Psychology and profits (1929) by Donald Laird

 Psychology and profits

Psychology and profits
 Psychology and profits


Psychology yields two kinds of profits. One is im- mediately tangible and can be found on the books. The other kind is found in greater industrial happiness and more complete self-realization. Experience has shown that the second kind also yields in a short time profits which can be found on the books. Many times these are greater than the immediately tangible profits. The profits from self-realization cannot be achieved from a formula. Most productive of these profits is the psychological attitude in the executive's grasp of his problems. 

This little book is designed to aid in the cultivation of this attitude. It will fail, however, unless the reader thoughtfully considers the use of each section in his own experience before he proceeds to the next sub-title. The practical value of each section will grow as the reader carefully thinks himself thoroughly into the section until it and his experience blend to form a useful psychological attitude. 

 A Few Years ago one had to possess great faith to see that psychology might have much potential usefulness for the hard-pressed executive. Imagination had almost to be strained to fill the gap between the textbooks on psychology and the daily routine of the industrial manager's desk. But a few had the imagination. They did not strain it but kept their feet on solid ground. Upon the heels of these pioneers, who were often laughed at even by their fellow psychologists, came a wave of graduate students who wanted to specialize in psychology so they could later apply it in industry. And upon the heels of these graduate students of ten years ago, there is another wave but that is getting somewhat ahead. While imaginations had to be strained before the war, in the past half dozen years there have been the following industrial accomplishments of psychology which I happen to know about: 

In the assembly department of a telephone manufacturer's establishment, an annual saving of $7,500 was brought about in 1927 by the use of motion psychology. One of the largest taxicab operating companies in the world had accidents reduced by one-third by having a psychologist help in selecting drivers. In the sawmill of a motor car body builder a single shift is now producing more than a double shift did formerly. Fatiguing walking in a printer's bindery has been reduced to half. And a closer co-operation has been developed between the management and the workers. Customers in a department store now have to wait 25% fewer minutes (or seconds) to receive their change, due to psychologists rearranging the working conditions and methods in the tube room so that less fatigue is caused. The piece-rate earnings of a group of machine tapestry weavers were increased 10% by psychologists having them rest more in the plant! 

 Racks to prevent stooping and similar recommendations by a psychologist cost an oil refinery $20,000 for the capital outlay but yielded $25,000 annually. Not a bad investment by any means. Rearranging men and materials in an automobile factory department, so that greater freedom of movement was possible, increased the bonus earnings of the workers by 28%. And, paradoxical as it may seem, this rearrangement to give greater freedom of movement also yielded space for increasing the number of workers in the department by 32%. 


The output of a group of coal miners was increased by 16% by psychologists making a study of the picks they were using and recommending a few simple alterations. There are other almost phenomenal savings in capital expense and fatigue which have been affected not by professional psychologists but by the regular run-of-the-mine executives who have been reading up on psychology. There is an inherent danger, however, in reading psychologists' reports and then [15] Psychology and Profits attempting to try the same thing for oneself. 

That danger arises because in the reports one is likely to discover only some figures and formulas; what really distinguishes the psychological approach to the problems of business is not so much knowing all the formulas in the world, but having what may be called the psychological attitude. I know a number of executives who are innocent of any courses in psychology, but who have this psycho- logical attitude to a great degree. Without exception, they are outstanding executives, and they lead me to suspect that this psychological attitude is highly desirable for every executive whether he tries to use some tests and formulas or not. 


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