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Instinct - Belief - Science


Improving the soft skill performance on projects




Project managers often inhabit a mysterious and troublesome world between these three fascinating areas.


The PMBOK?guide proposes a body of knowledge for a single project with associated hard skill requirements. We also have the project manager’s competency development framework (PMCDF) that addresses the personal competencies required of a PM.


However in order to further improve project and project management performance we will have to address the soft skills required for both guides above.


The soft skill areas considered for this article include motivation, conflict resolution, communication, work styles, team development, and stress management.


First a short definition and description of each.


1.0 Instinct is defined as a ‘natural’ inclination or aptitude and the following story nicely describes the role of instinct – Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook. On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog would give him a ride to the other side. breitling replica sale "Oh no," says the frog, "If I carry you on my back you will sting me.” But why would I sting you when we would both surely perish," replied the scorpion. The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had a point, and agreed to the request. Half way across, the scorpion stung the frog, and they both began to drown.” But why did you break your word and sting me, knowing it would be certain death for us both?" cried the frog.” Because it is in my nature,” said the scorpion.


William James in “Principles of Psychology’  (1880’s) was the first to write about innate knowledge and instinct. “Reason” he wrote, “does not inhibit an impulse, only another impulse can neutralize an impulse”. “ omega replica Instinctivism” (or nature) lost out to the behaviour thinkers like, Skinner (box), Freud, Boas etc, until Noam Chomsky revived it in 1958 with the idea that a child could not understand language from examples alone but must have some pre programming. For the purposes of this article ‘instinctive’ reactions are those generated in the base/ stem brain including the amygdala as well as the gut (second brain).

 See also writings by Lord Winston, William James, others


2.0 Science is the purely rational thought that allows us to understand the world around us including gravity, astronomy, evolution, quantum physics, etc. Science thinking is primarily generated in the neocortex and does not normally generate a physiological response (the world is flat, the sun is hot, atoms in rock are mostly empty, light is a wave and a particle) – Recent scientists who have contributed enormously to the debate include Gould (evolution), Dawkins (evolution), Pinker (language), Dunbar (socializing), Sykes (gene testing)…

The important fact about scientific theories is that they are open to independent review and verification.


3.0 Belief (faith?) is the conditioned response to situations and events. Faith involves belief in a future state and known process of judgment (Koran, Bible, Torah, etc). People who have evoked faith as a method of resolving internal dilemmas include Gandi, the Pope, Ian Paisley, George Bush (man of faith).


Faith often relies on the interplay between good and evil allowing us to account for both fortunate and catastrophic events. breitling replica sale At times the very existence of evil is debated because  if there is no evil then perhaps there is no goodness and therefore no need for deity or religion. This dilemma was beautifully summarized by David Hume (1711-76)

“Is the deity willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent.

Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”


A good representation of the relationship between faith, instinct and science was related by Carl Sagan in a book called ‘Contact’ which deals with the response to an extraterrestrial contact – A chapter in the book brings a scientist and a religious figure (Jerry Farwell?) together to discuss the role of science and faith. rolex replica uk The scientist has total ‘faith’ in science – as does Farwell in his ‘God’ and they decide to put faith to the test – they go to a science museum with a large pendulum – the scientist has ‘faith’ that the pendulum cannot return and rise above the level from which it was released (indeed gravity and friction with the air will eventually stop the pendulum). Farwell asks the scientist to put his nose against the pendulum and keep it there while the pendulum swings away and returns – supposedly his faith in science will overcome his fear of the weight of the lead ball – however as the ball nears he pulls his head away – Farwell claims this as proof that his faith is not as strong as religious faith – interestingly Farwell does not try the test – maybe it does not matter – but what the story shows is that our instincts derived from our nature are more powerful than rational thinking. omega replica sale A modern interpretation of this event would say that it was an illustration of genetic selection of the fittest – as those who did not instinctively pull away from immediate danger would face extinction – hence genes that create brains that react quickly from immediate danger are transferred through the generations.

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