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Natural Signalling Theory

Operators in a call center rely on their selling skills, convincing people to buy a specific product. A new measuring device made obvious that convincing is not dependent on logical arguments rather than subtle signals transmitted in the voice. After a several minutes successful calls could be predicted. The device tracked pitch and tone, not words or logic of the communication. Successful operators speak less and listen a lot. When they do speak, their voices fluctuate strongly in amplitude and pitch, suggesting interest and responsiveness to the customer’s needs.

The measuring devices are integrated in the clothes or eyeglasses, developed at the Human Dynamics Group at the MIT, led by Alex Pentland. The device tracks the position, upper body movement, pitch and tone of voice of the person. Analyses like the one above show that human behaviour is not dependent on meaning and reasoning as mostly expected. The statement “what is said matters not how it is said” can easily be flawed by subtle indicators: voice, body language, rhythm of workspace, time spent on tasks and patterns of social networks. Complex social behaviour of animals shows that language is not a pre-condition for social behaviour. Animals communicate their behaviour via subtle signals.

Subtle signals have a wide range of influence, e.g. the decision of managers, team functions and decisions and the establishment of social networks in the organization. Often the underlying network of personal interactions is forgotten or hidden by the organizational structure. But its health or dysfunction can determine the effectiveness of a team or organization as it represents the flow of information, e.g. two groups on whose information sharing the companies welfare depends might have difficulties and communicate just over one person (bottleneck).

Those testable devices help to evaluate person-to-person relationships, the social network structure beneath the organizational structure. Formerly network analysts relied on questionnaires, it was not possible to hide in a corner and observe the “real communication”, also the number of tracked behaviour indicators is enhanced with the device. Other areas of application are early detection of burn out, advanced testing of new products, search the fitting position for new employees, as learning device for managers improving their persuasiveness and as medical device for people with depression. In all cases privacy of the data has to be ensured and adequate methods therefore be developed.

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