June 28, 2009

What is an effective way of dealing with persisting primitive thinking in this modern world?

There is a new book out by University of Guelph evolutionary psychologist Hank Davis called Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in a Modern World. Here is amazon.com's product description:
We see the face of the Virgin Mary staring up at us from a grilled cheese sandwich and sell the uneaten portion of our meal for $37,000 on eBay. While science offers a wealth of rational explanations for natural phenomena, we often prefer to embrace the fantasies that reassured our distant ancestors. And we'll even go to war to protect our delusions against those who do not share them. These are examples of what evolutionary psychologist Hank Davis calls 'Caveman Logic'. Although some examples are funny, the condition itself is no laughing matter. In this engagingly written book, Davis encourages us to transcend the mental default settings and tribal loyalties that worked well for our ancestors back in the Pleistocene age. Davis laments a modern world in which more people believe in ESP, ghosts, and angels than in evolution. Superstition and religion get particularly critical treatment, although Davis argues that religion, itself, is not the problem but 'an inevitable by-product of how our minds misperform'. Davis argues, 'It's time to move beyond the one-size-fits-all, safety and comfort-oriented settings that got our ancestors through the terrifying Pleistocene night'. In contrast, Davis advocates a world in which 'Spirituality' is viewed as a dangerous rather than an admirable quality, and suggests ways in which we can overcome our innate predisposition toward irrationality. He concludes by pointing out that 'biology is not destiny'. Just as some of us succeed in watching our diets, resisting violent impulses, and engaging in unselfish behavior, we can learn to use critical thinking and the insights of science to guide individual effort and social action in the service of our whole species.

June 24, 2009

Question: what research is there on how to lead people effectively?

I am asking for help with this: what empirical research is there on how effective leadership works? I am particularly interested in finding research on situations in which managers/leaders direct people (making expectations clear, posing limits etcetera). I am hoping to find information on what conversation skills prove to work in those kinds of situations.

June 21, 2009

What books fundamentally changed the way you think?

I am curious about this: what 2 or 3 (or 4) books have fundamentally changed the way you think about yourself, your work, people, life? What was it about those books that changed the way you think and how did it influence you, to what did it lead? Hope to hear from you and, of course. Here is my personal list:
  1. You Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer. While I now think this book is probably not the most sophisticated book on psychology, it did ignite my curiosity for psychology.
  2. Metamagical Themas: Questing For The Essence Of Mind And Pattern by Douglas Hofstadter. This book, more than the famous Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid opened a fascinating world for me and got me hooked on reading and learning. It introduced me to such things as artificial intelligence, social dilemmas and skepticism.

June 20, 2009

Convergence of biology and psychology

"If I was going to say what is exciting right now, it's this convergence of biology and psychology that is showing how tied our minds and behavior are to the world and the physical world, to other people, to other animals through our natural brain systems and mind systems of which we're not aware. [...] If you take away the whole connection (the Cartesian guess of a pineal gland connection) to the supernatural soul that many believe we have, you start taking evolution seriously, and then also look at the history of concepts like free will and how they're rooted in Christianity and early Christian writers. Then you begin to see that we do have motivations clearly rooted in our evolutionary biology."

~ John A. Bargh, quote taken from The Simplifier: A Conversation with John A. Bargh

June 19, 2009

Not because we tell them so

"Clients often get in a positive emotional state during a SF coaching conversation - as a consequence of their own discoveries, hopefully prompted by our questions. Not because we tell them so."
~ Paolo Terni, source

June 17, 2009

To be wise

"To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. To both accumulate knowledge while remaining suspicious of it, and recognizing that much remains unknown, is to be wise."
~ Meacham, J. A. 1990, The loss of wisdom. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed), Wisdom, its nature, origins, and development, 181-212. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

June 16, 2009

Distinctions: SF and Positive Psychology

Here is a post that might interest you by Paolo Terni on his blog: Distinctions: SF and Positive Psychology.
Recently, I participated in some online conversations about SF and how it is perceived. I agree with Kirsten Dierolf and with Coert Visser that there is some confusion about what Solution-Focus is. As Bion would say, the term has become so saturated with meaning to be of ncreasingly little use as a descriptive term. Much of the confusion surrounding SF practice seems to stem from a single word that is often used to (mis)characterize SF: “positive“. I decided to make a few distinctions that I will be posting in the next few days to help us get untangled from this trap that our language has set for us. Read more.

Also read: Positive psychology, the strengths movement and the solution-focused approach

June 14, 2009

June 13, 2009

Is 'solution-focused' still the right label?

A long time ago I wrote this post: The name solution-focused: is it wrong? In that post I wrote:
Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and their colleagues from the Brief Family Therapy Center have named their approach Solution-focused therapy. My work has been inspired primarily by their work. That is why I chose to name this site Solution-focused change: to give credit to them and to honor their work. But if it weren't for that I would probably use another name. Because I think the term Solution-focused is not extremely clear and maybe even a bit misleading. The word 'solution' refers to the concept of (problem) solving. And problem solving really seems to be a concept from a defect based paradigm. It refers to getting rid of what is negative whereas solution-focused practise does something more that that or something different than that. It helps to create positive outcomes, success, results. Success-focused change, or results-focused change might in fact be a better name for this approach. Or not? What do you think?

June 12, 2009

Is the solution-focused approach without a theory?

I received an interesting question on the solution focused change linkedin group:
Help! I'm confused! At an international workshop on Coaching in Complex Organisations we worked with CAS ... Exciting! However during the process somebody observed that SF describes itself a "theory without a theory". I've not come across this notion before. Can you please elaborate on this?
Here is how I replied to that question:
Hi, Thanks for your question. This notion of an approach without theory is linked to two things: 1) the fact that Steve De Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and their colleagues developed the solution-focused approach mostly inductively. Between 1978 and 1985 they developed the SF approach by carefully monitoring what works without being primarily inspired by a certain theory. In this article I describe how they did this in more detail, 2) the attitude of not knowing which is used in SF, which Insoo Kim Berg and I have written this article about. In addition to this, Steve De Shazer was very skeptical of theories. He once said: "Theories are at best useless." I would not worry if I were you. Personally, while I do agree with the inductive approach the SFBT people followed and while I do use the posture of not-knowing, I don't agree with Steve's quote. There is nothing inherently wrong with theory. On the contrary, they are inevitable and can be useful. I think the combination of SF with the CAS approach is especially attractive. I like the CAS approach a lot and I and Louis Cauffman have once written an article in Dutch about this combination: 'Complexe problemen oplossingsgericht te lijf'. If you happen to read Dutch (or one of your colleagues you might want to take a look.
As always, your reactions are welcome.

June 11, 2009

The steady decline of violence in the world

In this post, Seeing our predicament as a problem that can be solved, Steven Pinker is quoted who says that the processes of enlightenment and reason will continue to drive violence down. Also, here is a post, What have we done right?, in which Pinker's TED 2007 on that subject in mentioned. Pinker has now written an interesting article, Why is There Peace?, in which he shows that the common belief that our times show unpredecented violence is completely wrong. Using historic evidence, he shows how the opposite is true: step by step the use of violence in the world is declining. Pinker offers some explanation why many believe the opposite to be the case. Also he provides some different hypotheses for the reasons violence is constantly declining. Finally, he warns against complacency and urges us to understand what makes peace possible.

Why is there peace?
By Steven Pinker


June 10, 2009

Steven Pinker interviewed by Richard Dawkins - The Genius of Charles Darwin: The Uncut Interviews

Reducing Violence with Restorative Justice and Solution-Focused Approaches

An intervention, which used solution-focused approach combined with restorative justice, for parties in domestic violence cases in a Hawai'i state court was evaluated for participant satisfaction and recidivism reduction. A recently published paper by Lorenn Walker (photo) and Leslie Hayashi about the project is available on line: Pono Kaulike: Reducing Violence with Restorative Justice and Solution-Focused Approaches. Although small sample sizes were researched, results showed almost double recidivism for a control group that did not receive the intervention.

June 9, 2009

The Psychology of Possibility

In this post: A social science about what could be, I said that social science is often aimed at identifying differences, associations, patterns and mechanisms in the real world as it is. Sometimes, this makes it a conservative force. I made a plea for a social science about what could be. This wasn't entirely original of me, several people have argued the same before I did. One of them is Ellen Langer, who has just published the book  Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. In it, she makes the case for what she calls The Psychology of Possibility. So if you liked my post, you might like the book, too. Here are a few quotes:

June 8, 2009

New enlightenment? Why wait?

Here is a TED presentation by Pete Alcorn. By combining an extrapolation of demographic trends which predict a population decline with historic trends he predicts that a new period of Enlightenment will emerge within 150 years or so. He says" Most of our cultural heritage has tended to look backwards romanticizing the past [...] Human history is viewed as this downhill slide from the good old days. But I think we're in for another change about two generations after the top of that curve once the effects of a declining population start to settle in. At that point we'll start romanticizing the future again instead of the nasty, brutish past." Alcorn says the coming period will be a transformation time which will bring risks. He says our challenge is to try to accelerate the turn and avoid rash decisions out of fear for the future."

June 7, 2009

Pratenonline.nl - free and anonymous access for youth to highly trained solution-focused professionals

One of the most interesting and innovative initiatives concerning the solution-focused approach I know is a Dutch project called pratenonline (translated: talking online).

How did it start? Roughly six years ago, Pien Oijevaar (photo) had two insights. The first was that young people with problems had one favorite way of looking for solutions: searching the internet. The second was that solution-focused therapy is a highly effective, fast and respectful therapy approach. She created the website pratenonline and recruited several solution-focused therapists. Her hunches turned out to be right. Without any marketing children were able to find and use the website and it became a success. Pratenonline.nl is now part of Jeugdriagg NHZ and Pien is still the project manager.
What exactly is pratenonline? Through pratenonline.nl young people (age 12-23) with problems can anonymously chat with a solution-focused therapist. The great thing about this is that the threshold for children to seek help when troubled is substantially lowered.

June 6, 2009

The Wisdom of the Crowd in One Mind

James Surowiecki's 2004 best-selling book, The Wisdom of Crowds, described the phenomenon that when estimates by a diverse group of people are averaged together, the resulting group answer is more accurate than the estimate of a typical member. The reason this is the case is that using a large sample of imperfect estimates tends to cancel out extreme errors and converge on the truth. For instance, when students are asked to estimate the temperature in a classroom the group answer (averaged estimates) will usually be more accurate than the estimate of any typical member.
Stefan Herzog and Ralph Hertwig have now published a study (The Wisdom of Many in One Mind) which shows it can be possible to benefit from the wisdom of crowd principle (averaging multiple erroneous estimates) as an individual. Herzorg and Hertwig had participants in their study make a first guess and then a second guess. Before making the second guess, however, the participants were given the following directions: “First, assume that your first estimate is off the mark. Second, think about a few reasons why that could be. Which assumptions and considerations could have been wrong? Third, what do these new considerations imply?... Fourth, based on this new perspective, make a second, alternative estimate.”

June 5, 2009

Positivity often takes some time and patience

Two things I have written about in the past are very much two sides of the same coin. I am talking about the solution-focused principle of viewing resistance as cooperation and William Ury's positive No technique.

The positive No is based on the idea that beneath your No is an underlying Yes. This underlying Yes consists of things that are important to you, like you interests, values, principles etc. The technique of the positive No is that you don't start your communication with your blunt No but you first describe your core interests and values positively and then explain your No. In this post you can find a simple example: positive No case example. As the example shows, after your No you come up with a second yes which is an alternative suggestion to the person you have just said No to.

June 3, 2009

SF therapy most popular in Canada

Kevin Clouthier, owner of Third Space Consulting pointed me to this recent study completed at University of Guelph (Ontario) and published in Journal of Marriage & Family Therapy surveyed MFTs across Canada in relation to their practice. The most popular form of therapy provided by this group is Solution Focused Therapy.

June 2, 2009

Letting your actions express your intentions

"When you are just starting out on the road toward a big undertaking, it is probably best to let your actions express your intentions louder than your words."

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