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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh! They're looking!

                     Let us consider a small situation in an examination hall. There was a student who has sitting there, writing his exam ever so slowly. He had no intentions of picking up his speed or making his presentation neat, because he had made up his mind that marks won’t do any difference to the way he felt about himself. Now, his faculty for the concerned subject walks into the room ever so slowly. She glances in various directions and finally has her eye set on this student and walks towards him. All of a sudden, things have changed for this student, and he starts writing down the answers furiously. He even makes an attempt to make his answers neat and just as she walks near, he borrows a scale from a nearby table and draws the margin for his subsequent sheets.

While this is a commonplace activity for many students out there, the organization management principle involved here is what is famously known as the ‘Hawthorne effect’. Hawthorne effect, commonly known as the observer effect, is a form of reactivity where subjects improve or modify aspects of their behavior, which is being experimentally measured, in response to the fact that they are being studied.


Here we will understand the history behind this effect and will reason the coinage of this term. It was coined in the year 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger when analyzing old experiments from 1924-32 at the Hawthorne Works at Chicago. It had commissioned a study to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers' productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded. It was suggested that the productivity gain occurred due to the impact of the motivational effect on the workers as a result of the interest being shown in them.
Later research into the Hawthorne effect has suggested that the original results may have been overstated. In 2009, researchers at the University of Chicago reanalyzed the original data and found that other factors also played a role in productivity and that the effect originally described was weak at best.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A valuable lesson on communication

A couple of weeks ago, when we were all waiting eagerly to get started with our Monday morning classes, Dr. Mandi walked in. After his initial exchange of pleasantries with the class, he took out from his bag, a collection of 27 different cubes of 9 colors. While we all were thinking on the lines of a ‘Rubix cube’ challenge, he challenged us to arrange the cubes in such a manner that no face of the larger cube thus formed, would have any repetitive color among it. In a more clear manner, it meant that each color should occur once and only once in each and every face of the larger cube.

With every challenge there is the initial enthusiasm. We all started having our own tries at the assignment without a bit of planning or coordination. One or two of us, even boldly ventured out to take it as a challenge and try it in front of the class. Mr. Mandi ridiculed us for having an unorganized approach of doing it and took an opportunity to show the class how it was to be done.

Following this, he challenged us to make a demonstration video of the activity, so that anyone watching the video could understand how the task could be accomplished in a simple manner. The catch was this: There had to be 2 volunteers; one who would talk about what is being done; and the other who would actually perform the process of arriving at the answer. It is anyone’s guess as to whose hand would’ve shot up to the air first. Yes, me and my friend volunteered to do it and I’d let you people have a look at what unfolded after we did.

As all of you have already seen, it was a very valuable lesson for us on how one should convey a message across the virtual medium. The systematic manner in which our professor conveyed the methodology left us ashamed at the job that we had done. This was followed by another team’s attempt and then we were asked to present the same in our vernacular in order to maximize the reach of the video. Overall, it was an enlightening experience where we could hone our communication and marketing skills which go hand in hand with organizational efficiency.