Synaptic Spark Factory

a manufacturer of ideas
We design tools & measures to support busy Business Decision-Makers

About

We strongly believe that, in the future, successful businesses will have to become more transparent, more honest, and more responsible to a wider audience of stakeholders. Talented employees who are attracted and engaged with the organisation and loyal consumers who are committed to the brand will demand a certain standard of behaviour.

There is a growing concern about the poor decision-making of some of our largest businesses, which at times appear to be morally suspect, and bordering on the illegal. This apparent lack of integrity has led to calls from the larger investment companies and some prominent politicians for serious changes to be made in the make-up of boardrooms and for much tighter control of the Governance of companies.

We have designed unique tests, which draw upon established psychological theory, to identify levels of integrity, honesty, impulsivity, stress-tolerance and conscientiousness in employees. These measures show how likely individual managers or employees are to engage in future behaviour that is detrimental to the organisation’s competitiveness or reputation.

Peter Drucker (2008)1 firmly believed that:

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Let Synaptic-Spark help you achieve this virtuous state in your business.

Our expertise and toolkits can support you in achieving a more attractive, creative and therefore more successful enterprise2.

1Drucker, Peter F., (2008). The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
2A more transparent and responsible Corporate-Culture may become more attractive after current proposals for a tougher legal framework will force Company executives to accept criminal liability for any unlawful activity by rogue employees.

Our unique online tests can uncover employees’ true thoughts and feelings; even those that may lay hidden from traditional organisational surveys. We uncover what you don’t know; the Subjective, the Subconscious and the Subliminal.

Factory Workings

Spark Factory has developed a small range of tests that work!

They are based on IAT (Implicit Attitude Theory) and are able to uncover the hidden motivations behind individuals’ organizational behaviour. This information, which is elicited from the subconscious, cannot be collected using the usual Likert-scale questionnaires, as these require conscious thinking to complete and are subject to biased-responses when certain responses might be socially undesirable (e.g. racist) or legally incriminating (e.g. fraud and embezzlement).

Our work is guided by the quality and ethical standards set out by the British Psychological Society.

We strongly believe that without integrity there is no value.

Poor decision making ruins businesses, brands and lives

Brand Wreckage

Here are some recent examples of corporate crises brought about by dodgy decision making.

The businesses have incurred huge costs and have also suffered long-term harm to their brand reputation and value.

The careless and at times, wanton decision making by company executives has achieved a dysfunctional “Brand-wreck-ignition” ™ in the market-place.

These businesses are now candidates for ‘crisis management’; a panicky-strategy attempting to “shut-the-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted.”

The down-side of poor Governance is TOO GREAT, undertaking a cultural audit and following-up with serious changes, is strongly recommended now!

Fraud at Tesco

Three former executives at the supermarket group Tesco have been charged in relation to the £320m accounting scandal (first reported 2014), which has ruined the store’s brand-image and given a new meaning to “Every Little Helps”!

Balancing the BHS Books

Sir Philip “Lion-heart” Green sold the department store chain BHS for £1 just one year before the retailer closed its doors on its customers and 20,000 staff in April 2016. The business closed with a £571m pension deficit. Sir Philip and his family extracted more than £400m out of BHS during 15 years of ownership before selling the ‘business opportunity’ to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt with no retail experience. However, Chappell’s business skills managed to squeeze a further £17m from the stricken BHS business during his brief tenure.

Self Contamination

In September 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had a “defeat device” fitted. This software in vehicles with diesel-engines improved emission test results. Subsequently, the business has admitted over 11 million cars worldwide, including eight million in Europe, have been fitted with this device for deception. The engines without the masking software actually emit pollutants up to 40 times the legal limit in the USA.

Own Goal!

Following a 3-year major FBI inquiry, the US Department of Justice indicted several top executives of FIFA in the summer 2015 and at the same time, the Swiss Authorities launched parallel criminal investigations. The allegations concern bribery and kickbacks during the process of awarding World Cup tournaments.

The World Cup is the most-viewed sporting event and attracts sponsorship from the big brands worth billions of dollars. The corruption charges centre on accusations of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of this sponsorship money. Other charges relate to money laundering conspiracies.

Deceptive Advertising

Dr. Diederik Stapel was a respected psychologist at Tilburg University (Netherlands) studying the interactions between consumers’ self-image and their perceptions of advertising. However, he has been booted-out for manipulating and fabricating data in at least 30 published research papers.

We probably expect a certain amount of twaddle and puffery from Marketing departments, and PR/Advertising agencies, but in the field of academic psychology such fraudulent self-promotion is highly embarrassing. Stapel’s dodgy work mainly concerned the influence of advertising on consumer decision making and may have recently contaminated the marketing/PR campaigns of some of the more ‘with-it’ agencies.

Corporate Drug-Pushers

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and grow the position of their brands in the marketplace. Much of this spend is R&D, however quite a slice is spent on ‘marketing’. In 2012, the pharma-industry spent over $27 billion on marketing with almost 90% of that targeted at the physicians.

The Economist (2.3.2013) reported a Deloitte survey showing that 35 percent of doctors accept ‘entertainment’ or free travel from the pharmaceutical industry and 16 percent accept consulting or speaking fees. The drug companies also sponsor around one-third of the CME (Continuing Medical Education) opportunities for Health Professionals.

Why do physicians prescribe certain drugs? Is the prescribed brand more effective than other brands or a generic alternative? Or are the doctors being influenced by sophisticated marketing techniques including free samples, gifts, speaking and consulting fees, and free CME?

SPARKLE © Publications

Spark Factory has plans for a series of monographs addressing different areas of organisational behaviour that are usually left untouched by mainstream media….

Toxic Leadership

This booklet covers the “Dark Triad” of bad organisational behaviour that is often identifiable in those making-it-up-the- ladder. The three malevolent personality traits found in toxic leaders are: Machiavellianism gives the individual a penchant for manipulating others with no regard for the morality or the feelings involved. Narcissism, which allows…

This booklet covers the “Dark Triad” of bad organisational behaviour that is often identifiable in those making-it-up-the- ladder. The three malevolent personality traits found in toxic leaders are:

  1. Machiavellianism gives the individual a penchant for manipulating others with no regard for the morality or the feelings involved.
  2. Narcissism, which allows the individual to feel superior to others, with a natural entitlement to lead and dominate others.
  3. Psychopathy manifests itself in low levels of empathy, combined with impulsiveness and the seeking of thrills and self-gratification regardless of the emotional/psychological damage caused to others.

The impact of toxic leadership on co-workers, team dynamics and overall organizational performance is outlined, and counter-measures suggested.

Robotic Organisations

This monograph poses the question as to why organisations generally deny the existence of emotions. Usually, businesses insist on objective and logical decision making and allowing feeling into the algorithm is seen as a weakness. The author argues that truly rational decisions are arrived at only if emotions are taken…

This monograph poses the question as to why organisations generally deny the existence of emotions. Usually, businesses insist on objective and logical decision making and allowing feeling into the algorithm is seen as a weakness. The author argues that truly rational decisions are arrived at only if emotions are taken into consideration. Robotic organizations are de-humanized and lack trust, warmth, creativity, loyalty, engagement and motivation. All of which require human feeling.

The Good Machiavellian

Machiavelli has had some bad PR. Machiavellianism in organizations is generally seen as a bad thing. Individuals with this trait are deceptive, manipulating and ruthless in getting where they want to go and what they want. However, described in more contemporary language, these very same attributes might be described as…

Machiavelli has had some bad PR. Machiavellianism in organizations is generally seen as a bad thing. Individuals with this trait are deceptive, manipulating and ruthless in getting where they want to go and what they want. However, described in more contemporary language, these very same attributes might be described as ‘vision’, ‘self-motivation’ and ‘perseverance’, hardly negative leadership traits. In fact, Lewis Schiff has identified characteristics in legendary entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Suze Orman, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet such as unscrupulousness, ‘playing to win’, and exploiting the weaknesses of others! Alost 80% of his rich-list respondents agreed that being Machiavellian was essential to becoming rich.

Dramatic Leadership

This is a fresh and exciting approach to the nature of leadership in organizations. Drawing the early work of Erving Goffman, the author explores the relationship between leadership, motivation and performance in a business, and explains how the theatrical metaphor can be used to develop a whole new theory of…

This is a fresh and exciting approach to the nature of leadership in organizations. Drawing the early work of Erving Goffman, the author explores the relationship between leadership, motivation and performance in a business, and explains how the theatrical metaphor can be used to develop a whole new theory of organizational leadership.

The Dark He(art) of Organisations

This publication looks at the dark-side of organizational behaviour; the psychology behind financial misdemeanours such as fraud, bribery and embezzlement. It also examines the ‘macho-cultures’ of some businesses that lead to office bullying and harassment and exploitation of staff in psychological and physical/sexual ways. The problems of drink and drug…

This publication looks at the dark-side of organizational behaviour; the psychology behind financial misdemeanours such as fraud, bribery and embezzlement. It also examines the ‘macho-cultures’ of some businesses that lead to office bullying and harassment and exploitation of staff in psychological and physical/sexual ways. The problems of drink and drug abuse at work are also discussed together with potential solutions.

Current Consulting Projects

Our energies are currently focused on the issues relating to corporate governance.

Reacting to a recent spate of ‘unacceptable-face-of-capitalism’ incidents, UK’s newly-elected pm, Teresa May, has indicated that how-businesses-are-run will be something of a priority for her government to take a look at.

Ensuring good Governance is also a priority for investors fed-up of seeing poor leadership performance rewarded with ever fatter remuneration packages.

Conscientious executives are ashamed and embarrassed by the damage inflicted on the brand-value of their businesses by the questionable decision making of their peers.

Company revenues and reputations are jeopardised through the narcissistic mono-cultures and self-serving attitudes of poorly constituted Boardrooms.

Image-Profilers

We are offering support and guidance for strategic way-finding via our online screening and survey engines. Businesses can act now to avoid ‘Brand Wreckignition’ and also pre-empt the legal requirements anticipated to be included in any future corporate responsibility codes of conduct.

Please consider our unique online screening and survey tools (Impro-x™), and contact us for further information and/or presentation arrangements. We look forward to hearing from you.

01
Authenticity

Authentic leadership is more than just being true to oneself. The recent highly publicised corporate scandals have led to calls for a more positive business leadership that accepts greater accountability, and displays integrity and ethical judgement. There are relatively few validated tools for measuring these leadership attributes, particularly so because much of authentic behaviour is value driven and therefore implicit. The AUTHENTICITY IMPRO is able to access these values and provide a reliable means for measuring these inferred aspects of leadership, offering a screening/development tool for organisations wishing to demonstrate their commitment to Drucker’s maxim:

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
Peter F. Drucker (2008)

02
Organisational Culture

Organisational culture is something everyone knows about but is very slippery to define and almost impossible to measure with traditional questionnaire surveys because it is an implied or implicit “pattern of shared assumptions, meanings and values” that is difficult to express verbally. Furthermore, organisational cultures are not necessarily logical or consistent; in fact, they can appear quite strange, haphazard and chaotic to the outsider. Within organisations there will be subgroups with different cultures and with varying (competing) agendas. A strong culture has often been linked with a more effective organisational performance and greater staff engagement and motivation. However, although culture is a powerful influence on peoples’ behaviour, a strong mono-culture can have negative effects on a business’s decision making and creativity. The CULTURE IMPRO is able to uncover the subconscious and implicit aspects of an organisations culture, enabling leaders to evaluate employee/brand value-alignment and identify potential ‘friction-points’ in the business.

03
Dysfunctional Organisational Behaviour

Dysfunctional Organisational Behaviour (DOB) can be described as a ‘syndrome’ that is a manifestation of a set of implicit values and attitudes. These are very difficult to access via traditional questionnaires because admitting to these amoral subconscious drives (if accessible at all) would be “socially undesirable”. The DOB syndrome is a result of an ego-centric psychology. Individuals with this syndrome are inward looking and self-centred. They measure positive or negative life-experiences purely in personal terms. Thus personal friendships, work groups, project teams or even whole divisions or organisations will be readily sacrificed for self-serving private gain. Other people are merely tools, conveniences or opportunities to be manipulated and taken advantage of.  And, as with systems, so with individuals; people are not treated as sentient, feeling beings, but as commodities or pieces on a chess board, to be pushed and cajoled, pressured and hoodwinked, exploited and replaced as required for the personal This behaviour, although perhaps leading to personal ‘success’, is dysfunctional. It does harm to the people involved (both the perpetrator and recipients of the behaviour) and also ultimately damages the organisation either by reputation or financially, or both. The DOB IMPRO is able to access implicit attitudes and motivations, and therefore offer a screening tool for selection and/or development purposes.

These tests can be used at various levels of analysis for Screening, Succession Planning and Cultural Value Alignment.