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Intro @F-L-O-W

Postmodern Leadership Behavior Modeling

The following note is from Mike Jay to his Inner Circle members who were attending our Retreat 2013 @F-L-O-W:

One of the things I intend to discuss is the idea that some of our notions about adult development may be wanting… more specifically how we have addressed capability and potential, et al… over time.

This morning after a good (long) flight across the ocean… I was doing some research on Catell and Horn and decided to try to understand more fully why we may be making mistakes regarding "capability" — one of the key structures I believe that we have to study, assess, and develop in leadership design.

I ran across this article which I have not been able to read yet, but I wanted to share because I believe there is something here that we need to understand about differentiating some of the developmental question I/WE have along this path:


"The two-component model: Relations to other theories The closest relative, both conceptually and historically, to the two-component model of lifespan intellectual development is the psychometric theory of fluid (Gf) and crystallized (Gc) abilities (Cattell 1971, Horn & Hofer 1992). Other approaches related to the two-component model include Hebb’s (1949) distinction between intelligence A (intellectual power) and intelligence B (intellectual products), Ackerman’s (1996) PPIK (process, personality, interests, and knowledge) theory, and the encapsulation model of adult intelligence (Hoyer & Rybash 1994). In addition, Hunt (1993) offered an information-processing reinterpretation of the Gf-Gc theory that resonates well with the two-component model (see also Welford 1993).

Figure 3. Lifespan research on two components of cognition, the fluid mechanics and the crystallized pragmatics. The left panel defines the categories; the right panel illustrates postulated lifespan trajectories (after PB Baltes et al 1998; cf. Cattell 1971, Hebb 1949, Horn & Hofer 1992).

The Mechanics of Cognition:
In cognitive-intellectual operations, we assume that the cognitive mechanics are indexed by the speed, accuracy, and coordination of elementary processing operations. In these mechanics of cognition, biological (e.g. brain-related) conditions reign supreme, and the predominant lifespan pattern shows maturation, stability, and aging-induced decline.

Early in ontogeny (i.e. during embryogenesis, infancy, and early childhood), age changes in the mechanics are assumed to reflect, for the most part, the unfolding and active construction of more or less domain-specific and predisposed processing capabilities (Karmiloff-Smith 1995, Wellman & Gelman 1992). In contrast, negative age changes in the mechanics of cognition late in life presumably reflect brain aging as well as the pathological dysfunctions resulting from aging-associated insults to the brain (cf. Martin et al 1996, Morrison & Hof 1997).

The search for lifespan determinants of the cognitive mechanics Researchers in the fields of both child development (e.g. McCall 1994) and aging (e.g. Birren & Fisher 1995, Cerella 1990) have been trying to identify developmental determinants or "developables" (Flavell 1992) that regulate the rate of age-based changes in cognitive and intellectual functioning. In addition, some investigators have linked research from both ends of the age spectrum to arrive at lifespan comparisons of the structure and efficiency of information processing (e.g. Dempster 1992, Kail & Salthouse 1994, Mayr et al 1996, Ribaupierre 1995).

So far, three constructs have been studied most extensively as regulators of development in the cognitive mechanics: (a) Information processing rate (Salthouse 1996), or the speed with which elementary processing operations can be executed (child development: Fry & Hale 1996, Rose & Feldman 1997; aging: Park et al 1996, Verhaeghen & Salthouse 1997), (b)Working memory (Baddeley 1996, Just et al 1996), or the ability to preserve information in one or more short-term stores while simultaneously transforming the same or some other information (child development: Mayr et al 1996, Miller & Vernon 1996, Swanson 1996; aging: Fisk & Warr 1996, Kirasic et al 1996, Mayr et al 1996, Verhaeghen & Salthouse 1997), and (c) Inhitition (Bjorklund & Harnishfeger 1995, Zacks & Hasher 1997), or the ability to automatically inhibit or intentionally suppress the processing of goal-irrelevant information (child development: McCall 1994, Ridderinkhof & van der Molen 1995; aging: Zacks & Hasher 1997, Stoltzfus et al 1996)."

I think the word is inhibition… and to get that word this wrong in a scientific paper concerns me, hehe, but nonetheless, I believe this paper is probably going to be a "find" because of what lead me to it, and that was the idea that Jaques, who has been so influential in my turnaround/parallel process in the late 90s, is probably measuring the wrong thing in regards to potential…

By missing the idea that EJ is probably picking up CI (crystallized intelligence) indirectly through the maturation curves, the assignment of potential is largely a circular process… a la Jim’s cartoon… in that what I have done is an indicator of what I will do and not necessarily what I could do… (potential)…

The reason this is so important to me now is the work I have been doing the past decade in adult development, around the world, in assessing adult development and then trying to watch the behavioral implications… and the (outside the west world) developing in emerging markets has thrown me for a loop… circular as it may be….

Lately, I have been even more concerned that we are not able to access potential effectively because we are using data improperly and assigning it functions it possibly does not have…

I ran across this paper while looking for images showing the curves depicted in Cattell and Horn’s work on fluid and crystallized intelligence… because potential curves go in the opposite direction of maturity curves…

And in the paper you will see some interesting ideas, which have emerged my work in scaffolding indicating that culture is a much more important determinant, generally, regarding all but the top-top group of people… which seem to have their OWN RULES for development.

If we are going to look at the database of people who are not the top-top, the 1% of the 1%, more than likely — who probably have their own rules and probably make most developmental systems obsolete… the general way to look at development may be to establish some different rules about the way in which people will develop — hence my interest in postmodern (for lack of a better word) leadership development… which is not at all about this top-top group!

What led me here was the idea that if cultural scaffolding is largely responsible for differences in how potential reveals itself, then potential is largely thwarted by the lack of cultural scaffolding, and therefore assessing people without the cultural scaffold, or with it, if you will, gives inappropriate reads on developmental potential.

I probably need to say that a different way because people will say…

I thought you were big on individual differences, not cultural difference and I would say yes… but…

It seems that the figure on the ground (again) dictates how that potential is actually crystallized if I can steal that word and use it… and what is most troubling is the idea (at least to me) that a lot of potential (energy and information) is used up in coping when cultural scaffolds are acting in such ways as not to support development in particular ways… you might say a needs-supportive system.

All this stuff has been swirling around in my head this past year, as I piece together this postmodern approach to what leaders need to be exposed to in order to accomplish postmodern leadership development and consequent behavior.

What we might be measuring is how the person has been scaffolded and not how much potential she/he has, but the potentializing of the cultural scaffold….

There are some indications of that in the piece above because it appears that verbal information process is an artifact of this cultural scaffolding to enough extent that our glasses will be colored in ways in which we mis-judge potential.

This all comes at a time for me when I have to reconcile my own notions about individualized differences and how epigenetics plays out… and to extend this notion that epigenesis includes more than just the interaction of the environment with the genetic instructions, but how culture itself plays a part in epigenesis and how individual differences manifest in different cultural scaffolds.

I present this to you as a precursor to the retreat where I will go over the postmodern model of leadership behavior modeling design that I have constructed thus far and some important next steps as I beat my way through this pristine jungle of adult development.

I think you’ll get some ideas when you read the continuing quote from the cited article, paying particular attention to what I bolded:

"Currently, the information processing rate, especially if measured with psychometric tests of perceptual speed, seems to be the strongest mediator of age differences in the mechanics of cognition in childhood (Fry & Hale 1996), adulthood (Verhaeghen & Salthouse 1997), and old age (Lindenberger et al 1993). It is however unclear whether perceptual speed represents a "processing primitive" in the sense of information processing rate, or a complex construct with substantial contributions from working memory (Graf & Uttl 1995) and more basic sensory functioning (PB Baltes & Lindenberger 1997, Lindenberger & Baltes 1994). The explanatory power of the working-memory construct, in tum, is also difficult to judge. First, age-based changes in working memory are often described by alluding to changes in processing speed (Case 1985) or inhibition (Brainerd 1995, Stoltzfus et al 1996). Second, an essential function of working memory consists in the goal-directed control of action and thought (Duncan et al 1996, Grafman et al 1995). This complex function puts working memory at the center of intelligent behavior and raises doubts about its status as a "processing primitive" or "basic determinant" of intellectual development. Finally, the curvilinear lifespan age gradients observed with typical measures of interference proneness (e.g. the Stroop color-word test) may reflect age changes in changes in processing rate (Salthouse & Meinz 1995), selective attention (Plude et al 1994), or discrimination learning (Hartman 1995), rather than age changes in inhibitory functioning.
These difficulties in identifying determinants of developmental change in the mechanics of cognition have led to productive discussions at the interface of multivariate-psychometric, cognitive-experimental, and radically reductionist approaches (Cerella 1990, Hertzog 1996, Kliegl et al 1994, Lindenberger & Baltes 1994, Perfect 1994, Rabbitt 1993). Future research on this topic is likely to profit also from closer contact with the neurosciences (Gazzaniga 1995) and the careful examination of the systemic properties of developing brains (Fischer & Rose 1994, Nelson & Bloom 1997, Thatcher 1994) as well as a heightened awareness for inter-individual differences in intra-individual change (Fischer et al 1992, Ribaupierre 1995, Schneider & Sodian 1997; cf. Nesselroade 1991).

Purification of measurement One problem of age-comparative research of intellectual functioning is that much of our knowledge about the lifespan trajectory of the mechanics of cognition is based on imprecise indicators. Age differences and age changes in measures of the cognitive mechanics are influenced by a wealth of additional but extraneous factors, such as pre-assessment differences in practice, task-relevant knowledge, and person characteristics such as test anxiety or arousal. A likely indication for this admixture of pragmatic variance to supposedly mechanical measures is the secular rise in performance on typical psychometric marker tests of fluid intelligence (cf. Flynn 1987, Schaie 1996). As a consequence of ability-extraneous performance factors, individuals’ cognitive performance under standard testing conditions represents just one possible phenotypic manifestation of their range of performance potential. In our view, to separate the possible from the impossible over age, the context of measurement needs to be moved toward the upper limits of performance potential.

Within LP, and as mentioned earlier, testing-the-limits has been introduced as a research strategy to uncover adult age differences in the upper (asymptotic) limits of mechanical functioning. The main focus of this paradigm is to arrange for experimental conditions that produce maximum (i.e. asymptotic) levels of performance. In such research, robust age differences were identified. For instance, after 38 sessions of training in a memory technique, not a single older adult was performing above the mean of the young adults (PB Baltes & Kliegl 1992, Kliegl et al 1989). It appears worthwhile to intensify the use of the testing-the-limits paradigm with lower age groups to obtain genuine lifespan gradients regarding maximum limits of performance potential in different domains. Our prediction is that lifespan peaks are shifted toward younger ages whenever cognitive tasks of the mechanics are freed from pragmatic, that is, knowledge- and experience-based influence. Also, cohort differences in the cognitive mechanics will become smaller if efforts are made to test individuals at their asymptotic limits of performance potential."

What I began to notice a few years ago is the seeming problems we were getting from using Jaques curves of development and my question was… what is it that they were actually modeling… and Herb, et al and others have discussed how those curves emerged (his son drew them) to plotting them in HUMAN CAPABILITY using manager judgment and pay scales, etc.

For me, the wrench in the whole this is using the projection of those curves to define potential, when the data that we used was more about what someone did, than what they could do, and too heavily influenced by verbal processing –only "A" measure of cognition.

What I have postulated in the past few years as I struggle against my own ground… and of course trying to shift that ground by traveling and living in the rest of the world is to notice that in large part, Jaques has created a model of KSEs [Knowledge, Skills and Experience] NOT cognitive power… as he noted…

While some similarities exist and enough so that there is not a large discrepancy in lesser sophisticated work, the more sophisticated and complex the work, the larger a small gap gets… which means in postmodern work, where we are looking at creating larger numbers of problems, which are much bigger in scope — by solving what appears to be those same problems….

This concerns me as we approach Limits to Growth brought about by the efficacy of our present problem-solving, and should be of some concern to postmodern leadership behavior — or so I think…

In this approach to identifying and modeling postmodern leadership development — programs which have been cited to be non-existent — we have to construct the design in such a way as it supports individual and collective development of the human condition.

This can of worms — now open — is being digested by me during jet lag…

I hope to be more "able" when we meet in San Antonio for what has to be an important discussion of leadership development and it’s coaching equivalents!

I want to continue with the quote, even though the time has run out on this expose — because of the importance of this stream of thought…

"The Pragmatics of Cognition:
In contrast to the mechanics, the pragmatics of cognition direct the attention of lifespan developmentalists toward the role of culture and the increasing importance of knowledge-based forms of intelligence as human ontogeny evolves (Ackerman 1996, PB Baltes 1997, Ericsson & Lehmann 1996, Marsiske & Willis 1998). Positive developmental changes in the pragmatic component reflect the acquisition and lifelong practice of culturally transmitted bodies of declarative and procedural knowledge that are made available to individuals in the course of socialization and lifetime experiences. Some of the lifetime experiences leading to the acquisition of pragmatic knowledge are normative but specific to certain cultures (e.g. formal schooling), others are more universal (e.g. mentoring), and still others are idiosyncratic or person-specific (e.g. specialized ecological and professional knowledge).

We assume that the pragmatics of cognition build on, extend, and reorganize pre-structured core domains (Wellman & Gelman 1992) associated with the cognitive mechanics and their foundation in the biological nature of the human processing system (Saffran et al 1996, Smotherman & Robinson 1996, Spelke et al 1995). For instance, pragmatic knowledge may evolve from or mimic predisposed knowledge in evolutionarily privileged domains, but come with the advantage of being tuned to the idiosyncratic demands of specific cultures, biographies, and contexts (Siegler & Crowley 1994). These processes of extension and transformation eventually give rise to forms of knowledge and behavior that are, in part by virtue of necessity, compatible with the biological architecture of the mind, but that are not the direct consequence of evolutionary selection pressures."

Ok, so what does this mean (to me)…

Essentially there are biological components and there are cultural components, or scaffolding, which intersect "compatibly" with the biological architecture of the mind (which is predisposed = inborn)… which means people learn what matches their learning ability…

This is probably key to us @F-L-O-W (my first mention btw, hehe)…

Because I believe that a lot of Postmodern Leadership Behavior Modeling (PLBM)… is going to be about understanding these issues of individual differences and cultural scaffolding — especially when that cultural scaffolding is dictated by organization design and behavior over time… so each organization has particular pragmatics of cognition which need to be outlined to leaders in that organization… and then allowed to/aligned with biological architecture.


is that if we measure the pragmatics of cognition, without fully understanding biology of cognition, we can easily map the wrong curves of development (especially those from another place/company) where scaffolding present was largely responsible for potentializing the biology… and thus NOT DUPLICATED could have negative affect de-potentializing productivity… which we were looking to place @F-L-O-W!

This is a pretty tricky business and why we are going to fail more than we succeed until we create models of leadership behavior which are more or less consistent with the realities that emerge rather than those that have passed.

"Plasticity and Age-Associated Changes:
The strong concern of lifespan researchers with intra-individual plasticity (malleability) highlights the search for the potentialities of development, including its upper and lower boundary conditions. Implied in the idea of plasticity is that any given developmental outcome is but one of numerous possible outcomes, and that the search for the conditions and range of ontogenetic plasticity, including its age-associated changes, is fundamental to the study of development.

As lifespan psychologists initiated systematic work on the concept of plasticity, further differentiation of it was introduced. One involved the differentiation between baseline reserve capacity and developmental reserve capacity (PB Baltes 1987, Kliegl et al 1989). Baseline reserve capacity identifies the current level of plasticity available to individuals. Developmental reserve capacity is aimed at specifying what is possible in principle over developmental time if optimizing interventions are employed to estimate future ontogenetic potential. Furthermore, major efforts were made to specify the kind of methodologies that lend themselves to a full exploration of age-related changes in plasticity and its limits (Kruse et al 1993, Lindenberger & Baltes 1995)."

This last quote (and I’m sorry for jumbling up the order for those reading the article)… is important, because of an indirect assumption… that as we get older, we increase crystallized intelligence, but may in fact become much less plastic and adaptive outside of the measured domain… which, for me, signals a red light to much of what we now take for granted… and measure.

The older we get, the dumber we get, but the more experienced we are at it…

The developmental curves I’ve seen don’t show this particular path…

The REASON I think it’s important that we model this is that as we move forward into accelerating complexity, crystallized intelligence may not help us deal with postmodern issues as much as fluid intelligence and the mechanics and pragmatics of cognition… in concert… so how to measure this, rather than just KSEs, which seems to be MORE important in skewing our measurements of capability?

How can we evaluate and model postmodern leadership behavior?

This for me is an important topic as I consider the question DR. GRAVES started and I embellished with:

HOW will WHO lead WHOM to do WHAT, WHEN and WHERE for what WHY?

Modern leadership development seems to focus on the individual nature and nurture of KSEs without understanding the context, or at least the emerging context in the postmodern world. (again for lack of a better term)

A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is "post" because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called "modern" mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism ‘cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself’."


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