July 15, 2009

What should the further development of psychology look like?


A special edition of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science has come out around this theme: The Next Big Questions in Psychology. In this issue a list of leading psychologists share their views on what they see as the most important questions to be asked in the coming decade. A few examples of the content. Timothy Wilson, author of Strangers to ourselves, has a contribution on self-knowledge which he sees as a very important topic. Lisa Feldman Barret writes an interesting article on how to connect mind to brain. Martin Seligman and Michael Kahana write about the topic of intuition. I think the the question of how psychology will or should further develop is interesting and important. I am extremely curious about how psychology will develop the coming years. In their terrific article Achieving and sustaining a good life, authors Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson provide the following description of the dynamic and diverse development of psychology so far:

July 14, 2009

Aristotle's insight on avoiding excess and aiming for the intermediate is useful for solution-focused change and positive psychology


"One ought to choose that which is intermediate, not the excess nor the defect, and the intermediate is determined by reason."
This is a quote by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle (The Nicomachean Ethics VI.1). What interests me in this quote by Aristotle is that is draws attention to the fact that in life often 'the more the better' is not valid. In many situations it seems to be true that there can be too much of a good thing and that moderation is wise. I have written several times about this idea. Here are some examples. The post Good enough is the goal argues that the goal of the solution-focused approach is not to achieve an ideal state (a perfect future), but, instead, to achieve a situation that is good enough (this can be quite good though). The post Pacing: helping clients find an optimal speed of change discusses the idea that there is such a thing as changing too fast. The post How happy is happy enough? quotes Ed Diener who says it may be counterproductive to focus extremely on pursuing happiness.

July 13, 2009

When DO solution focused coaches and therapists offer direct tips and advice?

SF-coaches, counselors and therapists acknowledge what clients bring to the conversation and generally avoid interfering with the clients’ frame of reference as much as they can. They use questions to help clients define their desired situations and find their own solutions. In other words, it leads to what I have dubbed self-found internal solutions. The main advantages of a process leading to self-found internal solutions are: 1) the individual trusts these solutions, 2) knows how to apply them, 3) knows they're relevant for him, and 4) knows he has the skills required to apply them; furthermore, 5) he has identified them himself and 6) is most likely to be committed to trying them out; my prediction would be that 7) they are most durable, too. (Also view this video).

My question today is: What are the exceptions to this principle? When do you as a solution-focused coach offer direct advice? When does this work? In which circumstances is there in your view a good reason for doing this?

July 12, 2009

Building solution-focused skills through deliberate practice of techniques like scaling questions, desired situation questions and miracle questions

Many students of the solution focused approach at some time or another experience that building solution-focused skills requires quite a bit of effort. At first, they may notice the simplicity of the approach and infer from that that it must be easy to learn to work solution-focused. But as Insoo Kim Berg has often said: the approach is simple but hard to learn. Two things make it hard. One is learning to use techniques like scaling questions, the miracle question, exception seeking questions, coping questions, desired situation questions and so forth. The other thing that makes it hard is that you leave out many things that you may learned before, like looking for causes of problems, finding out who's guilty, asking about feelings, confronting people, etcetera. So building solution-focused skills requires a lot of effort. When I asked Insoo in 2003 whether she was still learning and trying to improve her skills she answered without a moment of hesitation that indeed she was. I asked what it was she was now trying to improve and she answered: "I am trying to make my way of working simpler which is very hard."

July 9, 2009

$20 bill lying on the sidewalk

Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management has written a new article:

'Efficient Market' Thinking Is Inefficient
You know the joke about two economists walking down the street and seeing a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. The first economist says, “Look at that $20 bill.” The second says, “That can’t really be a $20 bill lying there, because if it were, someone would have picked it up already.” So they walk on, leaving the $20 bill undisturbed. The logic — that there are no opportunities for achieving exceptional returns because if such opportunities existed, they would be quickly discovered and implemented by almost everyone — underlies not only the efficient market theory in the world of finance but is incredibly pervasive in management decisions about all sorts of topics. I have had people tell me that downsizing must be effective — notwithstanding lots of empirical evidence to the contrary — because if it weren’t, companies wouldn’t be doing it. Read the article here.

July 8, 2009

Pattern detection

"Patterns are everything to us. We hunger for them. We revel in them. They are the basis for art, literature, music and much more in our lives. But a percepetual system that is so geared to wrestling patterns out of complex arrays of simuli is bound to produce some false positives. [...] Over time, natural selection probably favored perceptual systems and pattern detectors that were hyperactive enough to make their share of Type I errors [false positives]. In a perilous world, Type I errors tend to be less costly. And one of natural selections mottos has always been, "Better deluded than dead.""

~ Hank Davis in Caveman logic

July 7, 2009

How effective are threats?

Sometime ago I asked this question: What research is there on how to lead people effectively? I did get some responses but I would like to get a lot more. In the meantime, I have begun to think there is not a lot of evidence on this. Still there is some. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books) by Richard Wiseman I read about research by Jonathan Freedman. It is old study published in 1965 (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Vol 1(2), 1965, 145-155.) and done with children, so not exactly in an organizational setting. Still, I think it implies something interesting for how to lead people. It examines the question what the effects of threading children is when you want to keep them from doing something. Here is a summary of the paper:

July 6, 2009

Evidence for the motivational impact of the perspective change question

In the post Perspective change I described a simple way to help clients visualize the desired situation from a third person perspective. With this technique you ask in essence: ”How will other people notice things will have become better?" An example: "How will the customer notice our service orientation will have improved?" My experience is that this type of question, which I dubbed the perspective change question helps clients to get a broader perspective on themselves and their situation so that they can develop clearer goals.

July 5, 2009

Writing provides a solution-based approach

"From a psychological perspective, talking and writing are very different. Talking can often be somewhat unstructured, disorganized, even chaotic. In contrast, writing encourages the creation of a story line and structure that help people make sense of what has happened and work towards a solution. In short, talking can add to a sense of confusion while writing provides a more systematic, and solution-based, approach."
~ Richard Wiseman (photo), in 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books)

Related posts:

July 4, 2009

Quote by Lao Tzu

"To lead people walk behind them."

Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher, central figure in Taoism, lived in the 6th century BC.

Some solution-focused principles work so well that I am convinced that people throughout history us must have also noticed them. Because I am interested in checking this notion I am always on the lookout for ancient references to solution-focused principles. This quote by Lao Tzu relates to the principle of leading the client from one step behind (Cantwell & Holmes, 1994; De Jong & Berg, 2008). By using this metaphor we want to illustrate how we let the client determine the direction, the content and the pace of the conversation. The client says something and we follow closely.

July 3, 2009

Fantasizing about heaven on earth

"Fantasizing about heaven on earth may put a smile on your face but is unlikely to help transform your dreams into reality."

What I like about this quote is that it warns against thinking about goals in terms of ideal situations, just like I do in this article:
Solution-Focused Scaling Questions.

When performance-related pay backfires

"Performance-related pay often does not encourage people to work harder and sometimes has the opposite effect, according to new research due to be unveiled at the London School of Economics and Political Science. An analysis of 51 separate experimental studies of financial incentives in employment relations found overwhelming evidence that these incentives may reduce an employee's natural inclination to complete a task and derive pleasure from doing so. 'We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness. As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance,' said Dr Bernd Irlenbusch from the LSE's Department of Management."
This quote was taken from this article: When performance-related pay backfires. Readers of this blog won't be too surpirsed. Here are a few ealier related posts:

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