Success Through Failure

Failure is not our obstacle. Fear of failure is…

Today’s business landscape over flows with the startup ideas and efforts of entrepreneurs. Most of these hope filled endeavors will fail to take root and grow into sustaining businesses.

As an entrepreneur, the likelihood that you will fail with your current business is significant. The power of math tells you this. Scott A. Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western writes in the NY Times, “According to U.S. Census data, only 48.8 percent of the new establishments started between 1977 and 2000 were alive at age five.”  In other words, half of new business will fail. This is the most optimistic statistic. The numbers for unfinanced startup ventures is worse. But you can use failure as a resource to move you forward.

The benefits to failing faster and fearlessly

My hypothesis is an entrepreneur who can fail better will a have greater chance of success. Additionally, even in the absence of material success the entrepreneur will gain an enhanced experience of life and be more likely to contribute to the success of others.

Benefits of failing faster and fearlessly can include:

  • Learning to be attached to the problem you are solving while remaining flexible about the solution
  • Kill points, rapid deployment, and real-time feedback allows for quicker pivots and more efficient redeployment of resources, but above all, it cuts losses faster
  • Reduced collateral damage to friends and family
  • Failing with less physical and mental damage (raising the possibility of stress free failing)

Learning to see the value of failure can also lead to removing the stigma around failure.

Overcoming stigma requires a mental reset of the associations and language surrounding failure. Here are three examples:

  1. To attempt something difficult and come short does not make you a loser but rather brave.
  2. To admit when your resources are insufficient and you are at a material end is not ignominy but instead a chance to be humble.
  3. Similarly repeated attempts at success are not futile if they represent persistence and patience.

Reevaluating and repurposing the language around failure is not a simple act of spin. You must reframe the negative concept as a meaningfully positive experience. So you don’t just take a word like ‘losing’ and mask it with the hyperbole of ‘winning’. Instead you must see a so-called negative tag as a chance to reassess and make room for innovation.

Study, discuss, even come to embrace failure

Sharing data and insights related to your failures is crucial, and so is learning from the mistakes of others. You should reach out to those who have failed with the knowledge that they have something of value to share.

As a community of entrepreneurs we should see to it that repositories of post-mortems are built. Post-mortems are accounts reviewing the rise and fall of a business endeavor.  In addition, regular meetings and even conventions should be held to dissect, discuss, and discover what treasures can be mined from failure.

Reassessing and reframing failure is the psychological shift you need to create higher functioning organizations. There are myriad ways to build highly functional organizations with a culture that engenders improved perspectives and behaviors. One of these perspectives is the value and growth potential of failure.

Part of this potential is that by failing faster you learn faster. An example of this is the act-analyze and adjust methodology. By ‘Analyze’, I mean scientific testing. The idea is to blend creative vision-the ‘act’-with scientific method to get a stronger balance of imagination and practicality. Be willing to make and see mistakes faster and you will gain better insights.

Begin to make this shift of perspective by considering that we need failure as much as we need success.  Not only do we need it, it is an inseparable aspect of material growth and success.

Some people incorrectly assume that failure is something that should or can be eliminated altogether.  Failure is the flip side of success. Failure and success predict each other as steadfastly as boy predicts girl and light predicts dark. The idea that failure is somehow an option waiting to be eradicated is naïve. Be courageous and honest and accept that failure and success define each other and are part of the growth and evolution of humans.

Don’t bother trying to dispatch failure to never-never land. You are better off redefining failure and your relationship to it. As a result you will be able to see failure as a source of your momentum forward. When you embrace what you once feared you will discover new insights. Courage is just one of them.

Here are some steps you can take right away:

  • Search the net for stories of failure, especially for post-mortems of startups that crashed and burned (see link below)
  • Keep a journal and timeline of your own “failures” and review it from time to time
  • Form a meetup in your community where other entrepreneurs come together regularly and discuss their failures
  • Become more agile:  have regular big picture sessions where you evaluate progress or the lack thereof and be ready to pivot, repurpose, reboot
  • Establish clear kill points for constructive endings. Knowing when to cut losses and move on can help sustain your reputation, reduce damage to stakeholders, and leave you in a better place for the next step

Your business is an extension of you. Use your business as an opportunity to grow as a person and push the boundaries of your consciousness. Question your assumptions, challenge yourself to be courageous and do what is difficult. By learning to focus more on your efforts and less on your outcomes you will most certainly be a success, even in failure.

Inset –

ChubbyBrain.com has an excellent list of post mortems for you to check out at http://www.chubbybrain.com/blog/startup-failure-post-mortem/

They also compiled a list of the top reasons these companies failed including:

  1. Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback – Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups.
  2. No market need – Choosing to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was often cited as a reason for failure.  Companies should tackle market problems not technical problems.
  3. Not the right team- A diverse team with different skill sets was often cited as being critical to the success of a startup company. In some cases, the founding team wished they had more checks and balances.
  4. Poor marketing – Knowing your target audience and knowing how to get their attention and convert them to leads and ultimately customers is one of the most important skills of a successful business.  Find someone who enjoys creating and finding distribution channels and developing business relationship for the company is a key need that startups should ensure they fill.
  5. Ran out of cash – The question of how should you spend the money was a frequent conundrum and reason for failure cited by failed startups.  The decision on whether to spend significantly upfront to get the product off the group or develop gradually over time is a tough act to balance.
  6. No biz model – 1 of 4 failure post-mortems cite the lack of a business model as a reason for failure.
  7. Product mistimed – If you release your product too early, users may write it off as not good enough and getting them back may be difficult if their first impression of you was negative.  And if you release your product too late, you may have missed your window of opportunity. “This requires balance
  8. Lack of passion and domain expertise – product can be created that the founders are expert at but the industry is not something they can be bothered learning about so they don’t really understand what the customers want from the product.
  9. Failure to pivot – not pivoting away from a bad product, a bad hire, a bad decision, etc quickly enough often cited as a reason for failure
  10. User ‘unfriendly’ product
  11. Pricing issues
  12. Didn’t use network – Whether it was for advice or introductions, almost 16% of the startup post-mortems stated that the team did not use their connections well enough, which led to failure.
  13. Disharmony on team – acrimony isn’t limited to the founding team,  things go bad with an investor, and  it can get ugly
  14. Lost focus – Getting sidetracked with all the ‘could-bes’ was cited numerous times as a contributor to failure. Focus on one product and get it out there.
  15. Burnout – Work life balance is not something that startup founders often get and so the risk of burning out is high.  The ability to cut your losses where necessary and re-direct your efforts when you see a dead end is also connected to having a diverse team.
  16. Out competed
  17. No financing
  18. Bad location

Do you recognize any of these in your business?

Tweet, Share, and Please Comment,

Atma ( http://askatma.com )

The 4 crucial roles in a startup

Building your company right – the first time

If you are starting a new company one of the first issues you must face is who will do what? And, what is my role going to be?

Most startup and entrepreneurial pundits list three key roles in the development of a great new company:

Developer – Tech guru (in a media or service company this is the person responsible for creating amazing content or the product).

Designer – UX/AI guru; this is the person who makes you look great and makes the client interaction feel great. They handle all visual, auditory, and emotional interfacing with the clients and other stakeholders; they are responsible for product development and management.

Distributer – Marketing guru; this is the brain behind getting your product or service to the public

What’s often missing from this list is the essential fourth column of support:

Director – the start-up CEO or People guru(description below)

The roles can be loosely mapped to my Management 3.o model of personalities in the workplace (paper available by request). In this model a balanced organizational body requires a:

Doer  (usually a developer, but could also be a designer and/or distributor).

Doers are task agents and finishers who are detailed and disciplined

Social/Seller (the deal maker – sales person).

This is often the distributer (but that doesn’t mean that the developer, designer or even director couldn’t fill this role). The social seller connects people and objects together and is: convivial, open, sharing, communicative, and moves things forward.

Brilliant Bureaucrat (biz dev, and people wrangling; definitely the role for the director).

The brilliant bureaucrat is a rational thinker, analyzes, understands politics and warfare, organizes, plans, and protects.

Visionary (can be any of the previous roles ie. developer/designer/director or be the chairperson, shepherd, holder of the vision, etc… ).

A visionary is the shaper, originator and creative genius; they are intensely curious, risk takers, and highly intelligent.

Remember  the four parts of a balanced organizational body roles can be filled in a number of ways, (the mapping doesn’t have to be one to one if you have people who can fill more than one role).

The importance of a director

As stated above the missing link to a balanced organizational body is often the director. Assuming your developer/designer team is somehow covering Doer and Visionary and your marketing person is covering Social/Seller, then who is your Brilliant Bureaucrat?

Sticking with the alliterations listed above you would be missing a director of operations; a start-up CEO – Your People Guru. It is important to remember that the start-up CEO or ‘early stage CEO’ is different from the second stage or ‘growth stage CEO’. (See my article on The 68 Responsibilities of a CEO.)

In a small company the early stage CEO is:

  • the operations officer ie. designing and developing business operations or the business method – that which produces value for clients and investors
  • responsible for business development ie. developing new opportunities attracting new clients, penetrating new markets
  • senior project manager ie. bridging the gap between projects [ideas] and business operations, and
  • Human resource manager  ie. overseeing recruitment and managing personalities as the company ramps up

He/she is all of the above rolled into one personality designed from the ground up to support all the other members of the team and to help manage the expansion of both staff and clients. But in a startup this role needs to be much more that a good people wrangler, you need a smart business developer.

In the words of serial entrepreneur and VC Mark Suster, “who else is going to get out there and close your big biz dev deals with you? Who’s going to help you with improving your marketing / positioning to become a clear platform category leader like Twilio? A few key people really can make a huge difference…. The reason you’re not getting to the next level is that you’re not prioritizing the precise thing that could take you to the next level. I would say recruiting at least one superstar would be your priorities 1, 2 & 3.”

According to James W. Breyer, superstar VC, and multiple board member (including Facebook),  “Skills, passion, intense curiosity and extremely high IQ are more important,” when asked about the importance of age in an article about start-up CEO’s. (WSJ 010712)

So when you look around at your team, do you have a superstar in each of the 4 columns of support (developer, designer, distributor, director)? Do you have each part of a balanced and functional organizational body (visionary, social seller, doer, brilliant bureaucrat)?

Remember this doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual fills each crucial role. If you are lucky enough to have someone on your team (maybe you?) that can fill two roles that’s awesome. If you have somebody on a team that can fill three roles, that’s Steve Jobs. If you have somebody that can fill all four roles you wouldn’t be reading this blog you’d be inventing the next Internet.

Unfortunately this role of a Brilliant Bureaucrat is often overlooked. What you should be looking for is someone who gets business but also understands the dynamic of all the other roles. you want someone who has a strong MBA mind but is not insulated by an MBA mind set. They need to be able to see the big picture of the vision holders and they need the discipline of a Doer.

How to find the right director of operations

But to attract a Brilliant Bureaucrat you have to speak their language. Don’t come at them with all the sizzle of your dreams; bring them numbers, hard facts, and something that looks like a business plan. Remember that to build a holistic and balanced team you will need members with different personalities. Learn the language and communication styles of those personalities that differ from you.

Another valuable tool you can use in building healthy relationships with future partners is using natural language agreements. This is a model I have designed that uses guided or facilitated sessions that create very thorough dialogs around many of the difficult questions facing partners. These sessions are transcribed and then transposed by a legal representative into a contract or letter of agreement.

Even if you have a great idea you are going to be limited or propelled by your team. It should be your priority to get the right people on the bus. Ask yourself again and again, “do I feel amazing about my team?” If the answer isn’t yes, you need to slow down and regroup. If you are unsure about a possible member use the natural language session as a away to uncover potential conflicts or unspoken concerns. Questioning your team and each person’s fit early on is uncomfortable. This is why it rarely gets done. Unfortunately, putting off a potential disconnect or a personality problem in the near term just leads to painful and expensive adjustments later on. Better to face the difficult questions now.

What is my role going to be?

Be sure you have asked this of yourself after taking a close look at both your personality and the personality of the others on your team.

Assess your team and make sure you have somebody supporting you in all the roles your business requires. And don’t be afraid to cut losses early, if you need to pass on a potentially problematic partner, do it. Don’t hang on to somebody because they are all you’ve got and you don’t know if you will find somebody. The ability to keep looking is a risk and risks are what leaders have to take in order to succeed.

My next invention: an online school for management 3.0

Learn Management 3.0 to Optimize Your Business, Your People, Your World; using a new 10-point framework to create a culture of motivation, disruption, and implementation.

Science, technology, and culture are constantly evolving. As a result rules change, and new opportunities emerge. Keeping up is hard.  The Atman Academy makes it easier.

HumanProficient.com is an online school for business owners and operators – All 10 components will be taught as part of an online training environment that focuses on cutting edge management and organizational tools. The school itself is part of ongoing research projects to continually improve the framework.

To view a presentation visit here

Be sure to give me your feedback!

I am currently looking for investors and an amazing design partner who is expert in UX/AI.

How to hack a management system [brief talk]

[A 5 minute talk given at LA Hackers on April 23, 2011 at Coloft]

My name is Atma

I am an industrial psychologist

That’s kind of like a project manager on academic steroids

I specialize in the psychology of organizations and am currently working on my PhD in this topic

Part of the power of organizational psychology is that it leverages emotional energy.

Emotional energy comes from human desire, those things you want deeply or strongly, and it is a pervasive phenomenon.

Put another way I traffic in disruptive ideas that can make people better, higher functioning, and happier

I do this by focusing on changes in the work environment rather than singling out the individual

Better environments create better humans; better humans create a better society

I believe we can create a better world by changing the way we interact in daily life.

My goal is to teach whoever is ready to re-engineer their business, startup, or organization.

The suite of solutions I work with can be used to make any business or team more effective (consequently more profitable)

Some of the tools in this suite include:

  1. Screening partners, and hires with face reading and other cutting edge profiling techniques including clique psychology
  2. Wiring in innovation as a cultural behavior
  3. Game theory applications – tapping into mutualistic dynamics
  4. Training for charisma, confidence, and presentation skills
  5. Human centric design based on my model of generative grammar in organizations
  6. Hacking your management system
  7. The role of discipline in forging leaders
  8. Training to be comfortable and confident in any social situation
  9. Repurposing stress – training to thrive amidst chaos
  10. Super Group Networks
  11. XY cluster companies – a new  type of agglomeration
  12. Changing the communication model,

Here is a simple example of one way to hack a management system…

To make a meaningful change in the way an organization functions you need to figure out what is the generative grammar of that business or group. It’s like understanding the nature of code at the deepest structural level in a massive program written 30 or 40 years ago. You can similarly assume that your work environment is like an antiquated system riddled with legacy code. Only instead of the byzantine application of a formal language you are dealing with emotional needs, cultural expectations, societal mores, all operating in an invisible and impossibly complex array.

But if you can change the underlying grammar or code you change the way humans behave. This is partly because humans have enormous plasticity or capacity to adapt.

For example say we all worked together and somebody came in and said I will pay each of you a significant bonus for every month you show a demonstrable positive change in your health stats. Now I know from previous studies about how many of you would take advantage of that offer. Often it would be those of you who need it the least.

But let’s say I came in and said I will pay each of you the same bonus for the improvements shown by a randomly assigned coworker, as opposed to your own improvements (which would be tied to someone else’s bonus.)

What kind of shift do you imagine would occur in the way we all interact? Suddenly I have a vested interest in your well being. I will be paying attention to what you eat, encouraging you to be more active, maybe invite you to my gym 3 times a week. And you might be inclined to respond because you are equally concerned with getting your assignee on the right track.

So you see in making one simple adjustment I have altered the generative grammar of our environment and consequently we are all behaving differently.

I am currently involved in a private research project, where I come into small businesses and observe and collect data on the organizational dynamics. It’s free to the company and I always share my findings with them, which is always eye-opening and instructive. If you know any companies that would like to apply for participation please let me know.

My contact information is on the handout I have provided.

Thank you

3 stages of increasing creativity in the workplace

Stage one: The approach

Theater of Constraints: great creativity and design flow from an accurate understanding of your limitations. By limitations you should distinguish between personal and material. Personal limitations are meant to be challenged and tested (at least within reason.) Material limitations are about the resources you have available. Material resources include, time, capital, space, and ability. Understanding material limitations can require a surprisingly large amount of individual and institutional honesty. But this rigorous honesty is the first discipline of the Theater of Constraints.

The second discipline is designing and developing within those constraints. For example say you have an idea for an application/production that will cost $1000 and take two weeks. But you only have $500 and one week. Don’t ignore these limitations and say, “let’s do the best we can!” and push forward with your original plan. Most of the time if you do, you end up with either a crappy execution of the $1000 version (a $500 version), or an over budget project and someone should get fired.

This of course is an extreme simplification, but the idea is missing from many project management cycles. If you use the limitations of your resources as a design criterion you can often engender a whole new dimension of innovation. You can also avoid the type of scope creep that is usually generated by unseen psychological factors related to the aforementioned need for honesty.

Apply the discipline of learning to design backwards from an honest understanding of available resources to software development, product development, media creation, event planning and many other types of productions.

You can even apply this discipline to aspects of personal life, like goal setting. Let your motto be, “Dream forward, design backward.”

Stage two: Stimulating creative thinking

Regular once a week free association session: one person takes the lead by providing an idea or a scenario that is seemingly farfetched or unlikely in your industry. Others begin to riff or explore on the possibilities. It is like a big “what if?” conversation, the trick is that it has to hew to some level of reality and at the same time goes well past the boundaries of what has been thought to be possible in your particular industry.

Cross disciplinary training and stimulus: Whatever field you are in, once-a-month take your team on an educational/cultural outing to something that has nothing to do with your work. E.g. take a team of developers to tour an abattoir, take the human resource team to museum exhibit on ancient Egypt, or take legal on an outing to a flower show. It is important to make it a regular outing, and to really explore intriguing albeit unrelated subjects as a group.

Show and tell: one morning a week have team members or co-workers bring in an example of counter-culture that they have unearthed. Examples could come from art, comics, film, music, architecture, economics (weird black markets), music, media, etc…

The drift (le Derive): Take a work group or team on a once-a-quarter exploration of the city using no agenda whatsoever. Begin the day by walking or catching a bus in a direction based on the flip of a coin. If you are on a bus or a subway get off on a stop chosen by the roll of a pair of dice. Or use a single die to determine the number of block s you will walk. Follow somebody walking out of a coffee shop for 60 seconds see where it leads you. Visit buildings based on the salience of their architecture i.e. that means which building sticks out the most? Doing the derive right takes practice and a real sense of adventure. The goal is to learn to let the environment direct your next move rather any personal agenda.

Stage three: Improving brainstorming

Throw away good work: if you are brainstorming or creating various version of products or services to offer the public you have to go far enough in the brainstorming to so many ideas that you must discard some good ones if you are not throwing away good work you are not assured that what remains will be excellent.

Distance thinking: review current and future projects from a distance. For example imagine that the work you are doing is going to be placed in a time machine and sent 10 years what would you do different? Or imagine your work is going to be transported to an aboriginal culture on some faraway island how do you make sure it works? If your clients are geographically close to you imagine that they are in offices halfway around the world? How do you improve communication and help keep a sense of connection? Whatever the reality of your client relationships imagine something either opposite or radical and imaginatively different. Clients from another galaxy anyone?

Purposely do bad work: gather your team together and create the 10 worst ideas for moving your company forward. Have a vote for the winner or worst idea possible. Know go backwards through the list and talk about what it would take to make each idea actually work.

No brainstorming without solo prep work: Brainstorming in a group from an empty slate can be counterproductive, and cause people to fixate on the earliest ideas. Before every brainstorming session send out a memo explain the agenda or purpose of the session and tell al participant to come up with 12 distinct ideas to begin the session. This gives everyone a chance to work alone in their own heads before coming to the group environment and will increase dramatically the number of ideas being discussed.

[Bonus thought] Evaluating best efforts: an easy way to determine the value of an idea (that isn’t yours) is to look at it and see if you can honestly say, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

And finally remember that these practices won’t be deeply effective if they are applied piecemeal to a poor overall work environment (new patches on an old garment and all…). Be sure to evaluate your entire environment with ruthless honesty. See this article on simple ways to assess your organization.


Seven ways to assess the organizational fitness of your business

One of the keys to developing a lean (highly effective and efficient) management process in your company is by making regular assessments of its psychological infrastructure. Think of it like getting a regular check up of your company’s mental well-being.

Here are seven simple steps to you can apply to your own business based on principles of industrial/organizational psychology:

  1. Move about and observe your business as if you were an outsider.
  2. Question the why and the psychology behind all the behaviors that you see
  3. Take a survey of employees about work satisfaction, concerns, wishes, complaints. There are easy to use web-based tools like www.formstack.com that make setting up surveys easy and you can look at this simple pdf  for instructions on how to design a simple survey
  4. Look for patterns of dysfunction or disruption, record the frequency and intervals
  5. Look for the underlying mechanisms (psychological states) that create these negative patterns
  6. Explore alternative workplace dynamics in small 2-3 people discussions and then as you generate agreement increase the size of the groups.
  7. Develop a means of measuring and changes that you are going to make. Be clear about establishing baselines, benchmarks (goals), and the criteria for evaluating progress.

Eventually you will want a social scientist to come in and aid you in your organizational development. It takes an experienced industrial psychologist to properly help with something as complex as organizational development and you don’t want to tax your company resources doing a job that is better done by an outsider. Even so, these are some of the valuable steps you can take toward assessing and addressing organizational issues.

Please use the comment space below to share experiences you have had with assessing the effectiveness of your organization or post comments and questions.

 [photo credit]

Facial Analytics: a management 3.0 secret weapon (part 2)

Part two: The Origins of Facial Analytics (part one is here)

Descriptions of  a pseudo science known as face reading exist in the ancient literature of Greece, China, and Europe. While those ideas have been largely discredited by science, a new practice of facial analytics is emerging as a progressive science for psychological assessment.  Here is a brief introduction into its modern origins and potential applications:

In the 1960’s western psychologists considered the face a meager source of mostly inaccurate, culture-specific, stereotypical information (Bruner & Tagiuri, 1954). But things were about to change and new research on this subject of facial emotions would have a dramatic impact in developing the science of facial analytics.  Silvan Tomkins, a well-known American clinical psychologist and personality theorist was instrumental in convincing two of his mentees, Paul Ekman and Carroll Izard to pursue research independently of each other on non-verbal communication of facial emotions. They discovered that humans, across varied cultures, both literate and preliterate, shared agreement between emotions and the corresponding facial expressions (Ekman & Friesen, 1971 and Izard 1971). In other words,  an innate grammar of emotional expression links all humans.  This research has had many implications in developing the practice of facial analytics and taking it out of the realm of the mystical and into the empirical. For example, this evidence of universality both required and justified nearly a decade of work to develop methods for measuring the movements of the face. Ekman and his partner Wallace Friesen developed the Facial Action Coding System, which was the first and most comprehensive technique for scoring all visually distinctive, observable facial movements.  A few years later, in 1979, Izard published his own technique for selectively measuring those facial movements that he thought were relevant to emotion.

Universality of emotions is the key

According to Ekman a universal emotion requires a distinctive expression so another human from any culture can know instantly from a glance how a person is feeling. By that measure one would only have to look at the evidence on how many emotions have distinctive expressions to determine the number of universal emotions. Originally distinctive universal expressions were identified for anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment. Overtime Ekman added:  contempt, surprise, amusement, embarrassment, guilt, pride, contentment, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame.  So far, this brings the list of emotions that have a universal facial expression to fifteen.

Fifteen universal emotions may not seem like a very complete system for describing the richness of human emotions. If you remember, however, that there are anywhere from 40 to as many 196 muscles in the face(depending on how you enumerate them) and each muscle can take from two to nine different positions; you end up with an astronomical number of possible muscle movements or nuances of emotional expression. If you add to these to the potential permutations and combinations of emotions such as a happy configuration followed by a sadness configuration, which is very different from a sadness configuration followed by a happy configuration-you can see how the possibilities approach infinity.

Given the complexity of possibilities, the fifteen fundamental emotions serve as templates and organizing principles for interpreting an otherwise overwhelming amount of data.  Fifteen universal emotions give a meaningful and sufficiently discrete set while at the same time allowing a range of expressiveness so vast it gives weight to the idea that the face the most sophisticated information system on planet Earth.

FOX TV jumps on the bandwagon

Famed film and television producer Brian Grazer created a show based largely on Dr. Ekman’s work. The show “Lie to Me” has been running on the Fox network for several seasons. The show however tends to focus on facial analytics as system for deception detection, which is only a small part of face reading’s potential.

Dr. Ekman studied the changes in human emotional expression in the moment. Consequently Dr. Ekman only presented part of facial analytic’s bigger picture.  What were missing were the long-term implications of persistent emotional states and the ability to see the face as an index to the mind.

A breakthrough uncovers a new science

While Ekman focused on the easier to quantify facial data called micro-expressions, it was the work of Dr. Michael Lincoln that led to the psychologically holistic applications of facial analytics.

Michael J. Lincoln was born in Berkley, California in 1933. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Oregon, where he spent several years teaching, research assisting and working at mental hospitals. He was one of the first psychologists successful in the integration of behavioral and psychoanalytic approaches. Along with all this clinical work, he served as a professor of psychology at the University for several years, where he trained students in professional clinical psychology, conducted research, and taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s in the midst of this extraordinarily intense career work and the accompanying high case loads Dr. Lincoln uncovered the holistic face-reading process based upon modern psychological assessment approaches. The unimaginably massive amounts of data from Dr. Lincoln’s case load may have contributed to the realization after a time that he was able to predictively complete the patient’s case file with nearly 100% accuracy, without having done the interview.  Naturally, he found this fascinating and unusual.  So he began systematically studying the phenomenon. Over time he unearthed literature from the East and the West about the process and integrated that which could be empirically tested and added to his understanding of facial analytics.

What makes it possible (the face as index of the mind)

Let’s take a closer look at the potential for facial analytics. Consider the intersection of face reading and human emotional and psychological development from birth.

As each human child develops, many factors will shape and influence their personalities, perceptions and experience of life. How the growing human interacts with her or his environment definitely registers on their face.  Infant studies have all built a case for the impact of maternal facial expression on the child (Stein et al, 2009, Klinnert, 1983). For example adult behaviors such as being withdrawn or people avoidant are sometimes traced back to sensing as a child a contradiction between words and facial expressions. (Lincoln, 1989)  According to Dr. Lincoln, the developmental process is like an inverted pyramid. In this respect, seemingly small and insignificant events can have a cascading effect on the child’s development well beyond the proportion of the original interaction.  For instance if the kid gets the message from the mother’s face, “I wish you weren’t here,” that is tantamount to getting a message from the in loco deity that “I don’t belong here, God says so!”  From here one can see patterns of shame, guilt, frustration and a host of accompanying scripts, especially in the area of self esteem. The child translates the original facial expression-exchange as, “I am not worthy of love.” This in turn initiates thought patterns and behaviors that reinforce the feeling of not being worthy.

To complicate and place even more importance on the developmental years is the intensity and speed at which human interactions occur.  Import research and discovery on this subject was done by William Condon in the 60’s. Using motion picture film Condon noticed blurs in the single frames of film shot at the normal 24 frames per second.  By speeding up the rate of filming (which slows everything down during playback) he was able to prove that human behavior can occur at rate of 64 pulses per second. Each pulse involves a different pattern of subtle moving in muscles and body parts. In addition to this Condon was able to demonstrate that humans interact as fast as 16 times per second. This means an unimaginably rapid and potentially dense amount of information is being shared from person to person. (Edward T. Hall Beyond Culture Anchor Books, 1977)  This subtle and high speed interaction had been given the name, Kinesic Dance, by Ray Birdwhistle.

In addition, research has shown an extraordinarily high amount of shifting influence of the mother over the child In respect of punishments that are particularly effective in socializing guilt (which leverages fear). According to Kemper in his 1987 paper on the number of emotions, “Sears, Maccoby, and Levin (1957) found that the most important was withdrawal of love. Hence, the most potent fear aroused in the punishment situation may be fear of loss of love. Where there is no love to lose, the fear would ordinarily be considerably less; the likelihood is then much reduced of linking the several elements of fear, forbidden act, punishment, and label.

Hoffman noted that the “available evidence suggests that in the 2- 4 year-old range children experience pressures from mothers to change their behavior on the average of every six to eight minutes throughout their waking hours, and in the main they end up complying” (Hoffman, 1977, p. 93). Demos (1982) also observed a change over time in the pattern of mothers’ evaluations, comments, and voice tones. When their infants were 9-15 months old, the mothers’ vocal productions were mainly positive. By the 21-month period, mothers had shifted to a more irritated, perfunctory, and didactic tone, oriented, as in the materials reported by Hoffman, toward obtaining behavior change. Certainly, the high rate of behavior change parents require of their children by the second year is not achieved in most cases without punishment of which the child ordinarily develops some fear. Indeed, before gaining the ability to reason through the grounds for a behavior change, children must necessarily control their conduct largely through fear of the aversive consequences learned through previous punishment.”

Because every emotion experienced ends up being repeatedly expressed on the child’s face a history of the dynamics, and character of the these interactions is trace into each human face.

A graphic anecdote about child rearing

The most graphic example of this phenomenon was the film footage of a mother holding twins (Condon, 196?). In the five-minute film one twin start to fuss and cry while the other remains calm. When they ran the film in slow motion it came out that the mother and her preferred twin were involved in a mutual validation experience sixteen times a second while she and the other twin were involved in a mutual rejection pattern sixteen times a second. By the end of five minutes he had received 4800 rejections. When seen in slow motion, the impact is overwhelming and the implications staggering (Michael Lincoln, 2007).

This type of interaction should give you a sense of how the face is able to record these patterns of behavior, like grooves cut into a record; emotions become behavioral traces which become part of a permanent index of the mind. As muscular reactions to the environment repeat over and over they even begin to mold the bone and cartilaginous structures of the face.  This constructed legacy becomes a part of what a face reader identifies when reading a person’s history as it has been recorded on their face.

Conclusion (and caution)

Learning facial analytics sets you apart from others. Knowing more than the person you are dealing with knows about you is power, and with power comes responsibility.  You become part of an élite sect with a clear advantage over others. It is up to you to use this advantage for good and humanitarian purposes and not selfish ends.