Category: Human Beings

Predicting Human Behaviour


Time to read: 3 mins

After working with agile frameworks for the last nine years, one can become complacent of the values and principles of agile.  You can believe that you know it all; have seen every scenario, can adduce all the pros and cons and have the panacea to every issue that could arise.

I recently found myself in this situation and went back to revise the core values and principles of agile. One of those core principles is trust.  The fifth principle states:

“Build projects around motivated individuals.

Give them the environment and support they need

and trust them to get the job done”

We often review work practices and procedures to gain more efficiency.  In agile, this is referred to as the empirical process review.  Values and principles differ from processes and procedures. I thought about the values and principles that we all hold and the impacts they have in the workplace.

During my final semester at university, I took the subject Business Ethics for a Digital Society.  All of us went into that class with our own pre-conceived ideas and biases.   I wondered how much value I would get out of the class and how this subject aligned with the rest on my degree.

After completing the class, I saw the decisions that were made at work through a different lens.  One thing that all of us as students agreed upon was this.  Despite your background, upbringing or beliefs; ethics, morals and human virtues (no matter how they are derived) would influence a person’s decision making and how they act. 

On the surface, ethics is hard to measure in business. Unlike a profit and lost statement where numbers are calculated or a burndown chart that visualises progress, we only see the effects of poor ethics in the news headlines.  Such as the 2008 global financial crisis and the Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services industry in 2019.

So what are human virtues exactly? Here are some examples..

Acceptance | Caring | Compassion | Confidence | Consideration | Contentment | Cooperation | Courage | Determination | Enthusiasm Fairness | Flexibility | Forgiveness | Friendliness | Generosity | Graciousness | Gratitude | Helpfulness | Honesty | Honour | Humility | Justice | Joyfulness | Kindness | Love | Loyalty | Modesty |Optimistic | Orderliness | Passionate | Patience | Perseverance | Tenacity | Tolerance | Truthfulness | Understanding | Wisdom | Wonder

Maybe those implicated in the news headlines we just mentioned were lacking some virtues (Fairness, Honesty, Truthfulness)?

Virtues are a predictor of human behaviour. When they are absent, the only guides left are the instructions set out by the business and the examples of people around us.

When things fail, we often go back and retrace the steps that were followed. We identify gaps, add more steps, and provide further clarification. All of this is done to make a process leaner and less prone to error. 

While controlling the processes may lead you to a better outcome, it’s more effective when you have the right people with the right behaviours. They need not be high performers but they should be trustworthy, ethical, morally aligned with you and the team and display human virtues that are desirable.  These types of attributes dictate how we behave.

Reflecting on my ethics class, I now love and appreciate this definition of what a virtue is.

“Virtues are the essence of our character and character does indeed determine destiny” 

Looking back at the fifth principle of agile. There is no mention of processes. Instead, it points out: motivated individual, environment, support and trust. These attributes are analogous to the list of human virtues mentioned earlier.

Machines follow instructions. To change its behaviour, you change the set of instructions and the outcome is different.  

Humans are a little different, we build character up over a lifetime.  Good virtues are difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain.  We should cherish the virtues that we do have and strive for the one that we don’t.  

Over the long term what I have experience is that human virtues of individuals and teams are a better predictor of outcomes than any set of instructions that you can put in place. 

The people around us


Barrack Obama (in the 80’s)

Time to read: 2 mins.

Last night I watched the movie Barry.  A quick synopsis: Barrack Obama arrives in New York City in the early eighties as a college student at Columbia University as he tries to find his own identity and his place in life.   To be honest I found the movie a little underwhelming. At least those were my initial thoughts on the movie…


Barry covers themes of identity, race, perceptions and how we label others.  One of the biggest takeaways was how Barrack was surrounded by a wide array of people early on in his life, wealthy, poor, educated and lost. And while these people have some influence on him, Barry never conforms to anyone’s philosophy or way of living.


There are numerous long scene’s that don’t drive the narrative forward. Instead, it shows Barrack getting lost in his own thoughts where he is either sitting on a park bench, looking out on to the cityscape, smoking a cigarette, or reading a book in the library;



The people around us

As many bad influences that are around Barry, he also had some good ones. He is able to see people them for who they are, the circumstances that they are in and what drives them.


In those scenes that I mentioned above, I wondered what Barrack is thinking about.  Was it his own background?  And should that determine what his own direction going forward? Without that clarity and definition of who he is, Barrack struggles to connect with anyone around him.



Finding you and connect with others

As I tried to relate to Barrack in the 1980’s, I found that our situation is analogous to what we see in the movie Barry.  That’s if we are interested in connecting with others.  In Melbourne, 49% are either born overseas or have at least one parent who is born overseas. We come from more than 200 countries, speak over 250 languages and dialects and follow over 130 religions.


Like Barrack in the early 80’s in New York, we should evaluate the unique experiences that we bring as individuals and the values we hold. In the same light, we should also seek the insights that others can provide us not just in the workplace but also in life.

Assertiveness & Saying No


Damon Zahariades

Time to read: 3 min.

What I have commonly observed with friends and family and in the workplace, is that the kindest and nicest of all people often have a difficult time saying no.  Yet, saying no is a critical skill.  It’s a skill that can save us time, raises our status as a leader and improves our self-worth.


If you often find yourself saying yes, when you should really be saying no.  Then this article is for you.



Associations with the word no.

Words are important.  How we define, internalise and give words meaning determines how we feel and experience the world around us.


Most of us have a negative association with the word no.  If we reflect on situations where we have had to say no or heard the word, its generally associated with a negative emotion.



The fear of saying no

These negative associations stems from fear.  We can fear how others will react.  Some can react with frustration, anger and disappointment.  When others react this way, it can leave us with feelings of guilt and shame; as it’s natural to long for the approval of others.


After having seen people reacting poorly (and more than once), the wisdom that I can share is that when there is an opportunity to set an expectation early, then take the time to prepare the requestor for the response that they may not want to hear.


Sometimes there is no avoiding a poor reaction.  The important thing to remember, is that it is not your role to appease the requestor. Harmony is not always possible and in these situation conflict maybe unavoidable.




Another aspect of why we have trouble saying no is from the fear of missing out.  There are meetings you could attend, people that you should meet and groups that you should participate in.  I’m not saying that these activities are not beneficial, but we have to be selective of the opportunities that we choose to take on.


When you say yes to something, you are indirectly saying no to something else.  If you are in the ‘nice and kind’ category, then often it’s you own goals, interest and aspirations that are being pushed back and neglected.


Take some time to think about the message you send to yourself when this is done on a consistent basis.  Aren’t your goals, interests and aspirations just as valuable as everyone else’s?


There is a right way to say no.  A way that allows you to keep your self-worth without coming off as being rude or aggressive.


The right way to say no

Assertiveness.  In the context of saying no, assertiveness means expressing your point of view with grace.


Assertiveness is demonstrated when you are able to say no in the right manner, tone, with purpose and poise.  When you are assertive it means you are not looking for external validation or the approval of others.


When you are not looking for validation or approval; You can say no confidently because your actions align with your convictions.  It’s like having a planned response.


A planned response shows that you are prudent, thoughtful and considerate because you let the requestor know why you are saying no. You may even suggest an alternative avenue to pursue.  There is no need for stalling, lying or giving an “I can’t” excuse. You say no, because it’s your decision to say no.


Over time being assertive when saying no will gain you the respect and trust of others.  You will eventually feel better for it and start to see the benefits.  You may even change a once negative association to a positive one J



For a more in-depth look into this topic, I would recommend The Art of Saying No by Damon Zahariades.

Information vs Affirmation (& how to distinguish between the two)

Time to Read: 3 mins
A cognitive bias describes a pattern of thinking that deviates from logical and sound reasoning.
While completing my degree in 2014, I still remember spending an entire class (3hrs) looking at the cognitive biases and how they effect organisations, management and decision making. It was the first time I had ever come across cognitive biases and I found the topic to be fascinating.  I started to reflect on my past decisions and wondered how much of my thinking was influenced by cognitive biases.
Cognitive biases was popularised by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman; they dispelled the belief that in business, humans made decisions based on evidence and logic. For their works they Kahneman (illustrated above) was awarded a Nobel prize in 2002.
Here are just two of the example to keep in mind as you continue to read:
  • Confirmation Bias:  The tendency to find information that only supports or confirms our point of view. And
  • Ingroup Bias: The tendency to to favour those that are in the same group as us.
The dangers of biases
By its very nature cognitive biases are unavoidable; in that, when they occur we are unaware that they are occurring. As we can’t  consciously control cognitive biases from happening, the only thing that we can do is be aware that they exist, and the situation where they are most likely to occur.
Having biases within ourselves is one thing.  But having biases in the technology that we use is something that we rarely think about.  Just as human bias is not immediately detectable, neither are the biases that exist it the technology that we use. To make sense of this topic I want to separate technology into two categories:
  1. Technology that we control and
  2. those the we don’t.
Technology that we can control 
This category describes technology that we know is accurate and true, in essence it’s technology without any biases.  As an example when we use a tool such as a calculator, a excel worksheet or even a map to get directions on our phones.  


When using these types of technologies we are confident that the information is real and that because information is in plain sight; you can identify street names and recognise building on a map.  You can see and understand the logic behind a calculator and control the formulas on a excel spreadsheet.

And technology that we don’t
Then we have technology that we don’t control.  Some examples of these technologies are large social media sites, search engines and intelligence assistance like Siri or Alexa.
At times (more often than we think) these technology will try to make decision on our behalf, they predict want we want to see and hide what we don’t.  Behind an attractive, simple and user friendly UI is an enormous amount of complexity which is hidden away from us.  Hidden, in the same way as our own cognitive biases.
A design problem?
Cognitive biases is something that we can’t control, but with regards to technology, this is something that we can control. The problem doesn’t lie so much with the technology, but in it’s design and design is something we have conscious control of.
Whether we are designers or not, at a minimum we should all be aware that biases do exist in some of the technology that we use and how they could be influencing our thinking and understanding.
Information vs Affirmation
Take some time to think about the two cognitive biases that were mentioned earlier…
When we are using tools that we control (i.e. that have no bias) we can be sure that the we are getting Information.
When we are using technology where biases exist, we are more likely to be receiving information that confirms our points of view and from sources that reflect a similiar opinions that we hold.  Whether our views are right or wrong, what we are getting is Affirmation.
I just think it’s important that we can distinguish between the two…

Lewis Hamilton, Human Beings & Innovation (they are all connected)


Time to read: 3 mins

Working on Windows 10, I am currently using (and not by choice) Microsoft Edge as my browser. It has a feature whereby every time you open up a new tab, it shows you a news feed. I’m not a formula one racing fan but the title of an article appeared on my news feed that did capture my attention. The article was titled “Lewis Hamilton is ‘very serious’ about a music career”


Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a three time formula one championship winner and currently racing for the Mercedes Team, for those of you who have no idea 🙂  By all accounts he is successful in his career and life in general. In the article Lewis revealed his interest in pursuing a career in music.


“It’s got to the point now where it’s very serious. If I am not training; getting ready for a race, I’m here [working on my music]”


After reading the article I was a little perplexed, but then I started to think… Why would he want to pursue a music career when he is already successful and has a well established career in Formula One?

Most of us all have jobs but like Hamilton not all of us are able to create, share and express ourselves freely and in a way that we are comfortable with.


Being Human

As humans all of us have a need to express ourselves, to create something and share it with the world. It’s within all of us but the way we go about it comes out in many different forms. It may come in a form of a simple act like the way we dress, how we do our makeup or the tattoos we have. Sometimes in more obvious and deliberate displays.


When I was growing up my grandmother would work in the garden, come spring time people would walk past and stop to admire the snapdragon flowers in our front yard. My mother makes wedding dresses and my father casually plays the keyboard.


The point I am trying to make is these ‘works of expression’ that we all do are important even if it is a small daily act or (in Hamilton’s case) something as a dramatic as a potential career change. As he describes why he makes music:

“In here, I can be me, I can be vulnerable, I can show a side of me that people don’t get to see”

There is some truth in that with all avenues of creativity that we choose to pursue for ourselves. So why is it that some of us are more comfortable in pursuing avenues and outlets of creativity while others just shy away?


Inhibitors of Creativity

For those of us who have had to really put ourselves out there (sometimes not by choice), initially some of the biggest challenges are those that come from within ourselves.


It’s the concern or worry of what others will think of our work, which cause us to second guess ourselves. The fear of rejection, which freezes us from taking action. It’s conforming to what is expected of us, which changes our approach and ultimately what we deliver. But once we are able to get over such hurdles and work outside of what we considered to be safe; the rewards don’t come instantly but they will come and are worth while in the long term.


Anyone who is able to get past these limiting inhibitors will have a unique mindset. A mindset that provides a source of encouragement to those around them, they are influencers, an asset within the workplace and become drivers for change.

As an example business innovation would not happen without such a mindset.


Innovation within Business

There are some great resources available on business innovation from books, podcasts and MOOC’s . These will give you the 1,2,3 steps of innovation from; how you ask the right questions, identifying new frames, incubating new processes etc.


But because innovation relies on the confidence of your own ideas and your ability to challenge the status quo. How effective you are in the execution of these steps are heavily dependent on your mindset.


The good news is that you are already working on your mindset through daily acts or more elaborate extra curricula activities (examples given earlier), it’s just that we don’t normally associate them with being creative or bold and leading with confidence.


We just need to make the connection.