December 3, 2016

The vital role of frustration in deliberate practice

I received many responses to my article How we can keep on breaking through performance ceilings. Most were positive, some where constructively critical. Most were about the claim that stretching one's abilities comes with a certain discomfort and frustration. One person asked whether this frustration or discomfort is really necessary. Another person asked whether this frustration does not contradict the progress principle which says that experiencing meaningful progress is very motivational ("how can experiencing frustration ever be motivational?").

December 1, 2016

When is leadership legitimate?

Below I'll try to answer two questions which I have thought about for some time. First, I'll say some things about the value of democracy. Are democracies better than non-democracies? I'll show why I think the answer is yes. Second, I'll share my thoughts on when leadership of countries should be considered legitimate. I think that two basic requirements need to be met for that. After having explained this, I'll share my thoughts on the legitimacy of the leadership of the next president of the USA.

November 29, 2016

How to motivate students for deliberate practice

Top performers in all kinds of disciplines use the power of deliberate practice. They practice in a goal-focused way on challenging tasks, get immediate feedback and keep repeating until mistakes disappear from their performance. By doing this for many years, they keep breaking through performance limits and keep making progress. But deliberate practice does not only work for those who want to reach the top of their discipline. The approach works at witch ever level you happen to be. Unfortunately, many people fail to use and benefit from deliberate practice. In a new research project Eskreis-Winkler et al. (2016) have looked at how students can be motivated to use deliberate practice and how this impacted their performance.

November 28, 2016

How we can keep on breaking through performance ceilings

Deliberate practice is a way of practicing which is very challenging yet very effective. Many studies have shown that prolonged deliberate practice plays an important role in the achievement of excellence in all kinds of disciplines. Deliberate practice has four basic characteristics: (1) goal-focus: individuals have clear goals of improving specific parts of their performance, (2) challenge: while practicing individuals constantly try something which is just above their current skill level, (3) feedback: while practicing, individuals get immediate expertise-based feedback, and (4) repetition: individuals repeat tasks until mistakes in their performance have been eliminated.

November 27, 2016

We should not fight science, democracy, and capitalism but the factors undermining them

Science, democracy, and capitalism, some treasured institutions of the world's most advanced societies, in terms of health, wealth, freedom, and equality, are being criticized more and more. I acknowledge that there are some severe problems surrounding these institutions but I think we should not see these institutions as the problem.

November 18, 2016

How we keep on falling for untruths

Recent years have shown many examples of how we can persist in believing things which are not true. A random selection of untruths which have remain popular with a surprisingly large group of people are: the idea that vaccines cause autism, that global warming is hoax (created by the Chinese), that homeopathy works, and that students each have a unique learning style which teaching should be adapted to. How is it possible that we so easily seem to fall for untruths?

Interruptions reduce the quality of your work

Several authors have advocated blocking time during you workday for working uninterruptedly. Amabile & Kramer (2011) say, on the basis of their research, that this is a condition for making progress in what is meaningful to you. Newport (2016) claims that working long and focused without interruptions leads to a dramatic increase in productivity and work satisfaction. Research by Sophie Leroy has shown that when you pick up a task again after an interruption there will be what she calls an attention residue. This means that part of your mental energy is still focused on what you were doing during the interruption. The interruption harms your deep focus.

November 17, 2016

Discomfort as a sign that you are learning

About eight years ago my colleague Gwenda Schlundt Bodien and I did a big evaluation of our training courses. We wanted to find out what worked and what didn't in our courses. We send an e-mail to all participants who had attended our courses in the past years. We asked them to complete a brief survey in which we asked them which parts of our courses they had found most useful. On the list were items like: PowerPoint presentations, group discussions, video observations, practicing with other participants, practicing with the trainers, practicing with live clients, analyzing written dialogues, plenary discussion and explanations, reflecting team exercises, etc.

November 12, 2016

Coming out of our echo chambers

Within social psychology the concept of self-segregation has been known for a long time (read more). This concept refers to the process of people forming groups with other like-minded people around a set of ideas or beliefs and distance themselves from contrary ideas. In these groups these ideas and beliefs are not only constantly shared but also amplified. The latter is made possible by the lack of correcting and moderating influences within these groups. If they are there, they are generally quickly silenced.

November 11, 2016

Countermeasures against the negativity effect

The negativity bias is the phenomenon that we notice negative events more easily, that we are affected more strongly by them, and that we remember them more easily. Although not every individual and every age group is equally vulnerable to the negativity bias it is quite common. For example, Amabile & Kramer (2011), in their study on inner work life, found that the impact of negative events on a work day was two to three times stronger than that of positive work day events.

November 10, 2016

The growth mindset goes hand in hand with an awareness of our own limitedness

An unrealistic and harmful belief which I have written about a lot is the fixed mindset (Dweck, 2006). In a fixed mindset we believe that certain capabilities and traits cannot be developed. Due to this belief we do not put in effort and we do indeed not get better. A growth mindset is more realistic and works better. In a growth mindset we believe that abilities can grow and characteristics can change. This way of thinking inspires us to do our best and increases our chances of making progress. At the same time, a growth mindset goes hand in hand with a clear awareness of our own limitedness. How is that possible?

A learning attitude is essential for leadership development

Leading Learning Coert Visser
Effective leadership development requires a growth mindset and a focus on learning goals.

Recently I wrote a brief article about setting goals. In that article a comparison was made, among other things, between performance goals and learning goals. Performance goals are about results which have be achieved; learning goals are about knowledge and skills to be learned. In general, performance goals lead to the best results for task which are straightforward. In other words, when they are clear for the person who has to do them and when that person is competent for those tasks. Learning goals lead to the best results when tasks are complex and cannot be overseen completely and when they require further learning from the person. With this in mind it is not strange to assume that learning goals are more relevant for leadership development than performance goals. 

Making Sense of Research

by Jamie Hale

In the context of everyday language, statistics (numbers, quantitative representations) are used to represent basketball players’ free throw average, death rates, life spans and so on. In science, statistics are tools used in describing, organizing, summarizing and analyzing data. Learning about stats will help you think in terms of probabilities, and allow you to gain a better understanding of research data.

October 31, 2016

A Plea for Broad Rationality

In The Rationality Quotient, which I have interviewed Keith Stanovich about recently, there is an interesting bit in which different conceptualizations of rationality are explained. Roughly there are two conceptualizations of rationality, a thin one and a broad one (a distinction which was first made by political scientist Jon Elster, 1983). The thin theory of rationality involves two factors of rationality: instrumental rationality and epistemic rationality.

October 30, 2016

3 Dimensions of studying effectively

How can we study effectively? Below, I describe three dimensions of studying effectively. These are not only meant for young people in schools or universities. Nowadays, lifelong learning has become normal. Keeping on learning and studying is healthy for us. Keeping on challenging ourselves cognitively is one factor contributing to a healthy life. Knowing how to study effectively is beneficial for anyone at any age. The tips below can be used for studying from books but also for other purposes, for example for learning to play a musical instrument.

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