Part 1: Introduction to Honest Signals
Question. Are you familiar with or aware of honest signals?
Honesty below the surface. Are we signaling in a new era of employee engagement understanding and assessment with the use of the sociometer (a digital recording devise) and the measurement of unconscious honest signals between people?
Three part series. This is a three part series on honest signals. It will run for the next 3 Tuesdays on this site.
- Part 1 will introduce the concept of honest signals and the sociometer.
- Part 2 will offer you a range of resources to further you contemplation, understanding, and study of this very intriguing research.
- Part 3 will focus on possible applications of this to the study and assessment of employee engagement.
Sandy Pentland. These signals include synchrony, mimicry, activity and emphasis forming an unconscious channel of communication between people. Sandy Pentland and others have been doing major work on honest signals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This work includes the use of a fascinating digital tool that captures various unconscious signals that occur between people.
The deciding factor. The most intriguing element of this study is how much honest signals accounts for decisions, actions, and positive interactions that the vast majority of people fail to notice.
A new transparent tool. Here is a key organizational statement from Pentland’s book, Honest Signals:
In the near future, we envision a new generation of management tools that are enabled by the sociometer’s capability to produce real time maps of an organization’s information flow and function. These sensible organizations will use these new sensing capabilities to make sure that the sales department really is talking to the marketing department, and that employees aren’t overloaded and miserable. To achieve this it will take special care to strike a balance between the “big brother” nature of such information and the benefits that can be reaped. We believe that this balance can be achieved by giving employees control of their own information, creating a transparent system with immediate benefits to everyone.
Sociometer. With the use of an intriguing digital tool called a sociometer Pentland and others have shown that the social content of a presentation may be more important than the information part – even in the choice of what business plans to finance. Current versions of the sociometer resemble a slightly larger version of the swipe cards most of us hear around our neck or clipped to our belt to navigate through office security doors.
Influence, mimicry, activity, and consistency. Conversations have a lot of give-and-take including unconscious gesturing, timing, energy, and variability in the conversations. Pentland focused on influence, mimicry, activity, and consistency.
Influence is measured by the extent to which one personal causes the other person’s pattern of speaking to match their own pattern.
Mimicry is the reflexive copying of one person by another.
Activity levels indicate interest and excitement.
Consistency is the measuring such things as jerky movements. Consistency of emphasis and timing is a signal of mental focus.
Next Tuesday. Part 2 will offer you a rich list of resources to heighten your understanding of honest signals.
In two weeks. Part 3 will examine the potential application of honest signal research to employee engagement.