How Many Voices Can You Perceive at a Time? — the “Cocktail Party Effect”

Recent research shows that where most of us hear noise, the din of a lot of people speaking at once, some people, in this case musicians, can pick out a single voice and the overall harmonic.  Researchers call this the “cocktail party effect,” where lots of people are speaking loudly at the same time, making it hard to hear anything.  That most of us cannot pick out what one voice is saying in the noise of a lot of loud conversation doesn’t mean that nobody can.  Maybe it is a matter of intention and training; the desire to hear different voices and the practice at doing so.  In this case, the musicians need to be able to pick out specific voices or instruments in the mix, and they have a lot of practice doing so.  Intention and practice.

Similarly, Professor Ellen Langer finds that more mindful people are able to notice new perspectives, that someone else brings a different perspective.  In the noise of a conversation, one can perceive that somebody else has a unique perspective to contribute.  And, one can get better at doing this over time.  Intention and practice.

My colleagues and I work with many groups that are taking on very complex social issues.  To address these complex issues, in a resilient way, collaborative processes often require many stakeholder groups to contribute their unique gifts and perspectives.  They are part of the problem and part of the solution, so they need to be involved.  And, they bring quite different perspectives, by definition, of the issue and what they can contribute to the shared intention.  Like with the “cocktail party effect” research with musicians, I find that while most people find it difficult to perceive and value different perspectives in complex social issues, some people can do this.  They have the intention and the practice.  Our ecosynomic processes for working with complex social issues support people in building the capacity to do this, both the intention and the practice–learning how to listen for other unique voices and the practice in doing so.  I see that this is a required skill for addressing complex social issues, a skill we can learn from the example of the musicians.

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Mindful Leadership

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. 2014. Mindful Leadership. In Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, and Ellen J. Langer (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, Volume I, First Edition. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester.

Leaders face great uncertainty in addressing social change.  Langer’s approach to mindfulness suggests three leverage points leaders can use to embrace this uncertainty.  We use the case study method to show how these mindfulness insights were applied in four case studies of leadership.   We use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we use to resolve the four cases.  These include the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a statewide project.  Click on the article title or here to access the article.

El Liderazgo Consciente (Mindful Leadership)

Future-cast Series — Sharing upcoming publications

Langer, Ellen J., & Ritchie-Dunham, James L. (2014). El Liderazgo Consciente (Mindful Leadership). En C. Díaz-Carrera & A. Natera (Eds.), El Coraje de Liderar: La Democracia Amenazada en el Siglo XXI. Madrid: Tecnos.

¿Qué entendemos por “liderazgo consciente” o “mindful leadership”? Liderar implica generar un sentido compartido que impulse los cambios necesarios para enfrentar problemas difíciles. La consciencia, como la definimos en nuestra investigación, consiste en detectar lo nuevo. Cuando estás consciente (mindful), buscas el cambio y lo aceptas.  Tanto si lo aceptas como si no, la vida es cambio. Dada la realidad del cambio, es mejor saber lidiar con él que tratar de evitarlo o ignorarlo.  Por lo tanto, el liderazgo consciente tiene que ver con la utilización de procesos conscientes enraizados en una cultura también consciente. Y ello con el objeto de detectar la incertidumbre y sacarle partido.

Este capitulo aplica la amplia investigación de Langer al contexto del liderazgo consciente aprovechando tres experiencias de liderazgo que hemos tenido con ejecutivos. Este diagnóstico sugiere una solución consciente y unas prácticas organizacionales. Veremos tres casos en donde se aplica esta solución.  Así, comprobaremos la importancia de estas nuevas perspectivas en una empresa proveedora de electricidad; de las nuevas categorías en un consejo escolar y de la nueva información en una empresa textil.

Mindful Leadership

Future-cast Series — Sharing upcoming publications

Langer, Ellen J., & Ritchie-Dunham, James L. (2014). Mindful Leadership. In C. Díaz-Carrera & A. Natera (Eds.), El Coraje de Liderar: La Democracia Amenazada en el S. XXI. Madrid: Tecnos.

What do we mean by mindful leadership?  Leadership focuses on building shared meaning for the purpose of enabling change to deal with contentious problems.  Mindfulness is noticing new things.  When you are mindful, you are looking for change, and you embrace it.  Things are always changing, whether you embrace the change or not, so you are better off understanding how to deal with it, versus believing that you can hold it still or run away from it.  Putting these two concepts together, mindful leadership is about using mindful processes in a mindful culture to see, name, and work with uncertainty.

This chapter focuses the lens of mindfulness research on the context of mindful leadership through four stories of leadership.  We will use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We will translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we will use to resolve the four cases.  We will see the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a state-wide project.