June 30, 2007
If you look at the work of any organizational theorist who has ever lived, no one except for perhaps Nobel Prize Winner Herbert Simon exceeds the breadth and depth of Jeff’s contributions.Jeff isn’t as well known in managerial circles as Peter Drucker or Jim Collins. But I believe that his work should be as well-known because his ideas are so research-based and so practical. And unlike most star academics in his field, Jeff is deeply immersed in the stuff of organizational life.And no matter how strongly you disagree with him, he has this annoying habit of basing his arguments on the best theory and evidence in peer-reviewed academic publications. Plus when he writes about an unstudied topic, his logic is often so compelling that refuting his arguments is extremely difficult.
June 29, 2007
June 27, 2007
June 26, 2007
He says he MUST find out why he feels so miserable. He HAS to know the cause of his misery. Apparently, this strong tendency to look for causes of problems is not something only we have in this day and age. Shakespeare wrote this in 1596! No matter how strong our conviction may be that problem causes need to be found there is often little use in doing so.
The last half century or so, we seem to be getting more and more aware of this. In 1961, Timothy Rowe said: "You can always take any given situation and dissect it, and there´s always a finger pointing in another direction. You begin to realize that it's useless to even dissect the reasons why something didn't work out." Of course, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg have often explained in their work that finding out what caused a problem (if you succeed at all in finding that out) may not be so useful for finding out how to build a better future. Okay, then you know what caused your misery. Do this mean you now also know what causes your well being? This discovery, that what causes problems is not so useful for building successes, is a major theme in solution-focused practice, in positive psychology, and in appreciative inquiry.
But even in completely different fields there is a growing discontent with looking for causes. Matt Ridley for instance, who writes about genes and evolution says: "But what is cause? The causes of human experience include genes, accidents, infections, birth order, teachers, parents, circumstance, opportunity, and chance, to name just the most obvious.[..] I hope to throw the whole notion of "cause" into confusion." A special case of focusing on problem causes is trying to find out who is to blame for what went wrong. But how useful is it to accuse a person or a group for what went wrong? How effective can that be expected to turn out? Probably often that won't help much either. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton, authoritative organizational researchers, wrote in their last book: "Point at solutions instead of at each other." But this awareness is only slowly growing. Most people are still shocked when someone suggests to skip problem analysis and to go straight to solution building.
June 24, 2007
- Anderson, H. (1990) Then and now: From knowing to not-knowing. Contemporary Family Therapy Journal. 12:193-198.
- Anderson, H. & Goolishian, H. (1992) The client is the expert: A not-knowing approach to therapy. In. S. McNamee & K. Gergen (Eds.). Social Construction and the Therapeutic Process. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Anderson, H. (2005) The myth of not-knowing. Family Process. 44(4):497-504
- People differ in there responses to these questions,
- People are remarkably consistent in their answers to these questions,
- The answers to these questions correspond closely with responses to other types of questions assumed to be associated with happiness,
- The happiness survey responses also correspond consistently with specific distinguishable brain wave patterns,
- They also correspond with certain social behaviors assumed to be associated with happiness (like initating contacts with friends, helping people, etc),
- They also correspond with signs of physical and mental health.
Happiness exists. People differ in the extent to which they have it. People value it. It would be worthwhile to figure out a way to build it. What can we do indivually? What can we do collectively?
June 23, 2007
June 22, 2007
June 21, 2007
The reality is that there is a more or less constant tension within any complex system. From a distance, a famous organization may appear to function very smoothly. They serve their customers, they make a good profit and they innovate. However, if we’d get a chance to look from the inside we might see all the messy processes and inner tensions and conflicts that occur within the organization. A great pop star or movie star may appear to lead a glamorous and problem-free life. However, when their biographies come out we may find out about the struggles and problems of their lives too. The same with historical figures like Caesar, Alexander the Great, Beethoven and Darwin. We tend to remember the glorious ‘summaries’; of their lives. Close inspection, however, teaches us that they were more like us than we thought. They had to deal with problems and struggles constantly, like we do.
From the outside the system seems stable and steady, from the inside there is equilibrium of many contrary forces. Beautiful examples in nature are the stars in the sky. From a distance we may think of a star as a glorious solid shining body in the sky. But, from up close, a star is more like a collection of very dynamic processes than a solid body. The star is the result of the balance between two oppose forces: an outward force caused by a process of nuclear fusion by which hydrogen is steadily converted into helium and an inward gravitational force. These two opposing forces create a state of equilibrium. At some point the outward force will decline because the star will be running out of hydrogen. This is the beginning of the end of the life cycle of the star. This is an interesting perspective: the inner stresses are the essence of the ‘life’ of the star.
Back to human beings and organizations. A realistic perspective seems to be that the problem-free life, the life of constant comfort will never exist. We should probably not let professionals of any kind convince us that experiencing problems or doubts necessarily means we need a therapist, coach or consultant. Instead, we may be wise to embrace our stresses and dissatisfactions and consciously use them to make progress.
June 19, 2007
Another psychologist, Robyn Dawes, in his book House of Cards, has a more or less related criticism. He criticizes the so-called self-esteem movement. He says that many pofessional psychologists have promoted a simplistic philosophy of life. This philosophy maintains that the purpose of life is to maximize one's mental health, which is dependent wholly on self-esteem. The self-esteem movement argues that in order to function well you have to feel good about yourself first. Dawes debugs this claim. He explains that planting this idea into peoples minds will often do more harm than good. It may be wiser to focus on functioning well and doing good first because this will increase the probability of you feeling you deserve to feel good about yourself (this is one of the basic ideas in Martin Seligman's wildly popular book Authentic Happiness).
Nature implants contrary impulses to act on many classes of things, and leaves it to slight alterations in the conditions of the individual case to decide which impulse shall carry the day. Thus, the greediness and suspicion, curiosity and timidity, coyness and desire, bashfulness and vanity, sociability and pugnacity, seem to shoot over into each other as quickly, and to remain in as unstable equilibrium, in the higher birds and mammals as in man...
June 18, 2007
- The cultural malleability of intelligence and its impact on the racial/ethnic hierarchy (Lisa Suzuki and Joshua Aronson, 2005)
- The ups and downs of attributional ambiguity: Stereotype vulnerability and the academic self-knowledge of African American college students (Joshua Aronson and Michael Inzlicht, 2004)
- The threat of stereotype (Joshua Aronson, 2004)
I hope Joshua Aronson, one of the leaders of the field, will soon write a book about this fascinating topic, containing the latest research findings and practical suggestions for teachers. That would be a much needed book for many.
June 17, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 13, 2007
June 12, 2007
June 10, 2007
2. How can we make our conversation useful?
3. What is it you want to change something about?
4. What do you want to achieve?
5. What is already going right?
6. What has helped you so far?
7. How can you expand what already works?
8. What is you next small step forward?
1. What is better since we last spoke? (What worked well)
2. What else is better? (etc)
These eight questions are intended as an easy exercise to help you try out some solution focused techniques. Feel free to try and let me know how it works.
Also read: The right questions
June 9, 2007
- Anders Ericsson
Anders Ericsson is one of the leading experts on expertise development. He has demonstrated through research that building top expertise is more than anything else a matter of long and repeated deliberate practise. Fast company published this article about this topic.
June 8, 2007
JIM: This conflict with my boss is really driving me crazy.
COACH: Considering what you have told me about the conflict I can imagine you want things to be different. How would you like things to be?
JIM: I know what I have to do: next time I meet him I am going to tell him exactly how I feel about him and explain to him what a terrible person he is.
COACH: How will that help?
JIM: How will that help? ... Well ... I suppose if I get that off my chest I won’t think about this conflict with my boss all the time.
COACH: What could you do then?
JIM: Then I would be able to concentrate on my work again.
COACH: Sounds good... What will be different if you can concentrate on your work again?
JIM: ... (thinks) .... I’ll answer all those unanswered emails I have.
COACH: Aha, what else?
JIM: I’ll write that proposal I should finish this week....... And I’ll finish some other stuff.
COACH: How will you be different if you do all of that?
JIM: ..... (Smiles) ..... When I will have finished those things I guess I will be more relaxed and friendlier to people around me.
COACH: (Smiling) Alright! .... And if your boss would see you then, how would he notice the difference?
JIM: He’d be very pleased. He always says I am delaying things too much so he’ll be very pleased if he sees me finishing my work on time. He always complains about me missing deadlines.
COACH: Aha, I am beginning to see how it is important for you to find ways to be able to concentrate on your work so you can finish things on time.....
JIM: (Energetically) Exactly!
June 7, 2007
June 6, 2007
GREG: We need your help because we have conflict in our management team.
COACH: I would be glad to help. How is the conflict bothering you now?
GREG: It is terrible! It is keeping us from discussing important organizational issues and from making necessary decisions. In the organization our lack of unity and decision making power is even beginning to cause rumors. This is beginning to undermine our credibility!
COACH: Is that so? Well, then I can imagine you want things to change!
GREG: Exactly, I want things to change badly!
COACH: I understand. How would you like things to be?
GREG: Well, I want the conflict to disappear, of course!
COACH: Sounds like a good thing! And what will be different in the team when the conflict will have disappeared?
GREG: What will be different? (Four seconds of silence). That is an interesting question.... Let me think…. (While thinking, slowly, a smile appears on his face). Well, we would get along with each other well.
COACH: Aha, and what will be possible, when you will be able to get along well?
GREG: We will be able to talk about the important issues without fighting. .............
COACH: Great! What else?
GREG: And we will be able to make timely decisions... We will be able to meet our deadlines once again. People will start talking more positively about the management team again.
June 5, 2007
June 4, 2007
"If a guiding team does not have a vision for their change effort, or does not have a vision they are satisfied with, try this: Work with this group to draft an "article" for Fortune magazine about the results of their change effort, projecting five years into the future. In the article, talk about the following:
- How the organization is different
- What customers have to say about the company
- What employees are saying
- Performance on relevant indexes