February 27, 2009

Intelligence is getable

Did you read the 1996 book Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book) and did it make you feel uneasy because you did not (want to) agree with its conclusions but did not exactly know how to refute them? Among its conclusions were (loosely formulated): 1) that intelligence is highly important in many areas of life, 2) that differences in intelligence are largely responsible for societal stratification, 3) that differences in intelligence are largely heritable, and 4) that intelligence gaps between (racial) groups are hard to close (if that is possible at all). If you felt (feel) uneasy about these conclusions read How to get on to the system;: A guide to the A.I. Lab timesharing system for new users (M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Artificial intelligence memo) by psychologist Dick Nisbett. You will probably like this book because it will provide answers to your questions. Not in a vague way but in a very specific, well reasoned and research based way. Here are some conclusions from the book:

How do you convince people?

In The Social Animal Elliot Aronson deals with the question of how people are convinced by others. This turns to be a paradoxical affair because people are most convincing when the listener feels sure that the other person is not trying to convince him. This effect is known as the reactance theory (developed by Jack Brehm, see photo) which can be summarized as follows: When someone notices that another person tries to convince him of something he will try to protect his own freedom. When we fear our freedom is threatened, we'll try to protect it. On her Dutch weblog Gwenda Schlundt Bodien describes the following experiment. In the experiment people were asked by an interviewer to sign a petition. When someone stopped the interviewer began to explain in a friendly way why he found the petition so important.

February 26, 2009

Highly effective tutors: how do they do it? (2)

In Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count I came across interesting research on effective tutoring by researcher Mark Lepper. Lepper describes highly effective tutoring using five Cs:
  1. You foster a sense of control in the student, making the student feel that she has command of the material
  2. You challenge the student -but at a level of difficulty that is within the student's capability.
  3. You instill confidence in the student, by maximizing success (expressing confidence in the student, assuring the student that the problem she just solved was a difficult one) and by minimizing failure (providing excuses for mistakes and emphasizing the part of the problem the student got right.
  4. You foster curiosity by using Socratic methods (asking leading questions) and by linking the problem to other problems the students has seen that appear on the surface to be different.
  5. You contextualize by placing the problem in a real-world context or in a context from a movie or TV show.

February 25, 2009

不知の態度 限りない好奇心の価値

That is very nice... Hikaru Goto from Japan has translated an article which Insoo Kim Berg and I wrote in 2006 (The not-knowing posture) into Japanese: 不知の態度 限りない好奇心の価値. I can't read it but it looks beautiful.

Environments do affect IQ

"The belief that differences between family environments have little effect on IQ has to be one of the most unusual notions ever accepted by highly intelligent people."

~ Richard E. Nisbett in Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (p36)

February 23, 2009

Inconsistencies in interpreting other people's intentions

We are often unconsciously inconsistent in how we interpret other people's intentions. See this video. Read more here and here.

February 17, 2009

Someone who doesn't judge me

In the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (episode Big Middle (#5.16), 2005) there is an intriguing quote by leading character Gil Grissom:
Greg Sanders: So what do you like? What gets your juices flowing?
Gil Grissom: Someone who doesn't judge me.
I think this is interesting because I think people indeed often dislike to be judged. Even when the judgment appears to be positive it can be quite irritating. It feels as if the person places himself above you. It can be especially annoying when the person pretends to know something about you that you yourself don't know.

Maybe this quote by Grissom illustrates why the attitude of not-knowing in solution-focused coaching seems to work so well. We don't judge what the person is saying and we don't judge the person. We accept what the client says and work with that.

More and more solution-focused coaches are changing the way they compliment clients too. We don't compliment the trait but we compliment what someone has done (see: PROCESS PRAISE more effective than TRAIT PRAISE). Moreover, we often don't compliment directly but indirectly (Indirect compliments).

February 16, 2009

Intelligence and How to Get It

Richard Nisbett is a famous social psychologist, co-author of the classic 1980 book Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings in Social Judgement. Here is his new book which looks like an interesting and provocative book:


A bold refutation of the belief that genes determine intelligence. Who are smarter, Asians or Westerners? Are there genetic explanations for racial differences in test scores? What makes some nationalities excel in engineering and others in music? Will math and science remain a largely male preserve? From the damning research of The Bell Curve to the more recent controversy surrounding geneticist James Watson's statements, one factor has been consistently left out of the equation: culture. In the tradition of The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould, world-class social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett takes on the idea of intelligence as something that is biologically determined and impervious to culture— with vast implications for the role of education as it relates to social and economic development. Intelligence and How to Get It asserts that intellect is not primarily genetic but is principally determined by societal influences. Nisbett's commanding argument, superb marshaling of evidence, and fearless discussions of the controversial carve out new and exciting terrain in this hotly debated field. Read on.

February 15, 2009

Ignorance of ignorance

"Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge."
~ Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), English mathematician and philosopher.
Also read: Not-knowing made easier: The solution-focused approach advocates an attitude of not-knowing. It is an approach which uses and celebrates the power of the question and of exploration and discovery. That is why I like the following quotes of acknowledged geniuses. Nobel pricewinner Niels Bohr said the following: read on.

February 14, 2009

Solution-focused Employee Retention

At the end of 2005, Paolo Terni was approached by a leading tractor manufacturer. They wanted help in solving a problem: the very high turnover rate of their youngest and brightest. Of the 15 young college graduates with management potential they hired in the previous 12 months, 8 had left the company, snatched up by other businesses and corporations. How could they stop bleeding talent? A solution-focused approach was followed. The program they developed helped to reduce the personnel turnover rate from 50% to 10%. How they did that? Read on.

February 13, 2009

Organizational Resilience in Times of Crisis

In 2005 I wrote Organizational Resilience in Times of Crisis, which describes a study done by Jody Hoffer Gittell, Kim Cameron and Sandy Lim of the Airline industry in the period following 9/11. Which companies dealt well with the crisis and how did they do that?
The study concluded: financial reserves coupled with a strong commitment to employees turned out to be strongly associated with organizational resilience. In other words, the higher the financial reserves and the lower the percentage of lay-offs, the quicker the stock price recovered.
Organizational resilience seems like an important topic in the current crisis. Maybe it would be worthwhile to have a look at the study once more.

February 12, 2009

Voltaire quote

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers."
~ Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer and philosopher. I found the quote in this book.

Also read:

Charles Darwin - 12 February 1809

Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago today on 12 February 1809. The photo on the right shows him at age 51 right after he had published his masterwork On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.. This book has caused heated arguments when it was published and these arguments continue to today. But it is also one the most famous and influential books ever. American Philosopher Daniel Dennet has said (in 1995): "If I were to give a prize for the single best idea anybody ever had, I'd give it to Darwin for the idea of natural selection--ahead of Newton, ahead of Einstein. Because his idea unites the two most disparate features of our universe: The world of purposeless, meaningless matter-in-motion, on the one side, and the world of meaning, and purpose, and design on the other. He understood that what he was proposing was a truly revolutionary idea."

February 11, 2009

Evolution is doing what works

In effect, evolution says, “I will try lots of things and see what works and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

February 9, 2009

Ideomotor effect

Derren Brown explains the principle of ideomotor movement in his book Tricks of the mind: "The principle works like this. If you focus on the idea of making a movement, you will likely end up making a similar tiny movement without realizing it. If, undistracted, you concentrate on the idea of your hand becoming light, you'll eventually find that you make tiny unconscious movements to lift it. While you may be consciously aware that these movements are happening, you are not aware that you are causing them." This principle explains phenomena observed in table tipping sessions and in which people are made to believe that spirits of deceased people communicated with the participants of the session by making the table move. Other appliations may be: the Ouija board, the diving rod, automatic writing, etc. This effect seems analogous to some of the techniques used in solution-focused therapy and coaching: certain questions and suggestions increase the likelyhood that people start causing themselves -consciously or unconsciously- what they want to achieve.

February 8, 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.

February 6, 2009

Critical examination of the strengths perspective

For those interested in a critical examination of the strengths perspective:

To state my position: I am all for the positive psychology focus in that it tries to gain understanding and knowledge of how individuals and insitutions thrive and overcome difficulties. But I feel uneasy with its strong focus on 'playing to your strengths 'theme'. I fear this might be too individualistic and we'd do well to move into a more interactive, dynamic and situationalist perspective. Instead of focusing on strengths I think we should focus more on what (whatever) works. Question: Does anyone know of empirical research which confirms the crucial importance of identifying talents and playing to your strengths?

February 4, 2009

The use of scaling questions when there are multiple interrelated goals

Scaling questions are extremely versatile solution-focused tools. Many people know that they can be used to help create progress in the direction of a desired situation. For instance, when a coachee wants to improve his commercial skills a coach may use a scaling question. The 10 position on the scale could be the situation in which the coachee would be satisfied with his commercial skills. The 0 position could be the situation in which the coachee lacked any commercial skills. The coach could ask the well-known sequence that is often used with scaling questions, like: 1) where are you now on this scale?, 2) how did you manage to go from 0 to where you are now, 3) what did you do that worked well, 4) What the highest position you been at on this scale?, 5) what was different then?, 6) what ideas do you have about how you can take one small step forward?

February 3, 2009

February 2, 2009

How are you intelligent?

"Every person's intelligence is as unique as a fingerprint."
In his book Ken Robinson advocates a different view of intelligence. Instead of asking the question 'How intelligent are you?' he suggests to ask the question "How are you intelligent?' Robinson asserts there are three features of human intelligence: 1) it is diverse: there are many ways in which intelligence expresses itself (verbal, mathematical, musical, etc.), 2) it is dynamic: intellectual performance is often a matter of finding new connections between different brainprocesses (for instance, Albert Einstein often found inspiration for his scientific work in playing the violin), 3) it is distinctive: each person's intelligence is unique.

February 1, 2009

Yes Man

In this interview with William Ury, he said: "No may be the word we need most in today's times. The world has sped up and we get overwhelmed with today's demands, whether it is demands at work or balancing our work and family lives. In fact, No may be the most powerful word in the language, the most needed word in these times of endless e-mail and overwhelm." So what would happen if we'd say YES to any demand or invitation we get? Yesterday my wife, kids and I enjoyed the comedie Yes Man with Jim Carrey who plays Carl Allen, 'a guy whose life is going nowhere—the operative word being no—until he signs up for a self-help program based on one simple covenant: say yes to everythingand anything. Unleashing the power of YES begins to transform Carls life in amazing and unexpected ways, getting him promoted at work and opening the door to a new romance. But his willingness to embrace every opportunity might just become too much of a good thing.'


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