In the non-fiction movie, Hidden Figures, we learn about the story of different black women who played a pivotal role at NASA in helping launch an astronaut into space. These women were mathematicians. As such, the movie highlights people working out complex mathematical problems.
Being about solving complex mathematical problems, the movie features different tools used for solving these problems. Across the movie, there are three methods used:
- Mathematics by hand (you see a lot of writing on chalk boards)
- Mathematics by calculator
- Mathematics by computer (this was introduced later in the movie, as computers were being newly developed at the time)
If you wanted to see video clips featuring these methods, check these out:
- Euler’s Method scene in Hidden Figures
- Hidden Figures Scene: Adapting to change – Dorothy Vaughn
- Hidden Figures Scene: Dorothy fixes the IBM
- IBM Reassignment–Dorothy Vaughn Hidden Figures
The reason for identifying these methods is to point out that these methods differ in sophistication. Doing math by calculator is more sophisticated than doing math by hand. Compared to someone doing math by hand, the person using a calculator can do more sophisticated math, solve problems more quickly, and overall be more efficient. We can say similarly when comparing doing math by computer versus doing math by calculator.
People Operate at Different Levels of Sophistication
I believe stepping into analogy about methods of calculation is helpful for understanding that people, like these methods of calculation, operate at different levels of sophistication. Some people think and operate at lower levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication while other people think and operate at higher levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication.
And, the higher one’s level of cognitive and emotional sophistication, the more effective one is. They can more easily navigate more complex tasks.
And, even further, because of research in human development, we know that people can increase in their level of cognitive and emotional sophistication. And, the process of doing so is called “vertical development.”
Signs and Signals of Sophistication
Human development researchers and experts have been able to identify different signs and signals of thinking and operating associated with different levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication.
Here is a taste of some of those different signs and signals:
There is inherently right or wrong about operating at any of these levels, just like there is nothing wrong doing math through different methods. But, we are conscious that just as some methods of doing math are more effective than others, some people’s cognitive and emotional sophistication allow them to be more effective than others.
Human development researchers have found that:
- 64% of adults operate at a low level of sophistication
- 35% of adults operate at a medium level of sophistication
- 1% of adults operate at a high level of sophistication
If you want a more formal assessment of your sophistication, take this quick Vertical Development Assessment.
And, if you want to help leaders in your organization to improve their sophistication, let’s connect. I would love to explore how I might be able to help you.