Cognitive Power

“Here’s a question for you,” Sam smiled. “We talk about potential, that is something we want in every candidate. You have also asked me to be specific in my language. You chided me about using analogies like – potential for growth, higher level thinking, more bandwidth, mental horsepower. Just exactly what are we talking about? And, why is this so important?”

My turn to smile. “Let me introduce a term – cognitive power. Cognitive power relates to the maximum number of variables a person can simultaneously deal with, in a given period of time. A manual task generally has a limited number of variables. Moving a pallet of ceramic tile in a warehouse requires a forklift, knowing which pallet, where is it located, where does it go, what’s in the way? There are a limited number of variables. And, those variables are physical and fixed.”

Sam nodded, so I continued. “Constructing a building is more complex. There are site considerations, zoning, platting, ingress, physical constraints, functional use, building codes, material availability, coordination of trades, availability of labor, influence of unions, finance logistics, even the weather. And some of the complexity arrives, not from the variables we know about, but, based on the timespan of the project (objective, goal), there will be variables we do not know about. The longer the project, the more uncertain the variables. Yet, to be effective, all the variables must be accounted for, including the ones we do not know about.”

“And so, a more complicated project will require more cognitive power,” Sam chimed in.

“We might try to count the number of variables to understand the complexity in a project, but the longer the project, the more some of those variable are unknowable. A better metric of complexity is to simply calculate the timespan of the project. We have to account for that uncertainty, ambiguity, in the decisions we have to make today.”

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Power

  1. Gail Boenning

    “I told you so!” Urania looked like a cat with a feather stuck to her lips. “Nothing is created equal — flower blossoms, human minds… why even machine cut and weighed brownies have a variable allowance.”

    “I’m thinking of Mother Theresa’s quote.” Cal started thumbing through Typist’s notebook.

    “I got it,” said Thalia. “When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.”

    “I’m so grateful for Tom’s work — following an intention to create light — seeing the value in each individual part.” Calliope set the notebook on the table and rested her chin on her clasped hands.


  2. Savanna Strickler

    This is great! My favorite quote from you reads, “Yet, to be effective, all the variables must be accounted for, including the ones we do not know about.”

    This is so true in all career fields, and especially true in the field of Human Resources. We are always figuring out all of the variables to get ahead of the game, and smoothly run the business.

    Cognitive power is a really interesting topic. Thank goodness for it!


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