December 28, 2009

SF Interviewing Protocols as Evolutionary Algorithms

Here is an interesting new article: SF Interviewing Protocols as Evolutionary Algorithms. If you're interested in both evolution and the solution-focused approach, I am sure you'll like this new article by Paolo Terni.

December 26, 2009

How do interim managers use the solution-focused approach?

Are you an interim manager and do you use the solution-focused approach? I would be interested to hear from you. When did you learn about the solution-focused approach? What solution-focused techniques/principles do you use? How does SF help you in your work?

December 16, 2009

Supporting Clients’ Solution Building Process by Subtly Eliciting Positive Behaviour Descriptions and Expectations of Beneficial Change

By Coert Visser & Gwenda Schlundt Bodien
SF co-developer Steve de Shazer wrote, in his classic publications Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy (1985) and Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy (1988), that SF practitioners should help their clients create an expectation of beneficial change by getting a description of what they would do differently once the problem was solved. Also, he claimed subtle and implicit interventions by the SF practitioner would work best. At the time, de Shazer did not support these claims with empirical evidence. This article provides evidence for each of the assertions made by de Shazer. Only part of the evidence presented here was already available at the time of de Shazer’s writing. Evidence is discussed from diverse lines of research like Rosenthal’s Pygmalion studies, Dweck’s research on self-theories, Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory, research on Winograd’s prospective memory, Jeannerod’s research on the perception-action link, Wilson’s research on brief attributional interventions, research on Brehm’s reactance theory, and Bargh’s research on priming. The article closes with some reflections on what these research findings imply for SF theory and practice.
Published in Interaction, The Journal of Solution Focus in Organisations, November 2009. Full article here.
Full reference: Visser, C.F. & Schlundt Bodien, G. (2009). Supporting Clients’ Solution Building Process by Subtly Eliciting Positive Behaviour Descriptions and Expectations of Beneficial Change. InterAction I (2), 9-25

December 13, 2009

Rationality visualization

In his book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, Keith Stanovich explains how cognitive psychologists define rationality. They distinguish two basic forms of rationality: 1) INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY, behaving in such a way that you achieve what you want, and 2) EPISTEMIC RATIONALITY, taking care that your beliefs correspond with the actual structure of the world.
At the risk of simplyfying too much, instrumental rationality seems to be about doing what works and epistemic rationality is concerned with truth and refers to seeing reality for what it is. It seems to be a pitfall to overlook any of these two rationalities. Only focusing on what is true but forgetting to do what works may lead to your neglecting to do things that help you to survive and remain connected to other people (A). Only focusing on doing what works but neglecting the what is true question may lead to you moving efficiently through a web of falsity distancing you more and more from reality (B). Thinking about this I thought of visualizing this as follows:

December 10, 2009

SF Research Digest

The latest issue of the SFCT journal InterAction is now out. It features some interesting articles and reviews (among which an article which I co-wrote with Gwenda Schlundt Bodien: Supporting Clients´ Solution Building Process by Subtly Eliciting Positive Behaviour Descriptions and Expectations of Beneficial Change- I'll write a bit more about that, later). One of the other things it contains is research digest which I have written. The digest contains brief descriptions and reflections on recent research articles and books relevant to the development of SF practice and theory. You can read the SF Research Digest online.

December 7, 2009

How do organizational consultants benefit from the solution-focused approach?

The solution-focused approach was developed in psychotherapy in the 1980's at the Brief Familty Therapy Center in Milwaukee (US). In the 1990's, the solution-focused approach spread became a well known approach in therapy in many countries throughout the world. During the last decade the solution-focused approach became a familiar approach outside therapy too, first in the field of coaching, later also in education, team facilitation, management and organizational change.
I'd like to write an article about the solution-focused approach for the target groups of organizational consultants (or management consultants). For that purpose I'd love to hear some experiences from organizational consultants who use the solution-focused approach. So, if you are a consultant and you use the solution-focused approach please share some of your experiences here. I'd be particularly interested in the following things:
  • What type of consultancy do you practise?
  • When did you learn about the solution-focused approach?
  • How do you use it in your work? 
  • How does it help you? 

10 questions for the solution-focused coach

Below are some questions you may ask yourself as a solution-focused coach as you collect information from your coachee. The questions can be helpful in adapting yourself to your client and to make the conversation really useful.
  1. What is important to this client?
  2. How does this client view his situation?
  3. What does he want to see changed?
  4. What is his good reason for wanting to see that change?
  5. What does he see as advantages to himself and others of this change?
  6. What strategies has he already employed which have somehow been helpful?
  7. What improvements has he already made?
  8. How far is he already in accomplishing what he wants?
  9. What resources can he draw on?
  10. What is he willing to do and what will he not do?
I made this list based on a list by Insoo Kim Berg (in this book: Family Based Services: A Solution-Based Approach (Norton Professional Books), page 54). I changed her list quite a bit though, based on the seven steps approach.


December 4, 2009

Advice from the future

Case sent in by Jo Hanssen from Curaรงao

One day, I walked past the room of one of my vice principals. There she sat, opposite to a student. In that small room the both of them had managed to create a maximal distance between them and you could see steam clouds escape. In other words, there was a crisis. She gestured me to come in. It turned out the student had been rude to the caretaker and she thought he should apologize. He, however, thought the caretaker had snubbed him so he was right. The more she tried to convince him, the more he opposed. His mother had already been called to come to school to talk about this.

December 3, 2009

Is doing-what-works the most successful social strategy?

Do you know the prisoner's dilemma? In 1979, Robert Axelrod wanted to find out which strategy would be the most effective with repeated prisoner's dilemmas. He organized a computer tournament for which scientist could send in their strategies in the form of a computer program. To his invitation 14 strategies were sent in by scientists from 5 disciplines. During the tournament the programs would play repeated prisoner's dilemma's against each other and against themselves. In total, 225 confrontations took place during the tournament.

The winner was the program Tit-for-tat which was sent in by Anatol Rappoport. Tit-for-tat was the simplest program which had just the following instruction: start positive and then do what the other party did in his previous move. In the nineteen eighties, Axelrod organized another tournament. Now, 62 strategies were sent by people who, of course, knew about tit-for-tat. Some programs were very complex and shrewd but the winner was, again, the simple strategy of Tit-for-that. Axelrod's research got a lot of attention among scientists and among a broader audience. It showed how cooperation could emerge on the basis of reciprocity, even when many individuals followed egotistical strategies.

Axelrod now wondered whether Tit-for-tat was also a stable and resilient strategy that would be able to defend itself against an invasion of egotistical strategies. To find this out, he did a new tournament in which he gave the strategies which had been sent in for his earlier tournaments the capacity to reproduce themselves. The tournament would now take place in multiple rounds. Each round represented a generation of strategies. The degree of success of a strategy in the first round determined how often this strategy would be found in the next round. By doing this, Axelrod simulated the principle of natural selection. By building in this evolutionary principle the strategies were getting stronger by each round. In earlier rounds there were still many over-naive strategies and many exploiting strategies but in later rounds both disappeared more and more. Axelrod did 1000 rounds and the result was that tit-for-tat was still the most successful and fastest growing strategy of all. If you wanted to describe Tit-for-tat in human psychological terms you could say that it is a positive strategy (because it always starts off with cooperation), that is also prepared to hit back when deceived (because it defects when the other person has done so), but is also forgiving (when the other start cooperation again, it does so too) and transparent/predictable (because of its simplicity and consistency).

Axelrods work has been very important. He wrote the book The Evolution of Cooperation about it. But Tit-for-tat is not the most successful strategy after all, as turned out several years later. In 1993 a still more successful strategy was identified by Martin Nowak and Karl Sigmund. It was named Pavlov and it had the following instruction: follow the same strategy as in the previous move if it was successful, change if it was not successful. It is a pity this strategy was named Pavlov because Do-what-works would perhaps have been an even more appropriate name (if it works, go on, if not, do something else). Pavlov has one major weakness: it is powerless against the strategy: 'always deceive' (Pavlov keeps on switching when confronted with this strategy). Nowak and Sigmund found that Pavlov can only start to develop really well after Tit-for-tat has terminated the 'always deceive' strategies.

It is interesting to see how the simple and pragmatic Pavlov strategy, which comes down to do-what-works, is perhaps the most successful strategy for repeated social dilemmas.


December 1, 2009

First sign of improvement question

As Peter De Jong and Insoo Kim Berg explain their book Interviewing for solutions, when coaches or therapists ask clients how they will know their problems will be solved, they often describe a final result, a finish line as it were. They describe a situation in which lots of things will be better. When they describe such a final result they may become aware of the contrast between that good situation and their current not-so-good situation, which may demotivate them. What coaches can do in these types of situations is to ask the first-sign-of-improvement- question, which goes something like this: "What will be the first small sign that will tell you that things are starting to move in the right direction?" This type of question usually helps clients to notice small positive changes (a.k.a. micro progression) which usually is very motivating.


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