf years. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded in an accident that was entirely avoidable. Engineers and others had expressed almost unanimous concern before the launch that there was potential for catastrophic failure and that the launch should be cancelled. In the end, their advice and pleas went unheeded.

In the 1940s a bright and visionary man, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, tried to help American business with his breakthrough “System of Profound Knowledge.” A system that enabled dramatic improvements in almost any process, especially in manufacturing, quality control, and education. To Deming’s dismay, American business was not receptive to any suggestion that there was room for improvement. After repeated rejection he took the system to a receptive and appreciative Japan. The result was that Japan, once known for cheap electronics and other goods, soon became the second most powerful economy in the World, with their electronics and cars in particular being in great demand. The same Deming technology that had been refused or ignored by American business was used by the Japanese to catch the American automotive industry completely off guard. Stylish cars from Japan that were more attractively designed, better engineered, and that got better gas mileage started outselling American models. One of the three largest auto manufacturers, Chrysler, almost went bankrupt before American manufacturers finally woke up to the need for better quality and design, and improvement and better performance overall. Who did American industry turn to in order to reinvent itself? Dr. Deming, of course! (Did one man change Japan?)

Most know of the story of the Wright Brothers who were the first to master powered flight. Many, however, are not aware of just how many people continued to believe that it was impossible to fly, even though the Wright Brothers continued to fly on an ever increasing basis. The famous film of those first powered flights was not shot by the media, but arranged for by Orville and Wilbur. No one other than the volunteer flight crew showed up because powered flight was simply considered impossible. The Wrights eventually moved their operations to Huffman field back in their home town of Dayton, Ohio. Not only did people passing by the field see the Wright’s airplane in flight on frequent occasions, but many stopped into the local newspaper to ask why the story wasn’t being covered. Even with eyewitnesses stopping in, the newspaper staff still didn’t believe that powered flight was possible. The Wright’s thought that surely the U.S. government would be interested, but Washington also simply refused to believe that it was possible. The Wright’s then offered their invention to governments overseas in Europe, where they encountered similar problems. Eventually their big break came in France, where after a demonstration flight they became decorated heroes overnight and were front-page news throughout Europe.

Going back a little further, astronomer and physicist Galileo proved with his telescope that the Earth was not flat and revolved around the Sun, as did the other planets. However, because this contradicted the belief at the time that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that everything revolved around the Earth Galileo was condemned in 1633 by the Roman Inquisition and sentenced to life imprisonment. An investigation into the astronomer’s condemnation was opened in 1979 by Pope John Paul II. In October 1992 a papal commission acknowledged the Vatican’s error.

All of the above cases illustrate the power of the human psyche in preventing us from accepting or acknowledging something and acting accordingly, even if it is valid and even if our mind is entirely capable of processing the information.

Before 1954 it was generally believed by the scientific and medical communities to be physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in 4 minutes or less. Not only did Roger Bannister prove the World wrong when he ran a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954, but less than two months later, spurred on by Bannister’s accomplishment, another runner broke the 4 minute mile. Dozens of runners broke the 4 minute mile within the year following Bannister, and hundreds more within the years after that.

Obviously people did not evolve new running abilities in the short period of time leading up to 1954, and then afterward. Nor was there any evolved difference in brainpower. The only difference between what was “impossible” before 1954 and what was “possible” afterward was that Roger Bannister and those who followed him overcame the limitations of the human psyche.

In case you’re feeling that in all of the above there is an absence of more recent examples related to business, you’re right! Past experience has shown that people often start to become uncomfortable when presented with examples of shortcomings that may resemble those within their own organizations. Numerous examples, however, are presented in the upcoming book, where there is more room to give proper treatment to this often delicate subject.

If you would like, you can find a few more curious quotes and examples from history by clicking here: “Quotes on Innovation”

There is a mountain of research and actual experience that indicates that all of us can achieve better performance in any given endeavor, if we are willing to overcome the limitations of the human psyche. And since organizations are made up of individuals that means that any organization can improve dramatically as well.

The TIIMS methodologies provide a way to overcome the human limitations in almost any organization, and is proven to achieve positive results. However, because it is also recognized that changing systems is much easier than changing people, and much faster, the TIIMS software provides any organization with a way to overcome human limitations regardless of the degree to which your employees are able to.

Whatever the level of performance you would like to achieve in your organization, lower costs, better productivity, fewer errors, moving information faster, better decision-making capabilities, or spotting future trends (predicting what will happen in the future), TIIMS is the only system able to deliver all of the above, automatically, throughout your entire operation.

The Flash intro to the GRPMAX Web site points out what indisputable research has proven, that the most powerful force at work within most organizations today is, surprisingly or not, the “status quo.”

Will your organization continue to adopt the status quo, or decide to see what new levels of performance are possible when you move beyond it?