A major cause of organisational problems

Perceptual differences between individuals in a work force can be the root cause of many organisational problems. We know that individuals perceive sensory information in many different ways including how that information is then processed and acted upon. If such perceptual differences between two individuals do not affect performance i. e. if two colleagues who perceive information differently to a task still meet the target performance required by the organisation, then both approaches are equally effective and reduce the problems arising within the organisation.

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However, if perceptual differences between colleagues does affect whether and how quickly targets are met within the organisation, this may be due to a lack of competence in perceiving and understanding the task at hand in some individuals. 2 This would have further implications for the organisation as it would suggest that management may needs to intervene to try and understand the process of perception. Effective managers need to discover whether, and in what ways, perceptual differences and the organisation of the environment interact to affect employee performance. 2, 3

Whilst it is clear that organisational managers need to provide information suited to the needs of each employee bearing in mind perceptual differences between work colleagues. If individual perceptual differences do differ significantly, then it is very difficult to provide one style of information or teaching which will serve the needs of the entire workforce. If this is the case, then whole-group teaching methods such as intense work training courses will suit only some workers. 3 The relationship between attention to information, being alerted about the task and performance is well established.

As tasks require more research, time and attention arousal levels can increase beyond an optimum level, resulting in stress and poor performance by workers. for example if one particular worker previously mastered one component skill, then attempting to master another skill whilst at the same time performing the first is less stressful than another co-worker attempting to learn two whole new skills at once. But it is not only the level of previously acquired skill that affects the level of perceiving information and performance of the worker – the optimum level of task arousal itself varies from one work colleague to another.

Therefore it can be seen that the same task can be too stressful for some work colleagues whilst being undemanding for others, failing to raise the level of arousal sufficiently to allow information to be suitably perceived, processed and recalled. 3 One important difference between acquiring perceptual-motor skills and verbal information is often the extent to which the work colleague is actively engaged in regards to the task. If the task at hand requires less verbal information to be used then this may result in inattentive states in some work colleagues that negatively affect their performance.

However when we use such information we differ from acquiring verbal information to acquiring and practising cognitive and intellectual skills together. Therefore it can be said that the difference between skill and knowledge is that a skill generally embeds knowledge in procedure. If this is the case then organisational managers should appreciate that the workers who practice this will be more skilful at their jobs due to the way in which they perceive the information presented to them.

Skills generally, are best built out of experience and continue to improve with practise. As the knowledge obtained becomes increasingly automated or skilled, the ability to explain how and why one worker behaves as he does compared to another is progressively lost. The way in which the information is perceived by the worker becomes increasingly subconscious. Therefore in order to teach such skills to new or existing work colleagues organisational mangers may need to use considerable conscious effort to teach them.

Due to This property of skills particularly the perceptual-motor skills is the reason why individual workers practicing on their own may be the only sensible route available to managers for skill acquisition. The role of the organisational mangers in facilitating the way in which information is perceived by workers is to select appropriate tasks which are structured suitably for increasing complexity to match the available resources of each individual employee therefore optimising the level of stress and maximising performance and progress.

We have already demonstrated that in order for a worker to learn a perceptual-motor skill we need to apply cognitive resources such as attention and memory. For some motor skills we will also have to make use of cognitive skills. The product of the learning is similar to an internal concept which is the ability to generate and increasingly act upon concepts, constructs, heuristics, inferences and models in response to a variety of situations arising in the work place.

The intellectual behaviours of interest are to recognise patterns, to differentiate concepts, to focus a plan to achieve a required goal, being able to reflect upon or evaluate progress and to have the ability to change conceptions or plans in response to perceiving new information. This therefore explains the extent to which cognitive and intellectual skills are skills, therefore it can be established that organisational managers need opportunities to construct them out of the experience of workers and consolidate them through repetitive practice.

Piaget explains how the developing child is continually engaged in a continual dialectic with their environment. The individual poses hypotheses and generates inferences based on their individual experience. These represent expectations about how the world will behave. When we act on the world our expectations are not always realised and cognitive conflict results. This means that the individual must change their mental model of the world if this conflict is to be resolved and a state of mental equilibrium is to be achieved.

As Piaget describes, these approaches give the individual the opportunity to construct his or her own knowledge actively and directly out of experience. This model of the learning process establishes that the learner is constantly constructing plausible internal mental models of the world. 1 However mental models are not quantitative in the same way that a computer simulation programme might be. Nevertheless they enable us to envision what will happen given a change in some quantity or feature. Bruner has argued that through visualisation it is also possible for abstract reasoning to arise and become established.

The concept of envisioning meaning being able to imagine what will happen if an action is taken depends upon the application of continual mental processing regarding different situations in an individual or work colleague over time. Perceiving and processing information in this way creates more general descriptions such as typical cases, and schema on which to base predictions. These predictions are very rarely highly accurate. However they are often sufficient to support sensible decision making in the workforce.