Maybe you've tried this: give any number of people an identical candle on an identical stand. Have them light their candles and then record everything they perceive about the lit candle. Prompt them to use all their available senses.
Most of their records will have many perceptions in common. Some will be so different you may wonder if they were generated by beings sharing the same species. If you get two with the same perceptions in the same order, please introduce us to them. We've got a lot to learn.
To do this task, we perceive, manage, and transfer the information available to us.
No two of us interact with the universe in the same way. (Please tell us if you find a pair that does.) At the same time, there are patterns. Our work is all about exploring those patterns.
The thirty years of research in cognitive diversity, in the processing and communications patterns of top-performing individuals, and in 21st century behavioral science, lead us to the touch points for how we capture information.
Even just a few years ago, we thought of attention as a singular skill and our attention span as a single phenomenon. What's emerged is we all have reflexive responses to the information flowing at us from our surroundings. What's more, each of us has an individual constellation of reflexive responses. Our attention is not a single thing. We have multiple attention processes.
One of the Victorian age’s greatest thinkers, Alfred North Whitehead, observed a phenomenon in himself and his contemporary, Bertrand Russell. Russell was a master at reducing complexity down to basic elemental structures, while Whitehead tended to excel at reconciling disparate and even seemingly contradictory facts. Whitehead, with his customary wit, referred to his style of thinking as “muddle-headed” while he described Russell’s as “simple-minded.”
At this point in the 21st century, we have a reasonably durable understanding there are two dominant ways of processing knowledge, or cognition, within our brains. Cognitive scientist, Rand Spiro, has identified two ways our brains build knowledge. We learn some information through discrete serial processes, in the manner of a digital processor, while our brains build the rest of our knowledge through multiple, irregular, and simultaneous overlaps of elements. In short, the research shows our brains have elements of Russell’s “simple-minded” sequential style, at the same time, manifesting some of Whitehead’s “muddle headed” or associative style.
For this purpose, we call Whitehead’s muddle-headed thinking as divergent preferent and Russell’s simple-minded thinking as convergent preferent.
Cognitive vs Emotional
The tools for self-understanding developed prior to the 21st century mixed the cognitive -- how we think about things -- with the emotional, how we feel about things. Even scholastic examinations and aptitude tests, designed to assess cognition, were conducted under time pressure and under conditions not conducive to relaxation and contemplation; thereby, putting the examined under emotional stress.
Why we thought people training to be historians, poets, botanists, and paleontologists, should be selected by their ability to display their skills and knowledge to artificial deadlines seems obtuse at best, and, perhaps because of that obtuseness, resistant to change. We seem to value moving fast and breaking things over consideration in its broadest meaning.
By this point, we are able to separate how we think about things (attention, focus, energy, clarity) from how we feel about them (irritated, excited, happy, motivated, depressed).
In addition to developing measures for our cognitive responses separate from our emotional responses, The Kairos Assessment gets underneath learning and aptitude to a place most analogous to our handedness. You can tell me you’re right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous but that doesn’t tell me how well you play the piano. However, if I were your coach in that domain, it’d be the first thing we’d establish to drive training forward.
Our aptitude comes from a different place. That’s why a right handed professional athlete will make a play with her left hand that I couldn’t make with my right. She’s a professional athlete on both sides, and I am one in neither. Nonetheless, we use both sides to walk and to carry things with both hands. And by interest or injury, we can develop the capability of our off side. It will take more attention and energy with the result is more cognitively taxing, but within reach, shall we say.
In short, our neuropreferences don’t necessarily determine destiny. Many of us do the cognitive equivalent of juggling chainsaws in spite of unbalanced neuropreferences.
In 1998, Francis Sopper, consulting with Robert Lefton, Ph.D., CEO of Psychological Associates, headed up the preparation of learning-performance materials for the commercial market. The resulting cognitive preference assessment underwent further revision in 2000, following evaluation by Carnegie Mellon researcher Suguru Ishizaki, Ph.D.MIT MediaLab.
Since 1999, Kairos Cognition, now a partner with The David Allen Company as GTD®Focus, has examined thousands of comprehensive diagnostic, aptitude, and achievement testing results, school and college entrance examination outcomes, psychological and educational evaluations, and other performance data.
Kairos Cognition has applied this research with individuals trying to achieve best thinking. This includes heads of multinational organizations, leaders in business, the military, sports, education, design, and entertainment.
The work is always under review as new data emerges from published research in neuroscience together with Kairo's engagement with high-performing individuals.
The Kairos Assessment is 53 straightforward questions designed to capture your reflexive response to information. Completing the survey reveals your strength of response to information from seven neuro-physical processes.
There are two dominant ways of processing knowledge within our brains. What we refer to as Associative and Sequential thinking.
Associating Thinking is our rapid integration process. It involves the ability to link thoughts together based on similarities, patterns, or shared characteristics, often leading to creative problem-solving or new insights.
Sequential Thinking is our slow systematic process. It’s a cognitive process which allows us to slow ourselves down, screen out and ignore the stuff around us so we can put our full weight of our attention on one thing in order to follow it through to completion.
While we have access to both ways of thinking, most of us prefer one over the other. Our research indicates that the majority of the population prefers the Sequential, a large number of us are Associative, and a small, but distinctive percentage of us are cognitively ambidextrous.
You have five separate reflexive responses for each of your communications processors; what we call listener, observer, mover, reader and talker.
Listener measures our reflexive activation for meaningful sound. Our environment is full of sound. We process only a portion of that into awareness. For humans, most of that meaningful sound is human speech, although we have music, fire alarms, babies crying, faucets dripping, and, for many engineers, among others, machinery sound.
Observer measures our activation for meaningful visual information. As humans, we have two languages: our verbal language of words and texts; alongside all the ways we humans convey meaning symbolically: our body language, cultural symbols, style and fashion, and all the complex languages of art, architecture, and design through which we communicate among each other. This system allows us to recognize two kinds of visual information: essential and representational.
Mover measures the neurostimulus we derive from engaging our gross and fine motor systems, that is, the engagement of our skeletal muscles. Moving around improves brain function in all the obvious mechanical ways: improved circulation, increased metabolism, more oxygen to the brain. At the same time, being in motion also improves brain function in a number of ways cognitive scientists are only beginning to be understood.
Reader represents the neurostimulus we derive from the neurological process of decoding text. There is a distinction in the way our brains activate for text. For many of us, engaging our brains in the complex task of recognizing and processing coded text into meaning activates our brain's pleasure response. For others of us, our brain's pleasure response comes from the content rather than the process. The higher we are on the reader scale, the more added pleasure we get -- just from solving the decoding puzzle --apart from the pleasure derived from the content.
Talker measures the neurostimulus generated by the muscles we use to speak. In order to do something as simple as saying, “Hello,” we throw into complex and well-timed orientation muscles from the base of our diaphragm through our chest, throat, mouth, and lips. When we move this muscle system, the stimulus allows us to think more clearly, store in memory more durably, and retrieve more reliably.
What is Attention?
We’re flooded with information. Even when we sleep, we have attention. Attention occurs when we activate for a piece of the information that’s constantly flowing around us from our environment or flowing inside us within our own minds. It’s the human condition. We can be alone in the desert at night and those silent stars are flooding us with information. We catch some information and most flows right on by.
We have different processes that each are looking for information and catching what’s interesting, useful, and actionable. Since these processes are competing with each other, what arrives as attention is pretty random. After information arrives, we still have to think about it in order for it to be useful.
We also are able to activate and hold our attention and focus for differing periods of time with each of our communications processors: sound, sight, movement, text, and speech.
Some of our processes go into deeper resting states than others. When one of our processes is at rest, it takes a higher degree of stimulation to rouse it from a resting state, and it may take a higher degree of importance to keep it in activation. It will be more discriminating about what it activates for, and will find the stimulus easier to ignore.
Some of us display what we call cognitive ambidextrousness, in that we have no preference for either selective or active within a process. All of us can shift focus from active to selective and back again, but, for most, moving from our dominant process to our off process requires more attention and energy. Those with balanced attention don’t pay the energetic cost of shifting from one to another.
Some of us have processes that barely rest at all during our waking hours. We have processes that behave like radars: always on and alert the smallest stimuli. A neuroprocessor in an alert state makes the information taken in by that processor more obvious, can make it seem more important, and will make the information harder to ignore.
While we think we are in conscious control of our attention and focus, and often can purposely focus and attend, most of our lives are driven by the differing states of activation or rest to which our neuroprocessors naturally drift.
What makes our methodology different?
The framework is a historic breakthrough because the Kairos Assessment measures the energetic cost of activating your time, attention and energy. This measurement is distinct to you, which gives us a path to working with how you engage the world so that we can help you achieve your best thinking and working.