May 9, 2009

Marcial Losada

Marcial Losada, whom I mentioned yesterday in my review of Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, is a psychologist who works as a consultant and researcher. With Barbara Fredrickson, he wrote Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing (2005). Their work has led to important insights into how positivity affects human functioning. One thing that distinguishes Marcial Losada from the large majority of consultants and researchers is that he uses nonlinear dynamics to make sense of the complexities of human interaction. Later this year, his book Meta learning: The nonlinear path from languishing to flourishing in relationships and teams is planned to come out. If you can't wait for that to learn more you can read Want to flourish? Stay in the zone and Work teams and the Losada line: new results.
I'm curious what you think of this approach.

Update oct 2013: I have written a post about how Losada's approach have been shown to be flawed: Fredrickson & Losada's Positivity Ratio built on quicksand


  1. Hi Coert!
    Thanks for mentioning Losada: I was not aware of his work.

    My fascination with nonlinear dynamics goes back to my University years: my 1994 dissertation was about applying nonlinear dynamics concepts to team dynamics.

    In the mid 90s i worked with Stephen Guastello and Jeffery Goldstein; we did some work for IBM - complexity was hot back then.

    I have been struggling ever since to come up with something that can apply the insights from complexity to practical interventions - I think that SF does a pretty good job; the cynefin model helps to gain clarity.

    I think I will be posting soon on the topic: I am going to find out more about Losada and it will be an opportunity to review my explorations so far.

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking post,

  2. Wow Paolo, your dissertation subject was quite close to what Marcial Losada is doing...

    By the way, I'd really like it if you'd expand a bit on how you think that SF is a way of making complexity theory practical

    (I have written about this myself too, I think it was in 2003, but only in Dutch)

  3. Hi COert!

    I wrote a little bit about it, but as you can guess it is a long story - something more to talk about when in Texel!
    Anyway, my original dissertation was framed in terms of language, i.e. that some group dynamics could also be described using Nonlinear Dynamics terms - which could then open the door to other applications.
    I came to the conclusion that other forms of consulting, like SF, or Senge's inquiry vs. advocacy, and activities, like Improv, ARE an embodiment of NDS principles, i.e. there is no need to come up with different tools.
    Seeing the work of Losada makes me think that maybe now there are some new tools!!
    Goldstein's approach left a big imprinting in my consulting; Guastello is a thorough scientist, and he was able to demonstrate the presence of nonlinear dynamics in organizational dynamics (using nonlinear regression).

  4. Hi Paolo, Several years back I read this book:

    I found it the most convincing publication on how to make complexity theory practical

  5. Coert,
    thanks a lot for the book suggestion.
    I read your review on amazon, I think I'll check it out!
    I have read many books about complexity theory and I also spent a week at the Santa Fe Institute to try to understand more. Actually some of the papers from the SFI are pretty enlightening.
    I also found Ralph Stacey's critique very interesting (in "complexity and management").Again, so far it provides me with some heuristics in certain situations. If you look for applications, notions like "container" have been extensively explored in psychology. The best use I could make of NDS in workshops is just to challenge the linear assumptions people have re organizations.

  6. Hi Coerti,
    I came on your blog by happy chance while doing a search before I presentation I am making tomorrow to SoL UK about Marcial Losada's Meta Learning and "Dialogue Life". My Finnish colleagues who graduated from Team Academy in Jyvaskyla have built on his theory and produced a practical tool to assess teams to help them to predict and improve their performance. I think their tool becomes a perfect team coaching tool. The team gets objective evidence about their behaviour upon which to base their solution search.
    I believe that Meta Learning and Dialogue Life together are the most important developments in team development in thirty years or more, because they turn the focus from what the team contains (which MBTI,Belbin,TMS, Insights and Colours tend to do) to what the team actually does (which no other approach does in the same way). You could describe the approach as behaviourist or existentialist or action-basedas well as complexity based. As Aristotle said, "Excellence is a habit".
    If you would like to, please see more about the tool at

    Great blog, Coerti. Thanks!
    Jonathan Wilson

  7. Dear Jonathan, thanks for your comment. I like the approach too.
    PS I like that you call me Coerti. My name is actually Coert. I like to call my son Brent (10 years old) Brenti. Now he can call me Coerti too, I guess

  8. Losada's 2005 paper has been thoroughly debunked.

  9. Hi csf, thank you, I know. I have posted this article about that:

    I will also mention it in this post


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