Two I/O Psychologists walk into a B.A.R.S.

This morning I worked on the PowerPoint presentation for my Practitioner Forum presentation at this year’s SIOP. I spent more time than I should probably admit making this graphic for a slide where I mention our use of scanable forms for employment testing:

Still, it made me chuckle, and I really hate the kind of drab exercises in paying attention that epitomizes the majority of SIOP presentations. Later in my presentation I’m going to just put up a picture of a llama and say “And here’s a picture of a llama.” I’ll pause for a second, then say nothing as I move on to the next slide. If anyone asks what’s up with the llama, I’ll give them a confused look an deny that there was ever any llama.

Why? Because there’s no reason this stuff has to be so boring? I keep thinking about the time I saw the Game Developer Conference presentation by game designing legend Will Wright. I mean, Wright’s talk was on an inherently fun topic like game design, but it was also really cerebral and abstract. He had slides like this one (not to mention this one) and talked about “vector fields” and “group social dynamics,” but the presentation was really engaging and everyone was riveted. Contrast this to some stuffed shirt whose idea of a great SIOP presentation is a huge, unreadable correlation matrix peppered by asterisks denoting p values less than .05.

This problem extends to books and journal articles in the world of I/O Psychology, too. Here, I just pulled a book on job analysis down from my shelf and flipped to a page where this was written:

A job analyst may learn a good deal about a job simply by observing and recording what a worker does. Naturalistic observation occurs when the analyst’s presence has little or no effect on the worker’s behavior. This can be achieved by conducting observations over a long enough period of time that the worker no longer pays any attention to the analyst. Or the analyst may observe more actively by asking questions about particular behaviors as they occur.”

I mean, that’s fine. And this is actually a pretty useful book on balance. But that stuff’s boring! And it just goes on and on. If I were writing that passage, it might have been more like this:

Of course, Dr. Obvious, one of the first things you can do is actually watch people doing the job in question. I know it’s not full of the glitz and HARDCORE MONSTER STATS CRUNCHING ACTION that you expect from the world of Job Analysis, but it’s actually pretty effective. You can ask questions if it doesn’t make the guy want to punch you in the throat, but try to be inconspicuous. Ideally you wouldn’t show up with a bull horn, sneak up behind the worker, and announce “WHAT’S THAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? NOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING? OOOH, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I PRESS THIS BUTTON? WOAH, YOU’RE GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE FOR THAT, AREN’T YOU?”

I don’t mean to puff my feathers all up, but really –which book would you rather read, especially if they both ultimately contained the same information and covered the same topics?

I won’t try to be as entertaining as Will Wright when I do my presentation. Besides, they’d probably run me out of town if I tried. But I do want to keep things interesting and yes I’ll say it: fun. And if in doubt, I can always throw in a dirty limerick.

p.s., Sorry for the terrible pun in the title of this post. It won’t happen again.

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One thought on “Two I/O Psychologists walk into a B.A.R.S.

  1. Very funny, but I don’t know how the llama slide would go over. Those I/O Psychologists are a pretty stuffy crowd! 😉 Present company excluded, of course! 🙂

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