The "I Opt" Effect on Values and Beliefs

By Gary Salton

 

Abstract

Corporate culture is the invisible compan- ion of management. Together they serve to provide the framework for human coordi- nation. Maximum efficiency and effective- ness can only be realized when these two elements work together to further the com- mon interest.

There is no natural mechanism by which culture and management are automatically aligned. Left to their own devices they can be supportive, benign or antagonistic with equal ease. This article shows how manage- ment can actively influence culture in a pre- dictable direction and to a known degree. It outlines how the three variables of (1) struc- ture, (2) frequency and (3) bandwidth can be deployed to systematically engineer cor- porate culture in any direction desired.

Introduction

"I Opt" technology is most often seen as a tool for explaining, predicting and guiding behavior. It has been very successful in this arena. It has been used at individual and group levels in tens of thousands of cases. It is being applied worldwide in organizations of all sizes and descriptions. It has been validated in one of the most extensive academic studies published in the field (Soltysik, 2000). The ability of "I Opt" to work at a behavioral level is well demonstrated. This article moves "I Opt" technology to the next level. It shows how "I Opt" elections can set personal values and beliefs. The first step in this extension is to give a brief overview of how "I Opt" works to explain and predict behavior.

Behaviors

Information processing, as defined and measured by "I Opt," can restrict or facilitate behavioral choices. This happens because each stage of the "inputprocess- output" model has a direct effect on behavioral options.

For example, "method" defines the character of the input. A person might choose a structured method (an input option) for navigating life. A structured method uses some kind of mapping scheme to govern the kind of input being sought or accepted. One function of structure is to make sure that all of the important aspects of a situation are considered. Anyone using a structured input method will be more detail sensitive than a counterpart who is willing to accept anything available (an unpatterned method). Thus, one observable behavior of a structured input method will be detail orientation. The more structure used, the more detail acquired, the more visible the behavior will be.

The output side of the equation also causes predictable behaviors. Here the concept of "mode" controls. Mode governs the kind of output that a person is likely to seek in addressing an issue. The choice of mode will influence the input method as well as the process applied to that input.

For example, a person can elect an action output mode. This involves resolving an issue through direct action (vs. planning or assessing). This causes a person to focus on operational (vs. theoretical) or spontaneous (vs. planned) matters. "How" and "when" rather than "why" and "what" will dominate the person's interest. A person using an action strategy will always be more "responsive" than an equivalent person using a more thoughtful strategy. The greater the focus on action, the more responsive a person will appear.

Process combines method (input) and mode (output) and generates its own behaviors. For example, combining an action-orientation mode (output) with a structured method (input) will create an awareness and aversion to risk. This means that the extent of risk is likely to be known in advance. The awareness of risk (input) as well as the intent to act (output) is likely to create a cautious posture. This posture repeats over many transactions. Caution will not only apply in a specific instance, it will come to apply generally. A general risk adverse attitude has been created. Thus "process" has created an observable and enduring behavior pattern.

"Input-process-output" elections form stable patterns of behavior. This pattern becomes a strategy for navigating life. Within the "I Opt" paradigm it is referred to as a “strategic profile.” Profiles tend to be stable because they work for a person every day of his or her life. People are reluctant to change things that work.

Other forces are also working to stabilize strategic profiles. For example, practice makes perfect. The more a person uses a strategy, the better they get at using it. The better they get, the more likely they are to apply it again. The more it is applied, the greater the behavioral stability. The greater the stability, the more predictable is the behavior.

On a social level, other people expect a certain kind of performance from those with whom they work. They depend on it. If it disappears they will exercise their influence to reestablish it. They do this because their own behavioral options are partially defined by what other people do. If a co-worker does not do something that was expected, you may have to do it. It is in your interest to see that those around you remain dependable. Your success depends on it. You can be expected to protect your own interest. So will everyone else.

Finally, history has a role. Prior decisions confine the direction of future ones. Someone who has created a wealth of detail on a subject it unlikely to abandon it when addressing another aspect of an issue. Most likely a detailed approach will be continued. History tends to stabilize profiles into the future as well as in the present.

The interactions built into the input-process-output paradigm combine with the effects of practice, social forces and history to make behavior stable. This stability is not inherent in people themselves. It is the outcome of explicit processes that is used to navigate life. These universal processes make "I Opt" predictions both possible and accurate.

This article is not a textbook on "I Opt" technology. It can only offer the briefest summary of the theory and its derivatives. This outline, however, is enough to allow us to proceed to the next step: showing how values can arise from the choice of a particular strategic profile.

Values

"I Opt" uses ratio measurement to quantify behavioral probabilities. In other words, it has a built-in ruler. It can calculate an exact level of strategy commitment; however, any ratio scale can be reduced to a categorical one. Categorical scales define combinations of method (input) and mode (output) as names.

For example, if "I Opt" measures the strongest commitment as "structured action" the person is declared to "be" a Logical Processor. This has the advantage of simplicity at the cost of accuracy. In reality everyone is a combination of everything; however, this simplification gives an easy access to the world of values.

Values are the importance or worth that we attach to things. People tend to exhibit certain behaviors more frequently than others. This suggests that the behaviors are favored or more "valued" than their alternatives. The question is why? The answer to that question lies in the way the "I Opt" profile is constructed.

The "I Opt" profile quantifies a mix of four distinct categorical elements. These are called “strategic styles.” They represent the short-run strategies a person uses to navigate life. Most of the time people will try to use the style to which they are most committed, but that style will not apply to every situation. When this happens people move to the next strongest style represented in their strategic profile. They keep doing this until they find one that works. This flexibility is what allows people to confront the variety of situations that life presents.

Table 1: Primary Orientation of Strategic Styles

Strategic StyleMethod ModeCentral Focus
Logical ProcessorStructured Action Certainty of Outcome
Hypothetical AnalyzerStructured Thought Understanding
Relational Innovator Unpatterned Thought Creativity
Reactive Stimulator Unpatterned Action Rapid Resolution

Over time the strategic style with the highest level of commitment will come to characterize a person's behavior. It is the one tried most often and thus, has the greatest chance of being displayed. This style will carry with it a particular central focus. That focus will be repeatedly displayed and will come to be seen as a "value" held by the person displaying it.

For example, the structured input and action output of a Logical Processor (LP) creates risk sensitivity. This awareness tends to focus the LP on certainty of outcome— the minimization of risk. Thus a strong LP will come to "value" certainty of outcome as a decision making standard. This example shows how "values" can flow from the processes measured by "I Opt." Table 1 shows the likely central focus of people strongly committed to each strategic style. Having a particular focus does not mean that the others are completely discounted. Everyone agrees that certainty, understanding, creativity and speed of resolution are all good things. It is only the rank order (i.e., the relative value) that is assigned to these "good" qualities that differs. This rank ordering of values is what is commonly described as a "value system."

Issues naturally arise as people favoring different strategic styles try to work together for a common purpose. In seeking to satisfy their central focus, people can frustrate the central focus of others in the group. This condition is graphically shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Rank Order Primacy of Values

Stimulator(RS) Processor(LP) Analyzer(HA) Innovator (RI)
Unpatterned ActionStructured ActionStructured ThoughtUnpatterned Thought
Rapid ResolutionCertaintyUnderstandingCreativity
CreativityUnderstandingCertainty Rapid Resolution
Certainty Rapid Resolution Creativity Understanding
Understanding Creativity Rapid Resolution Certainty

Strategic styles that differ on both method and mode dimensions reverse the ordering of these values. For example, the Reactive Stimulator (RS) in Column 1 places understanding last on the rank ordered list. This quality is the least valuable in forwarding the RS's primary focus of speed of resolution.

The Hypothetical Analyzer (HA) is the opposite of the RS in both method and mode. The HA would place rapid resolution in the lowest rank order. This quality is of least value in forwarding the HA's focus on understanding. The same logic applies to the Logical Processor (LP) versus the Relational Innovator (RI). They also differ on both method and mode, and the rank ordering of their values is similarly reversed. A reversed value list means that satisfying one party will frustrate the other. A natural tension is created.

For example, the creativity valued by the RI will involve new things. New things have yet to be tested and always carry a degree of uncertainty. Creativity thus prevents the LP from realizing their most valued quality— certainty of outcome. Tension is thus built into any group whose members differ in their strategic styles.

Decisions of any consequence will require the contribution of differing styles. The mix will vary, but any mix will generate some degree of tension. Organizations are systems of tension, and these strains are to be managed, not eliminated.

Each strategic styles creates its own behavioral cascade (Salton, 2004). These are sequences of behaviors that typically follow from an initial strategic style response. For example, the more detail that is acquired, the more a person will have to rely on logic to keep it sorted out. The more logic that is applied, the greater will be the reliance on "facts." Logic requires a definitive subject on which to operate. Impressions and possibilities tend to be a bit "squishy." Thus it is predictable that logic will become valued (i.e., a matter of high worth) to a person employing this strategy. Styles are not alone in their ability to create values. It has been noted earlier that most issues involve chains of decisions. They do not yield to a single approach. People will normally shift their styles in the order of the strength that each other style is held. Typically the combination of their primary and secondary style is enough to address an issue. The combination of styles is termed a “strategic pattern.” The dominant pattern is the mix of behaviors that a person is most likely to display. The patterns created within the "I Opt"

Table 3: Primary Orientation of Strategic Patterns

PatternStyle ComponentsOverall Focus
ChangerRS and RIImplemented creativity
PerformerRS and LPTask Completion
ConservatorLP and HAPerfection in execution
PerfectorHA and RIExhaustive evaluation

 

Table 4: Selected Changer Pattern Values

ValueBehavior
Expediency adjusts readily vs. applying fixed principles or standards
Flexibilityadaptable and adroit in handling new and changing situations
Initiativeaction without prompting or direction
Inventivenessproduce or contrive something previously unknown
Pacerate of movement--fast
Passionpersonal emotional enthusiasm
RiskTaking comfortable with undertakings whose outcome is uncertain
Urgencyearnest and insistent sense of pressing importance

The style-generated cascades that make up a pattern interact with each other. This means that there is a unique combination for each of the "I Opt" patterns. Table 4 shows some of the values and behaviors generated by the Changer pattern (RS and RI combination). Other strategic patterns will generate other value system components.

The format of the JOE article prevents outlining the values generated by all of the strategic patterns. However, Table 5 shows a sense of the range of values that can be created by processes measured by "I Opt." This is not an exhaustive list, but it does suggest that the reach of these processes in creating values is substantial.

Strategic styles can be held in varying strengths and in different mixes. This means that the value systems that result from them are almost infinite. Since there is no such thing as a “bad” strategic style, pattern or profile, each of the resulting value systems are deserving of respect.

Strategic styles and patterns create stable behaviors. They cause an individual to choose one course for resolving an issue over another. Repeated consistent selections of a particular method can evolve into judgements of relative worth— values. Values and value systems are thus, a necessary outcome of the "I Opt" styles used to navigate life.

Table 5: Partial List of Profile Specific Values

AccuracyDecisivenessInquisitivenessReason
ActivenessDependabilityIntensityRestraint
AdaptabilityDiligenceLoyaltyRigor
AggressivenessDutyMeticulousnessSecurity
BalanceEfficiencyModestySelf-reliance
BoldnessExtroversionOptimismSensitivity
CalmnessFairnessOriginalityStability
ClevernessFocusPassionThoroughness
ConcentrationHonorPrudenceUnderstanding

Beliefs

Beliefs are a feeling of certainty that something exists or is true (Cambridge, 2002). A value is one of the things to which a feeling of certainty can attach. For example, the value "striving for perfection" can easily become a general precept. People come to believe it is the "right" way of doing things— not just for some things but for all things. Other values can generate equally valid and appealing beliefs. The processes underlying strategic profiles generate beliefs because they are self-validating. The fact that an approach repeatedly works "confirms" that the belief associated with it is correct. Every time it is used the feeling of certainty increases. Any "I Opt" strategic approach can create beliefs that have the same self-validating nature. Entire philosophies can be created from the beliefs generated by strategic postures. For example, the values shown in Table 6 are best realized when individual discretion is given maximum play. A person is likely to see this common thread running through these values. They might easily come to hold a strong belief in "individualism"— the primacy of the individual over the group.

The processes measured by "I Opt" can create beliefs at every level. Every time a strategic profile is applied and works, the certainty associated with the values it generates is reinforced. Bundles of these values can combine to create more abstract beliefs and even philosophies. So long as the strategies continue to work to some threshold level, this system is reinforced.

This section has shown how the processes measured by "I Opt" can become a self-reinforcing system; however, this system does have a path for change. The path is created because people must have at least some ability in each "I Opt" dimension to conduct life. Everyone can use their less preferred strategies if their favored strategy begins to perform below some acceptable threshold level.

If things change in a way to cause the person to use a less favored strategy, the cascade of behaviors, values and beliefs will respond accordingly. The time needed to adjust will depend on how heavily committed the person is to a particular approach and how often the less favored strategy is used. But, the system is open to change.

This article has covered many of the behaviors, values and beliefs encountered in the corporate world. Knowledge that this system exists and of how it works opens the possibility of managing it for the benefit of all involved; however, any such effort will always fall short of total control. The reason is the existence of global values. This is the subject of the next section.

The Limits

There are values that can guide behavior that are not influenced by the processes covered by the "I Opt" strategic profile. These are called “global values” because they serve all profiles equally. Table 7 offers a partial list of such values.

Processes that create global values lie outside those measured by the "I Opt" profile. They can include things like history, teaching, religion and indoctrination among many others. History might include things that have worked in the past and are simply reused. Family experience that stresses ambition can be accepted and come to guide decisions. The startup experiences of a firm can install "industry" as a value to be sought in new employees. The sources of global values are endless.

Global values are not created by information-processing elections, but strategic profiles can influence them. Accepting a global value is more probable if that value is framed in a way favored by the profile of the targeted person. For example, a Reactive Stimulator is likely to respond favorably if a value is shown to produce positive results quickly. Other styles and patterns will respond to other approaches. Knowledge of "I Opt" technology is useful in dealing with global values even if the processes it measures do not go into the creation of those values. Beliefs are feelings of certainty. Certainty increases as a particular way of navigating life work for a person. Since everyone's way works, everyone "believes" that they are have discovered the "right" way to approach life. And they have— for them. The ongoing social contest of beliefs and values is really just a reflection of different ways to conduct life.

Table 7: Partial List of Global Values
AmbitionCivilityHeroismKindness
AwarenessDignityHospitalityRespect
BrillianceExpertiseHygieneSkillfulness
CharmFriendlinessIndustryStrength

Summary

This article attempts to show how information-processing elections create behaviors, values and beliefs on an individual level. It did not try to show how these can be changed or "engineered" to some external specification. The reason is that there is no need to change anything. The qualities the article touched on are neither good nor bad in any absolute sense.

However, the article has left clues on how people themselves can change their approach if they choose. The environment triggers the use of a particular strategic style. Thus, changing the environment in a way that favors another style will cause that style to be used more. The “practice makes perfect,” social influence and history processes will begin to work. The new approach will begin to characterize the person. This process will take time and will not be easy, but it can be done.

When considering a change, it should be kept in mind that any successful change will effect all areas of a person's life. Family, friends and other social affiliations will all feel the effects. Values and beliefs will also change. You cannot "cherry pick." The changes come as a package. They are built into the process being used to navigate life. Behaviors, values and beliefs are the foundation for Corporate Culture. Only the word "shared" needs to be added to arrive at an accepted definition of culture. The next issue of JOE will show how Corporate Cultures can be built using the insights gained in this article.

Bibliography

Cambridge Dictionary of the English Language (2002). Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Salton, Gary J. (2004). Organizational Engineering Seminar. The Behavior Cascade was first published in this seminar at the Michigan League in April 2004, Ann Arbor, MI.

Soltysik, Robert (2000). Validation of Organizational Engineering Instrumentation and Methodology. Amherst, MA. HRD Press.

Author

Gary Salton is Chief: Research & Development and CEO of Professional Communications Inc., the firm that develops and deploys "I Opt" technology. Dr. Salton holds a MBA, an MA in Economics and a Ph.D. in Sociology. In addition to scholarly interests, Dr. Salton has held managerial and senior executive posts in investment banking, real estate and automotive industries. He has held positions as Sr. Vice President, Corporate Controller and Chief Planning Officer among others.

Dr. Salton founded Professional Communications Inc. in 1991 and has devoted much of his effort since then in creating, developing and deploying technology that is intended to improve the human condition through the discovery of factors and processes involved in group behavior.

It is Dr. Salton's practice is to make new discoveries first visible at the seminars he conducts in Ann Arbor, MI. They are documented in books, articles and other publications as time becomes available.

Dr. Salton can be reached in his Ann Arbor, MI office at (734) 662-0250 or by email at gary@iopt.com or garysalton@aol.com.