Organisational psychologists adding the competitive advantage

Regardless of the growth of automation and digital disruption, organisations are still fuelled by people. Where we are today and where we hope our strategy will take us and our enterprise in the future will ultimately depend on the people within the business.

But what drives the behaviour of our organisation’s most valuable treasure? As business managers and leaders we understand the need to empathise with ourselves and with our people, so as we can best predict our own behaviour and the behaviour of others.

We’ve probably spent enough time now discussing, debating and practicing the critical importance of social and emotional intelligence. We are probably somewhat aware of the range of motivators that drive our own behaviour and that of the teams around us as well as the importance of individual ability and role perception, whilst creating situational factors that align people with the vision and goals of the organisation as found in the research (McShane, et al., 2016).

Image demonstrates the interaction between Individual Characteristics and the MARS model on individual human behaviour. Image credit:

However, if you are anything like me, some of this will come naturally at times and at other times it simply doesn’t. We design job roles best suited to highly extroverted employees and then fill the positions with introverts and wonder why things went wrong. The pressure of compliance and deadlines leaves us creating training with a one size fits all approach, often fully aware that our people will probably only retain 10% of what they were shown in the slides or the talk etc (Goodwin & Wright, 2014) ( Lombardo & Eichinger, 1996). Furthermore our leadership teams are under constant pressure to deliver value in an ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

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I argue that organisations that focus on developing the psychological edge will be well positioned to develop the phronesis, stamina and type one and two thinking that allows decision makers to achieve strategic goals.

A key resource in delivering this advantage is the organisational psychologist. From assisting the organisation in job analysis and design, personnel selection and assessment, training and development, organisational structure and form to managing complex change, the organisational psychologist brings a level of structured, evidence based insights underpinned by theory, research and practice.

As directors our boards are responsible for ensuring that the organisation creates value. Aligning individual characteristics, such as, personality, values, self-concept, perception, emotions and attitude; and motivation, ability, role perceptions and situational factors against our strategic goals, we stand to form resilient organisations that harness the strengths of the individual for the advancement of the team.

Strategic recommendations

1. Engage an organisational psychologist at the strategic level of the organisation to assist shape and influence strategic approaches, especially in cases of significant organisational change; such as during merger or acquisition, redundancies and process improvement projects.

2. Define the scope broadly enough to allow sufficient opportunity for the psychologist to draw in the complexity of the organisation. Too narrow a view will limit the diverse nature of the organisation and reduce the benefits of the approach.

3. Expect to embed new tools and frameworks into your existing processes such as;

a. Psychological profiling tools to assist with aligning employees with opportunities that best suit their personality type, as well as ability and motivators,

b. Decision making frameworks that support managers to view and understand data quickly, and

c. Performance monitoring techniques and indicators that are designed to drive positive behaviours.

Feel free to contact me or share your own experiences of the benefits of adding organisational psychology as a strategic advantage and method of developing organisational capability.

Andre De Barr

#thinkvucap #globalcity #globalcityperth

Recommended Reading

Kajewski, Kelly; Valerie, Madsen. "Demystifying 70:20:10" (PDF). Deakin Prime. Retrieved 27 April 2017

Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C. R., 2009. Nudge. 1st Edition ed. London: Penguin Books.


Goodwin, P. & Wright, G., 2014. Decision analysis for management judgement. 5th Edition ed. Chichester: Wiley.

Lombardo, Michael M; Eichinger, Robert W (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Lominger. p. iv. ISBN 0-9655712-1-1.

McShane, S., Olekalns, M., Newman, A. & Travaglione, T., 2016. Organisational behaviour: emerging knowledge. global insights. 5th Edition ed. North Ryde: McGraw-Hill Education.