Wednesday, 28 October 2015

My Character Strengths Profile

I am currently researching topics around well-being and happiness. One of the books I'm reading is by Shawn AchorThe Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work". So far, so good. One of the references Achor makes is to this free survey from the VIA Institute on Character, who produce personalised reports called Character Strengths Profile, that shows you how to LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. 

Achor highly recommended his readers do the survey, since having an idea of what your key strengths are, will help you along the way in making transitions to a more healthy and balanced living.

So I took the survey, it took me less than ten minutes to complete, and here are my results. As with all these surveys or psychometric tools, I take them with a pinch of salt - according to this tool, it summarises your overall character strengths in prioritized order of 24 attributes, my report follows:

VIA Character Strengths (Free Report)

1. Love Of Learning

Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally; related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows.

2. Judgment

Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one's mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.

3. Honesty

Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions.

4. Creativity

Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it.

5. Bravery

Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.

6. Leadership

Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same time maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.

7. Spirituality

Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.

8. Appreciation Of Beauty & Excellence

Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

9. Prudence

Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

10. Gratitude

Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

11. Perseverance

Finishing what one starts; persevering in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks.

12. Fairness

Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.

13. Hope

Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.

14. Teamwork

Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one's share.

15. Perspective

Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself/others.

16. Forgiveness

Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting others’ shortcomings; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.

17. Kindness

Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

18. Humility

Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.

19. Self-Regulation

Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions.

20. Curiosity

Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering.

21. Love

Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people.

22. Social Intelligence

Being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.

23. Zest

Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.

24. Humor

Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Personal Metrics leading to Self-Aware Improvement - the Next Big Thing?

When I ventured into blogging back in Jan 2011, one of my motivations was to take a chance, a leap-of-faith and just get-myself-out there (thanks to Seth Godin & Jeff Jarvis for the inspiration). I wanted to test the waters with writing about my work & professional experiences, as well as experiment with the thought of sharing some ideas of mine, openly and publicly - to gather feedback (at the risk of someone stealing the idea), maybe build up a follower-base, or have people share and link to the post, thus getting some far though, the going has been really quite slow! But I'm not going to give up - so here's an idea I've been brewing for the last few months, and haven't had much of a chance to do anything about it, until today - first step: put thoughts on paper, and gather feedback, so here goes:

Idea In Brief

I believe that as human beings, we have an innate desire to grow and improve ourselves, to become a better society, aspiring to heights of the kind of social evolution as portrayed by Star Trek, utopia. In order to get there, we are constantly assessing our way of life, the impact we have on ourselves, our fellow family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, community and society in general. We don't wake up each day wishing to cause trouble and make the next guy's life miserable.

So my underlying assumption is that: People want to improve themselves through becoming self-aware. In order to do this, we need some form of monitoring and measurement, data about ourselves, that we can use to piece together a story that shows where we're lacking, areas for improvement, etc.

It has been quite difficult to have scientific data, that can be quantified, abstracted and relationships drawn that map back to our psychological state-of-mind. Seeking professional help and counsel may help (but it is costly), reading self-improvement books and other emotional intelligence / psychometrics material is also useful - but this knowledge tends to get forgotten pretty quickly. 

The challenge is in remembering and detecting emotional scenarios, and having the sense of mind to pick up on your emotional triggers, consciously and in-the-moment. I found these kind of personal interventions difficult to achieve in practice, we are human after-all, and natural survival instincts are likely to kick-in the moment there is situation that involves confrontation, be it physical or mental scenario.

Imagine though, that it was possible to be collecting information about your own personal state-of-mind, by measuring physical stimuli, like your heart rate, blood pressure, pupil/retina dilation, shift-in-body language, tone of voice, sweaty palms, etc. Imagine these signals are being captured, processed in the background, and relationships being made by some intelligent algorithm, that summarises and draws relationships about your whole self (mind, body & soul). We have a plethora of devices collecting metrics about our physical activities (running, cycling, walking, heart rate monitors, etc.) but very little in the form of taking some these physical metrics and translating into your mental / psychological profile.

Imagine that each day, you are able to review your state-of-being. It tells you the events during the day that led to spikes in heart rate, nervous tensions or uncomfortable experiences. It could also tell you when you likely experienced situations of happiness, joy and tension, etc. You then use this information to consciously make changes in your life, adapt to scenarios, possibly seeking out the situations that promote a positive sentiment, and embark on plan of action to deal with negative situations...

This is what I call the dawn of Personal Metrics leading to Self-Awareness Improvements.

I believe with the variety of smart-monitoring devices out there, from your smartphones, smart cameras and smart-watches - there is an opportunity to make sense of this data focusing on personal data metrics. Big Data is going to enter the personal space, seriously, big time! 

Privacy issues aside, my assumption is that people want to improve, and wouldn't mind using real data-about-themselves to do so.

In the next section, I share some of the core scenarios where this technology can be used:

Core Scenarios & Stories

Scenario 1: Parenting - keeping an eye on your child's stress patterns

Alice and Bob are new to the parenting scene, their child, Sam is about to enter a new school. As parents, Alice & Bob are concerned about Sam's well-being throughout the day. They are are able to monitor Sam throughout (almost in real-time if they need to). At the end of every day, both parents review Sam's stress levels - from this they can tell whether Sam is having a good time, or is experiencing some challenges & stress points. They use this information as an opportunity to find out more from Sam, get to better at understanding the situations (maybe it's only during break time, or there is one particular class that stresses Sam out)....

Scenario 2: Education - Are the students OK?

People often say that society is a result of background, up-bringing and education. Imagine if, as educators, it was possible to monitor your students, to genuinely find out how your students are doing, possibly find out before it's too late, of students that need additional help, coaching and mentoring. 
Imagine that in a group situation, the educator can assess in real-time, whether students are comfortable with the topic or not, maybe there's tension in the room that needs the teacher to change tact (call a break, or address the elephant in the room?)

Scenario 3: Adult - Workplace - Seeking Happiness at work

Bob is employed as a professional in a multinational corporate. He feels like he is just a cog-in-this-big-machine, often facing issues of corporate politics and uncomfortable confrontational situations.  Alice is a self-made, serial entrepreneur, always looking out for the next big thing, networking and improving on her successes.  Joe, like Bob, is also a corporate-member, but he is an agitator, always questioning the status quo, passionate about innovating within the big corporate.
Bob, Alice & Joe have one thing in common - the quest for self-improvement, leading to better, fruitful outcomes in the workplace. 
At the end of every day, the trio reviews their personal metrics. Bob realises that there's certain points in the week that his stress/tension levels are exceeding his normal thresholds. He then correlates that to specific times in his calendar where he has meetings with his manager. Bob takes note and sets a personal reminder on his phone to monitor his situation at the next convention.
Alice finds her heart rate & voice-tone changing whenever she's involved in a pitch to a prospective client, she also finds that she gets really nervous (her personal monitor is able to measure sweaty palms) as she drives in for the meetings.
Joe finds he gets real excited in brainstorming and strategic sessions, and gets really annoyed in a certain meeting with a certain colleague, so much so, that if Joe continues on this trend he may end up destroying the relationship with this colleague, or possibly, harm his health. Joe finds that he generally smokes a cigarette or two after an encounter with this colleague. Joe desperately needs to monitor this over time, and seek out ways to change for the better.

Scenario 4: Coaching, Facilitating & Mentoring Workshops

Alice is a professional coach, facilitator and leadership guide to C-level and senior-management professionals in corporates. Often, Alice starts her workshops by doing Psychometrics 101, getting people to understand themselves, what triggers / motivates / drives individuals in both personal and group encounters. Alice often finds herself facilitating group workshops, in strategic brainstorming sessions, such C-level people are indeed opinionated and not the easiest bunch of people to work with.
Alice, being a qualified psychologist, keeping up-to-date with mental and emotional research, has often relied on her own wit, intuition, gut and finesse in facilitating these workshops - one thing is clear though, she's not a mind reader and has often in the past misread a few situations. Alice could really do with some scientific data to help her improve her workshops, leading to win-win outcomes.
Alice has just the solution. In the workshops she now runs, she has a central console that shows vital information about all the participants in the room. Using this console, Alice can pick up on subtle discomforts, get a sense for the feeling around the room, detecting stressful patterns or spikes - that alerts Alice to change the tact, tone, direction of the workshop.  It wasn't easy getting buy-in from participants, but in the end, in the interests of productivity and successful outcome of the event, people actually look forward to having positive confrontational issues surface quickly, and nip them in the bud.
Corporate C-level managers welcome decisive action, and this technique now has helped Alice lead and transform many a management team. 

Scenario 5: HR Practitioner & People Transformation

Alice is an HR professional tasked with helping her company deal with risks of employee psychological issues, state-of-mind, happiness and well-being in the workplace. Recently, in the last five years alone, a handful of employees had committed suicide much to the surprise of colleagues - if only they had picked up on some subtle cues or changes in behaviour, these deaths could have been avoided.
At first, Alice and the rest of HR team dismissed these events as facts-of-life, part of living in South Africa, one of the most depressing and stressful countries in the world. Life is tough in South Africa, people come to work with their personal issues and challenges, it's very difficult to keep work and personal life separate.  Clearly the line managers are not qualified to detect personal, deep rooted problems, and some people are really good at wearing masks masquerading, pretending on the surface that things are good, when in fact, dig deeper and the story gets concerning.
Alice has decided to experiment with a new technology that promises to make sense of people's emotional & mental state of mind, sense of nervousness and overall well-being, by using scientific principles based on measuring physical cues like heart rate (faster heart rates indicate increasing stress levels), body-language, facial cues and other physical measurements that can be used to show patterns in a person's overall mental wellness.
Alice is aware of the data sensitivity issues, protection of personal information & big-brother like challenges, to get employees to consent to a level of monitoring. Alice believes that it is not only in the best interest of the company to ensure a harmonious workplace environment, but also in the best interest of the individual, to raise above the personal challenges - and together, seek comfort there is counsel available to people to take them through a personal transformational journey.  Alice believes in the end, this will add value to society overall, in time.
Alice also sees opportunity for line managers to make positive use of the personal data analytics & metrics. Managers can gain insights into team & individual performance, assess the team's maturity level with real data, taking actions to help foster a more balanced and positive working environment. An added bonus is that with near real-time insights, managers can pick up on potential serious issues before there's an outbreak, diffusing potentially explosive scenarios before they even happen!

What's in a Name?

I strongly feel that personal development is important and having a way to measure one's progress on the path to self improvement will be very useful. Personally, I have been monitoring my own self, by seeking out a more healthier work-life balance. Recently I made an intention to work a four-day week. I've also started measuring my happiness-at-work throughout the day, I've got a personal Trello board setup where I track my day's experiences as Good, Bad or Indifferent. I use this data to plot on a chart my happiness levels, and if the chart radiates more to bad experiences, then I take action to change. I am also trying to development a personal happiness for me, having complementary technology that supports my personal development plans, will be quite beneficial indeed!

So I am thinking of a pushing this idea out as a product - I have an idea of what needs to happen, I just need to make a start. Hence this blog post, and taking a chance to first get feedback from the public, state my assumptions and aspirations, and get people to comment either validating I'm onto something that could be great, or affirming that I'm nuts and should just stop now!!

Anyway, here's some names I've been thinking about for this technology firm:
  • (is taken, I registered instead)
  • mybigdata or mbd (taken)
  • eqlytics (.com available)
  • psychelytics (.com available) 
  • psychometrica (taken, so I registered instead)
  • dataself (taken)
  • medata (taken)
  • mydatalytics (taken)
  • mindfulytics (.com available)
  • dataspirations (.com available)
  • mevolution (taken)

Feedback Please

I have taken a chance by exposing, what could be an incredibly great, or incredibly stupid idea - but that's the chance I'm willing to take. I am experimenting with the connection-economy, the wisdom-of-the-crowds...please share your thoughts. Do you think I could turn this idea into a start-up?? Would people be interested?? Any angel investors out there?? Please leave comments on the blog, or drop me an email....