If You Can’t be a Role Model, be a Bad Example 1

By Chris Simmons

It was a snowy day in Sarajevo as one of my mentors, a brilliant man named Colonel Rik Krauss, discussed recent leadership challenges with me. To illustrate one of his points, he commented, “If you can’t be a Role Model, be a Bad Example.” We laughed at the humor and accuracy of his assessment. Continuing, he observed that “Bad Examples” are actually negative role models. As such, they are teachers. From them we learn what we DON’T want to be/do.

He then noted that being a role model is never a choice. Everyone is a role model to someone. Equally important, he said, “the people to whom you are a mentor are always watching — a mentor is never off the clock.”

Editor’s Note:  Deeper development of the role of negative role models can be found in the July 11th post, “Why Enemies Are more Important Than Friends.”

Breaking the Serbs: The High Price of a Single Misjudgment Reply

Map of Bosnia

By Chris Simmons

For weeks, anticipation had been building within the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR). One of the deadlines for demilitarization was now just days away and it was unclear whether the rival blocs that constituted Bosnia-Herzegovina would meet the suspense.

“Bosnia” actually consisted of three distinct governments: a weak state-level institution (i.e., Bosnia) with two highly autonomous parts, the Croat-Bosniak Federation and the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS). Each entity had its own government, parliament and presidency. The redundancies were mind-numbing. It was a bureaucracy gone mad, making interactions between NATO and the Bosnian governments problematic at best.

On Monday, the entities were to inform NATO whether they would meet the demining threshold required by the Dayton Peace Accords. The Croat-Bosniak response came first:  they were done, three days ahead of schedule. Then we learned the RS Minister of Defense would appear via Video-Teleconference (VTC) during the evening meeting at NATO’s Sarajevo headquarters. This, we all knew, was not a good sign.

That night, the Minister came on the VTC and told the SFOR Commander the Republic of Srpska (pronounced “Serp-Ska) would not meet the deadline. He professed his desire to help, but said the Justice Minister had ruled the Dayton Accord’s demining requirement unconstitutional. The SFOR Commander, who saw the action as nothing more than political brinksmanship, was not amused. He reminded the RS General that his government had signed the Accord four years earlier. “You will meet your obligations,” the Minister was told before the SFOR Commander abruptly ended the broadcast.

Turning to his Intelligence Staff, the SFOR Commander asked how close the RS was to meeting the suspense. “No where close,” he was told. A weapons specialist stood and advised the General the RS had well over 200,000 mines that still needed to be rendered safe. “There isn’t a country in the world that could de-militarize that many landmines in three days” the analyst concluded. It was clear to everyone the RS had been planning to obstruct the peace treaty for some time.

The SFOR Commander directed his staff to identify the three best units in the RS Army and to secretly make plans to seize their equipment and start discharging their personnel at 12:01am Friday morning. For the next two days, their Defense Minister continued to blame the Justice Ministry. Finally, at Thursday’s VTC, the RS General gleefully announced that the Ministry had reversed itself – the Dayton Accord was constitutional. All he required was an extension of the suspense. The SFOR Commander responded with words to the effect, “You’ll have my answer tomorrow.”

At one minute after midnight, NATO forces surrounded the garrisons of the RS’ three premier units. Entering the compounds, the soldiers were awakened and all of their weapons and equipment seized. Standing in formation, they learned they were being discharged – effective immediately. By dawn, the “crown jewels” of the RS military had ceased to exist.

This bold move broke the back of institutionalized resistance by the RS government. Henceforth, they were as compliant – if not more so, than their Croat-Bosniak counterparts. And the RS military set a record for the fastest destruction of 200,000+ landmines……

Eric Siegel Answers Eight Questions About Predictive Analytics Reply

Eric Siegel, author of “Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die” (Wiley, 2013 – http://www.thepredictionbook.com), answers these eight questions:

1. What is predictive analytics?
2. Why is predictive analytics important?
3: Isn’t prediction impossible?
4. Is predictive analytics a big data thing?
5. Did Nate Silver use predictive analytics to forecast Obama’s elections?
6. Does predictive analytics invade privacy?
7. What are the hottest trends in predictive analytics?
8. What is the coolest thing predictive analytics has done?

About the book:

This rich, entertaining primer by former Columbia University professor and Predictive Analytics World founder Eric Siegel reveals the power and perils of predictive analytics, showing how predicting human behavior combats financial risk, fortifies healthcare, conquers spam, toughens crime-fighting, and boosts sales.

The Crazy Professor and “Machine Gun Hill” Reply

By Chris Simmons

Major Gunsberg was one of my History professors when I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The Major taught an infamous but highly desired, year-long course called The History of Warfare. Having served two tours in Vietnam as an Infantryman, he brought an edgy, philosophical, yet confrontational style of teaching to the classroom. It was pure theater and it kept us challenged and engaged.

Every day, Major Gunsberg tormented us with the same scenario:  You are leading an Infantry unit. You’ve just been ordered to take a hilltop so well fortified it is now called “Machine Gun Hill.” It’s a daylight attack. No artillery or air support is available. The hill offers no cover or concealment, so friendly casualties will be high. It cannot be bypassed – it must be captured. Pausing long enough for the words to sink in, he would then ask:  “So, how do you capture “Machine Gun Hill?”

Every possible answer we provided was wrong. Finally, on the last day of class, he told us the secret. We had been looking at the problem too narrowly. The only way to lead our men on a charge up “Machine Gun Hill” was to give them a cause in which they could believe. When committed to a cause, Gunsberg assured us, people freely make amazing – and sometimes life ending – sacrifices.

I was reminded of Major Gunsberg years later while running interrogation operations in Iraq. Many of the lower-level terrorists we’d captured began telling us they were fighting neither for Al Qaeda (AQ) or Islam. They explained to us that they did not hate Americans or members of the coalition forces. They fought because AQ had inspired them to fight for a cause – a cause worth dying for. It was a brilliantly cost-efficient and effective marketing strategy.

AQ recruiters had begun canvassing villages where poorly or uneducated residents had long ago abandoned all hope of a better tomorrow. Focusing on the young men and women, AQ wasted no time reinforcing the hopelessness of their lives and their village. The locals had little or no formal education, no schools, no hospitals or clinics, and in all likelihood, would die an early death from diseases that are treatable or preventable in many places of the world. To the young, impressionable men and women of the village, AQ’s grasp of the obvious captured their attention because the recruiters trafficked in that dangerous emotion called hope.

Their offer was surprisingly simple. If enough of them joined AQ, they would become the saviors of their village. They would do what none of their ancestors could accomplish – provide a better life for their family and the village. If enough volunteered, AQ pledged to drill a well and build a school, or at least provide a visiting teacher on a regular schedule. Likewise, an AQ medic would provide medical care for the volunteers and their families. Once again, if enough volunteered, medical care would be provided to the entire village. In some cases, a clinic was built. Recruits were told if they died serving with Al Qaeda, their families would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. By volunteering, the young men and women became immortal in the eyes of their families and friends. The message resonated and brought in a lot of “foot soldiers” to the cause.

AQ ensured they kept hope alive by fulfilling their promises to the villagers. These recruits fought us not because they believed in AQ, but simply because it provided a better life for their family while making them village heroes.

A cause to believe in – an inspirational albeit sometimes deadly thing indeed!

The Power of Touch Reply

Touch is the first sense we acquire and the secret weapon in many a successful relationship. Here’s how to regain fluency in your first language.

By Rick Chillot, Psychology Today

You’re in a crowded subway car on a Tuesday morning, or perhaps on a city bus. Still-sleepy commuters, lulled by vibrations, remain hushed, yet silently broadcast their thoughts.

A toddler in his stroller looks warily at his fellow passengers, brows stitched with concern. He turns to Mom for reassurance, reaching out a small hand. She quietly takes it, squeezes, and releases. He relaxes, smiles, turns away—then back to Mom. She takes his hand again: squeeze and release.

A twenty-something in a skirt and blazer sits stiffly, a leather-bound portfolio on her lap. She repeatedly pushes a few blonde wisps off her face, then touches her neck, her subconscious movements both revealing and relieving her anxiety about her 9 a.m. interview.

A couple propped against a pole shares messages of affection; she rubs his arms with her hands, he nuzzles his face in her hair.

A middle-aged woman, squished into a corner, assuredly bumps the young man beside her with some elbow and hip. The message is clear; he instantly adjusts to make room.

Probing our ability to communicate nonverbally is hardly a new psychological tack; researchers have long documented the complex emotions and desires that our posture, motions, and expressions reveal. Yet until recently, the idea that people can impart and interpret emotional content via another nonverbal modality—touch—seemed iffy, even to researchers, such as DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, who study it. In 2009, he demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. In a series of studies, Hertenstein had volunteers attempt to communicate a list of emotions to a blindfolded stranger solely through touch. Many participants were apprehensive about the experiment. “This is a touch-phobic society,” he says. “We’re not used to touching strangers, or even our friends, necessarily.”

But touch they did—it was, after all, for science. The results suggest that for all our caution about touching, we come equipped with an ability to send and receive emotional signals solely by doing so. Participants communicated eight distinct emotions—anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness—with accuracy rates as high as 78 percent. “I was surprised,” Hertenstein admits. “I thought the accuracy would be at chance level,” about 25 percent.

Previous studies by Hertenstein and others have produced similar findings abroad, including in Spain (where people were better at comminicating via touch than in America) and the U.K. Research has also been conducted in Pakistan and Turkey. “Everywhere we’ve studied this, people seem able to do it,” he says.

Indeed, we appear to be wired to interpret the touch of our fellow humans. A study providing evidence of this ability was published in 2012 by a team who used fMRI scans to measure brain activation in people being touched. The subjects, all heterosexual males, were shown a video of a man or a woman who was purportedly touching them on the leg. Unsurprisingly, subjects rated the experience of male touch as less pleasant. Brain scans revealed that a part of the brain called the primary somatosensory cortex responded more sharply to a woman’s touch than to a man’s. But here’s the twist: The videos were fake. It was always a woman touching the subjects.

The results were startling, because the primary somatosensory cortex had been thought to encode only basic qualities of touch, such as smoothness or pressure. That its activity varied depending on whom subjects believed was touching them suggests that the emotional and social components of touch are all but inseparable from physical sensations. “When you’re being touched by another person, your brain isn’t set up to give you the objective qualities of that touch,” says study coauthor Michael Spezio, a psychologist at Scripps College. “The entire experience is affected by your social evaluation of the person touching you.”

Read the full article here:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201302/the-power-touch

Everyone Has A Price Reply

By Chris Simmons

At some point we’ve all used the idiom “Everybody has a price.” Almost certainly, it was used as a disparaging comment. In my previous life hunting spies and terrorists, it had more sinister connotations. That said, over time I began to envision this paradigm more abstractly and in doing so, understood the more benign, everyday implications of this rule. This tenet, which I call the Second Rule of Human Nature, is closely connected to Rule #1:  Self-Interest Trumps Everything. (See The Secret to Never Getting Blindsided). In many ways, it is the corollary to the First Rule.

When conducting espionage and counterespionage operations, we studied and assessed spies to understand their motivations for changing sides. Some did it for money, others sex, while a great many were volunteers who refused payment. Their motivation was more intangible. They did it out of a sense of revenge, to feed an insatiable ego, because of personal insecurities, naivety, to make amends for past misdeeds, or a sense of justice. In every case, these individuals reached a “tipping point” where they began acting upon their motives. Espionage was the price they were willing to pay.

Now transition this scenario over to our personal life. You are at your desk at work.  You’ve been a dedicated and hardworking employee for years. The firm has generously rewarded your talents. But today, out of a clear blue sky, another company offers you your “dream job.” Everything about it is perfect. As a result, you walk away from the firm in which you’ve invested your blood, sweat, and tears for so many years. The criterion – or criteria – which constituted the opportunity to follow your “dream” was your “price.”

Perhaps the best test to identify your particular price – in the professional sense – is to answer this question. If you won the lottery tonight, would you show up at work tomorrow? If the answer is no, all you are really doing at work is “marking time.” You are waiting for the right opportunity to come around so you can walk out the door. The only question is:  What are the specifics that will lead you elsewhere? What’s your price?

The Stanford (University) Prison Experiment 3

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14 to 20,1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at StanfordUniversity. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps in order to determine the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Twenty-four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the “officers” to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his capacity as “Prison Superintendent”, lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were upset enough by the process to quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. The experimental process and the results remain controversial. The entire experiment was filmed, with excerpts made publicly available.