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20th January 2020

Our Top Highlights from the DOP Conference 2020

We started #2020yearofkindness with some self-care and an enriching team visit to the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘The Practice of Science: Occupational Psychologists at Work’, which is aligned with the work we do here at Impact. Evidence-based practice is at the heart of what we do; guided by ethics, staying up to date with current literature and translating these into workable solutions for clients. In this article we present to you some of the highlights from the conference which has given us food for thought for some of our exciting upcoming adventures and projects.

Ro’s Highlights – Responsible Disruption – Taking the responsibility for change

Terri Morrisey’s, Director of “This Is”, speech on “responsible disruption” was one of the highlights of the DOP conference for Ro. Terri’s extensive work on organisational change was summarised on the RichmorTM Model, which used a metaphor to describe how people find change in varied levels of uncertainty. In essence, when the situation is predictable and stable people view this situation as an easy drive to the “Richmor” plains. When people start to encounter mountains then the road starts getting more and more dangerous, which is quite similar when dealing with highly unexpected situations.

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Teri suggested that people tend to use five main strategies to deal with change and uncertainty that is; accepting, exploring, defensive, imposing and disrupting. Each of these has its positives and negatives but the main focus of the talk was on the disrupting strategy or “responsible disruption”.

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When we deal with uncertainty, the disrupting strategy suggests that we shake things up, challenging the status quo. Therefore, uncertainty may increase before it starts decreasing. That is why we need to be responsible when “disrupting” and think of the impact of our actions. Our responsibilities in disruption are summarised below:

  • Think of the wider organisation, not just yourself or your team
  • Aim to contribute to the greater good and support the wider community
  • Integral to decisions should be strong ethics and values
  • Think of the consequences and reach of actions; hold yourself accountable
  • When dealing with uncertainty, utilise other people’s opinions as they provide a fresh perspective

Sam’s Highlight – Framing the issue – communicating for change

Jan Maskell is the convenor of the Division of Occupational Psychology’s ‘Going Green Working Group’ which aims to raise awareness of the role of occupational psychology (and psychology) in pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace. Her talk on ‘Framing the issue – communicating for change’ was a highlight of the conference for Sam.

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Jan took the audience through several thought provoking studies which highlighted how changing the way in which an issue is presented often changes the way people think about it and ultimately devise a solution. One of the papers which exemplified this best was the work by Thibodeau and Boroditsky (2011) in which participants were given two identical passages of text with only one difference, the use of the word “virus” or “beast” when referring to crime. In this study it was found that participants who read that crime was a virus were more likely to propose treating the crime problem by investigating the root causes of the issue and instituting social reforms than participants who read that crime was a beast. Participants who read that crime was a beast were more likely to propose fighting back against the crime problem by hiring police officers and building jails – to catch and cage the criminals.

Another key message Jan put across was the importance of framing with respect to how it may support or hinder action. If we frame matters with optimism and how they can and are improving, people will find it engaging and it can help generate energy towards the proposed change, however, it does also come with the risk that the urgency of the matter may not land with people potentially becoming complacent. A pessimistic approach was viewed as the antithesis to this in that it provided the urgency, but not the same positive energy. Hence a blended approach was recommended.

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Jan provided the audience with valuable insights and food for thought with respect to how people look at the world and how this is then shaping our actions without our full awareness. She presented a compelling case for a deep consideration of how we put across our thoughts on an issue and how we can help affect change.

Overall, the Impact team really enjoyed the DOP conference and came away feeling inspired by the research taking place. We had the chance to reconnect with our peers and discuss some interesting ideas with them. It was also a fantastic experience for our Ro and Sam, who attended the conference for the first time this year. Stay tuned as we will be sharing some more fascinating insights with you from the DOP in February’s bulletin!