Establishing Certainty in Oceans of Complexity

The photograph was taken by David Barthel, North Shore Images Photography, www.northshoreimages.com  


The image shows the Grand Marais Lighthouse during a Lake Superior storm. Over five dozen lighthouses are around the shoreline and on the islands of Lake Superior. Each one was built to be a point of certainty for the shipping industry that’s been a defining feature for the greatest of the Great Lakes. The uncertainty of travel on the Great Lakes is reflected in how many ships and lives have been taken by the lakes, estimated to be 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives. So, it seems fitting to use the lighthouse and the lake to symbolize the importance of certainty in ocean-size complexities of water.  

All large bodies of water on earth have high and low tides. Generally speaking, the high and low tides are predictable and therefore CERTAIN. However, there are factors that do make for complexity in predicting how high or low the water will go. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Hurricanes and Climate Change contribute to the uncertainty of tides and exactly where the water stops and dry shore starts.

Before GPS location/navigation became ubiquitous, lighthouses and foghorns provided guidance to seafarers about their location relative to land and safe harbors. But sometimes the complexity of fog and seawater can overwhelm the certainty of the lighthouse and foghorn.

Human navigation, both on and beyond our world, succeeds when it successfully establishes “Certainty in Oceans and Galaxies of Complexity”.


Decades ago, there was a kid who grew up in 1950s San Francisco, went to Stanford and got hooked on psychology. From 1964 to 1969 he completed his Master’s degree and Doctorate in cognitive psychology, then took an Assistant Professor position at a small, liberal arts college in Beloit Wisconsin. Eventually, he decided there were more uses for psychology out in the business world than in the classroom world. Over the subsequent 36 years he adopted “Dr. Al” as his formal-but-casual title. It’s easier to remember and less intimidating than “Allen M. Raffetto, Ph.D. Practicing Psychologist”.


Founded by Dr. Al in 1983, the Raffetto Group began helping businesses in Hiring, Training, and Evaluation. As a clearer understanding of the workplace emerged, Dr. Al reinvented his academic psychological materials as well as his delivery style to create “workplace-practicing psychology” with specialization in psychological testing. In 1987 he joined forces with Advisory Profiles of Madison Wisconsin to build the knowledge and skills of account representatives in the proper and legal use of psychological “profiles”. In 1997 he joined Leadership Management International (LMI) as the Chief Trainer in Psychometircs and Employment Assessments. In 2004 he purchased a franchise in LMI and continues his work with LMI on a worldwide basis.

Paul J. Meyer and LMI.

Paul J. Meyer and LMI


First, the “don’ts.” We don’t offer legal, accounting, or construction advice, nor do we advise builders on the best ways to orient a building for maximum Feng shui impact.

What we do offer is help with all things business that improves peoples’ results and enhances their lives. We provide our services in all stages of business growth from inception to succession. We help organizations, including everyone in them, to minimize the effects of sources for negative, fixed mindsets. We correct and we direct people in how they can formulate their own opportunities using a growth mindset. Our process helps people to design their own plans consistent with the organization’s “way of doing business,” ways that produce measurable results and profitability to the benefit of all concerned in and beyond the company.


We know psychology from our academic training. We also know that when psychology is used with individuals and organizations, often it is seen as negative fault-finding and judged with great suspicion. Much of this perception comes from psychology’s history, with its reputation for treating human misery and dysfunction. It was only in the 1990s that another viewpoint started finding its “voice” within psychology. It’s now known as “Positive Psychology” and its basic premise is to develop and promote well-being as the powerful counterpoint to managing misery. We look for how and where you are very, very, good and, if you chose to, how you can be even better. We don’t diagnose how dysfunctional you are, and we most definitely don’t try to “fix” you. Dr. Al was an adopter of a wellness perspective twenty years before it was codified in the disciplines of positive psychology.


Our assessments can’t fix your mistakes, but they can help you prevent future mistakes. Assessments provide a window for you to see what you can expect from your employees, especially when stakes are high and when any slip-up could be disastrous.

Our assessments are tools and, like good tools, they are built to do one job very well, one or two jobs reasonably well, many other jobs not well at all. In adverse situations an inappropriate assessment can become a disaster. Unfortunately, untrained novices believe that any tool will work for any job. And in some minds, “Every job is a nail and the only tool you need is a hammer.” The most capable assessments work best when in the hands of experienced “Masters” who know the art of using these tools.


Establishing Certainty in Oceans of Human Complexity


People who do not fear assessments embrace and use the intelligence-gathering ability gained from well-designed assessment tools. The best assessments work especially well when in the hands of experienced professionals who understand the design of the tool and the art of using it skillfully.

A “robust” assessment will help you establish what is known about a person, what is being hidden about that person, what blind-spots you have about the person, and how much of that person is unknown to anybody, even the target person. An ideally “robust” test will have you making 100% correct and 0% incorrect decisions and judgments about a person.

Of course, there is no100% robust perfect assessment; therefore, test results will always have a chance to be incorrect. However, mistakes and severity of errors go up dramatically when the tool is in the hands of people who are untrained, inexperienced, or whose intentions are inconsistent with the purposes the tool was designed for. Testing lessens human ignorance but can never remove all possibility for new ignorance to appear.


The short, incomplete answer: The Ancient Greeks. In reality, tests emerged from efforts to understand the body long before comparable efforts were made to understand the mind. Why? Mainly because you could dissect a working brain but a working mind was invisible. Even with today’s advancements in neuroscience and artificial intelligence (A.I.) most human mental capabilities remain unprogrammable.

Why should you care? Because many of today’s psychological test models are based on ancient, discarded assumptions that are well over a century old. Imagine that a test is like an automobile: If you were to put the body of a Chevy Corvette on the unaltered frame of a Model T Ford and then sell it as a sports car, the result would be something that looks really cool but should never be used anywhere on today’s highways. CAUTION: In the world of testing everything can be given the look and body of a “Corvette”.


The primary question is: “What would you rather find out today than discover tomorrow when it’s too late?” Every good assessment is a tool designed to accomplish that specific job very well in the hands of a trained user. It’s the same reasoning reason why every skilled employee carries in his/her brain a mental toolbox containing the essential tools for doing assigned jobs well.

We use tests that are built with and driven by evidence and results. We refer to these tools as “data-driven” versus “theory-driven” tools that were popular in and before the 20th Century. Unfortunately, theory-driven tools retain their appeal long after their features and advantages have been disproven with evidence.

If we don’t have an available tool that meets our evidence criteria, we know how the building of one works, and how to meet the criteria of the American Psychological Association’s guidelines and standards for approved psychological tests. Our testing motto is:.

“If it exists, we will build a reliable, validated tool to measure it!”


Skilled assessment people have toolboxes and the know-how to use the right tool for the right job. Some of the resources in our toolbox include:

Pre Employment Screening

Final Selection & Orientation

Development Needs and 360 Feedback

Custom-Built Assessments and Online Surveys

•  Please use the "Contact Us" tab and tell us what you want to assess.


“Neuroplasticity” is the brain’s ability to reorganize structures and functions throughout life!


Almost all “insight” comes from the brain's power of hindsight, and hindsight rests on stories remembered over time. People who don’t go out into the world and experience the stuff stories are made of have very little evidence to support “insightful” thoughts. Thomas Edison tried and failed a thousand times before he solved the problem of inventing the lightbulb. Was that trial-and-error success or was it insight from a thousand stories? For him, probably both!


There was a popular saying during the industrial revolution: “Workers are meant to do all the doing while Managers are meant to do all the thinking.” Today, workers who don’t have to think have a new name: “ROBOTS”. Building “robotics” is the skill to program a machine to do precise work repeatedly and with no thinking at all. They are cost-effective and make fewer mistakes than humans, but if something really confuses them, they shut down because the machine can’t “figure out uncertainty”. We still need human brains at work because handling uncertainty and ambiguity is a persistent issue for humans and robots to resolve.


Fifty years ago, one of my professors loved to describe the brain as a “great big bowl of spaghetti.” The only way to guess what any part of an animal’s brain did was to scoop out some of that spaghetti. Today’s technology has taken us from little scoops and brain blenders to CAT Scans, neurological imagery, chemical changes at the neuron level and even neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to re-shape/reassign existing brain structure and processes.

The brain has gone from a great big “bowl of spaghetti” to a structure and process using 100 billion neurons, (+/ - a few billion). Now we can work with a model that in its adult configuration can modify, change and grow without requiring a bigger skull and it can also shrink and diminish in that very same skull.


At this point in the 21st Century the practical answer is for the workplace to adopt “brain-friendly strategies.” Let the brain be whatever it is. While it’s convenient to place the responsibility for change on the workplace, the workplace has centuries of evidence implying that, whatever they try, fails to bring positive and profitable change.

We expect job-seeking people to come with abilities that enable them to say, do, feel and use their minds to think in ways that produce good results for everyone. That’s possible if brain, behavior AND personality work together, otherwise nothing improves, expenses go up and profits don’t.

A basic, capable workplace brain needs perceptual acuity, two types of memory, and the ability to resolve workplace uncertainty both proactively and reactively. But for the workplace brain to work best it needs a workplace mind with the ability to be imaginative and insightful to keep the workplace brain in working order. This is not an either/or choice, which is why “brain-only” strategies fail to produce long-lasting change.


In the 20th Century the only way to assess a human brain was to remove it from the body post-mortem. Needless to say, this wasn’t a prudent hiring process. However, by Year 2000 some tools and techniques had been developed that linked accurate measures of “reaction time” to select workplace perceptual and motor skills which were dependent on speed and accuracy.

These breakthrough methods allowed us to see physiological reading disorders like dyslexia to be different from historic assessments of “sub-normal intelligence” (IQ scores below 100) and thus better accommodate more workers to more environments and avoid further use of diagnostic stigmata.

Advancements in A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) will require more sophisticated simulations of how the human brain establishes certainty in the face of uncertain complexities (a process academic scholars used to refer to as “disambiguating the available stimulus information”). In practical examples, computer abilities to detect patterns and assign probabilities are assisting human brains to make correct decisions using robust estimates of probability. Training and workplace applications are on the horizon.


“Be Inspired. Imagine the Possibilities!”


“MINDS” are needed to account for how people in the work-world face different questions, intentions and unique episodes every day of their continual life stories. For practical purposes you bring your same brain into daily life, but you address daily life with different “mindsets” than what your brain was using in its resting state. Brain “plasticity” enables the working mind to adjust for conditions as required by a changing work environment and culture.


In his ground-breaking book, “Cognition and Reality” (1967) Ulric Neisser lamented that “There is still no accounting for how people act in or interact with the ordinary (non-scientific) world.” He expanded his viewpoint writing:

“Lacking in ecological (everyday world) validity, indifferent to culture, even missing some of the main features (commonly recognized in) perception and memory as they occur in ordinary life, such a psychology could become (now is) a narrow and uninteresting field… The trend can only be reversed if the study of psychology takes a more realistic (everyday) turn (such as) a greater effort to understand thinking as it occurs in the ordinary environment, the real world.”


What Neisser called for was nothing less than a re-anchoring of scholarly psychology in the everyday world as we recognize it: a world where people go to work making things and selling things; a world of products, services and customers who themselves are tied directly to commerce and profitability; a world where results “talk” and you succeed or fail based on what those results say.


Dr. Neisser helped pave the way for psychology to investigate how “mind” mediated the link between “brain stimuli” and “behavioral responses.” For a large part of the 20th Century psychologists insisted that there had to be specific and direct connections between environmental stimuli and responses elicited by them from any level in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, the erroneous belief about stimulus-response connectionism is still alive, bad enough in the business world but particularly pernicious in the global community of business consultants. When a mind isn’t present, both brain and behavior become unpredictable and excessively unmanageable. The mind is where certainty is resolved from complexity.


*Excerpted with permission from unpublished work by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman

October 21, 2019

“We now stand at the dawn of the Age of Agency populated by fully agentic* individuals who peer into the future in order to flourish. If the potential barriers—nuclear war, pandemic, climate catastrophe, financial collapse—can be overcome, this will be an Age of Agency, in which the moral circle surrounding the Self will expand from an I to a We. This will be an Age of Creativity and this will be the first Age of Well-being.

CLICK HERE for A Little Bit More that the Discerning Individual Might Want to Know.


Great Results Are Like Finding a Huge Gold Nugget to Talk About!


In 1849 nothing started a conversation faster than a small bag of pure gold flakes brought into a bar. Back in the days of the California Gold Rush and Gold Miners (“49ers”), panning for gold was driven by a dream but it never yielded an actual 44 lb. piece of crystalline gold, today valued at over $6 million dollars now on display at the Ironstone Winery in Murphys, California.

California was, indeed, the “Land of Opportunity” in the 1850s. People were drawn there to escape their existing lives and take advantage of the boundless opportunities for the better life everyone was talking about.

What’s the most valuable picture in your imagination that could start you on a conversation of comparable worth and impact leading to a vein of gold? Hint: Whatever it is, like gold dust, flakes and nuggets, it will have to offer the chance for a measurable result.

California’s 21st Century Entrepreneurs are transforming inconceivable ideas into “scalable results”, new products and services as incredible and fantastic as a massive, 44 pound gold nugget was in the 19th century.


You do! And here are two reasons why you need both measurable results and the know-how to interpret their meaning:

       ”First, If you Listen, Your Results Will Tell! Robust results give power to salient feedback, feedback that’s meaningful to you personally. Results that your mind and brain don’t care about emotionally will never be your own. “As LMI’s founder, Paul J. Meyer, loved to say: Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass".

       And Second, From Your Listening to Results You Will Ask! The questions asked should be questions of Implication, also known as IF/THEN Questions. The best results often begin with these powerful questions that expand and intensify what’s possible to understand when you engage in a conversation based on evidence, data and interpretable results. Even 21st Century gold miners know the observable impact that jars of pure gold flakes have on people.

“Without Measurable Results You Aren’t Planning an Opportunity, You’re Just Dreaming!
But When Your Dreams Become Imagined Possibilities,
Then You’ve Unearthed an Opportunity to Plan!


For as long as humans have been curious they have been sorting out ideas on how to measure things consistent with their cultural value systems (think Stonehenge, Mayan and Egyptian temples, etc.). Scientists from Descartes (1644) to E. L. Thorndike (1918) have made it an axiom: If it exists, it can be measured! I would add that if you never measure “it”, you’ll never know or understand anything about it.

What’s needed to convert any observation into a datapoint that has robustness, which means the opportunity for refutation of the data? Any observation that can’t be refuted is dogma, not data, and feedback based on such data are speculations, not evidence. What qualities separate interpretable data from media speculation? The five “MUST HAVE” qualities are:
        1.   Quantifiability as per rules for metrics
        2.   Specificity to Observable Criteria
        3.   Consistency, Reliability, Repeatability over Time
        4.   Immediacy/Timeliness in Delivery
        5.   Personal Saliency and Collective Meaningfulness


Data and Results Don’t Talk until People Create Interpretations

Everybody recognizes the “Bell Curve”, known in statistics as the “Normal Distribution.” It was invented by a Frenchman to decide what size uniforms should be made for Napoleon’s Army. In today’s real world nothing is an exact fit to the normal curve. Yet the Bell Curve is still in use to make important decisions almost daily. What should you use, realistically, with your measurable results and your planning process?

For as long as humans have drawn pictures of events they have been converting their data about the world into results. The ones who did the drawings knew what the data were saying (i.e., the results), but everyone who followed had to interpret the pictorial data and often derived different results from the same data. Data are never opinion-free, and they always promote self-evident truths!


Because data are never free of subjectivity in interpretations, decisions don’t show up at the end of some straight line of thought.. The best way to reach solid, data-driven decisions is to use evidence that converges on the same conclusion/decision from diverse directions. The people who base claims on a single study are advertisers who want to sell things, not scientists who want to improve things. Which do you want to do: sell things or change things? HOW ABOUT DOING BOTH!!

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1324 New York Avenue
**Superior, WI 54880


  * “The Song of Hiawatha” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow begins: On the shores of Gitche Gumee
** For more on Lake Superior