January 31, 2010

Genius, Genetics, Talent, IQ

Pre-ordered this book today: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong. Here is the product description: "With irresistibly persuasive vigor, David Shenk debunks the long-standing notion of genetic “giftedness,” and presents dazzling new scientific research showing how greatness is in the reach of every individual. DNA does not make us who we are. “Forget everything you think you know about genes, talent, and intelligence,” he writes. “In recent years, a mountain of scientific evidence has emerged suggesting a completely new paradigm: not talent scarcity, but latent talent abundance.” Integrating cutting-edge research from a wide swath of disciplines—cognitive science, genetics, biology, child development—Shenk offers a highly optimistic new view of human potential. The problem isn't our inadequate genetic assets, but our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have. IQ testing and widespread acceptance of “innate” abilities have created an unnecessarily pessimistic view of humanity—and fostered much misdirected public policy, especially in education. The truth is much more exciting. Genes are not a “blueprint” that bless some with greatness and doom most of us to mediocrity or worse. Rather our individual destinies are a product of the complex interplay between genes and outside stimuli-a dynamic that we, as people and as parents, can influence."

January 24, 2010

Focusing on the Relationship in Conjoint Solution-Focused Interviewing

Solution-Focused practitioners often have to interview two clients at once who are in some kind of close relationship with each other (a dyad). This is called conjoint interviewing. In these situations it is often the case that one of them is more motivated that the other for the conversation. A complicating factor may be that they are angry at each other. In these situations it often helps to ask a well formulated question which focuses on the relationship between the two. Here is an example of how a solution-focused practitioner may respond:

Client 1
John is so lazy and manipulative! He lets me do all the work. And afterwards he even tries to take credit for my work.
Client 2
Pete is always complaining and playing the victim … Such a baby! Grow up, man!
Okay, I understand, things between the two of you are not going the way either of you want them to. Is that right?
Client 1
You got that right!
Client 2
Yeah, right.
Okay, then I understand that the both of you are here trying to improve things…. What would need to come out of this conversation so that you would say: things between us are moving in the right direction now?

January 22, 2010

Dissertation on employee motivation, performance, and well-being

Currently, I am writing an article on an article in which I look at the solution-focused approach through a Self-Determination Theory lense. This process has brought me into contact with several interesting people and publications. One of these I'd like to mention here. It is thesis by Natasha Parfvonova of The University of Western Ontario, Canada called "Employee Motivation, Performance And Well-Being: The Role Of Managerial Support For Autonomy, Competence And Relatedness Needs". This research project sought to better understand how managers influence employee motivation, job performance, and wellbeing in organizations.  Specifically, this research concerns the workings and effects of how managers support the sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness of employees. This approach to researching management effectiveness has my great interest. It resembles many of the aspects of the solution-focused management approach I have co-developed. I can't say much more about it now but I hope to write more about this in the coming months.

January 18, 2010

SFC and Motivational interviewing: similarities and differences?

Who can inform me about the specific ways in which motivational interviewing and the solution-focused approach overlap and differ?

January 17, 2010

What's the usefulness of social science?

Usually, when people dismiss science or social science I'm not too impressed. I'm not impressed for instance, when someone advocates the use of a certain therapy or coaching approach and says that it is not relevant to do research on it because (a) it can't be researched, (b) his personal experience is enough evidence, (c) it is not a matter of evidence but belief, etc. In those cases, I wonder cui bono?
Yet, the question of the usefulness of social science is an interesting one, as far as I am concerned. I once read a book with the title What's the use of science? (or something like that). I remember the book was interesting but hardly referred to social science. And have you seen this YouTube video about Richard Feynman on social science? He's someone to be taken a bit more seriously than the person I mentioned above.

My question is: What's the usefulness of social science? To what extent is Feynman right? To what extent is he wrong? What are examples of the usefulness of social science?
What are your ideas?

January 12, 2010

Deliberate practice and deep practice

There is a growing interest in the question how individual top performance is achieved. Research shows that the way individuals practice skills and the amount of practice they do largely explains differences between top performers and others. Below, two concepts of effective practice are explained: deliberate practice and deep practice.

Deliberate practice: Anders Ericsson’s body of work has demonstrated through research that building top expertise is more than a matter of raw talent a matter of long and repeated deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is an effortful activity designed to improve individual target performance and it consists of the following four elements: 1) It's designed specifically to improve performance, 2) It is repeated a lot, 3) Feedback on results is continuously available, 4) It's highly demanding mentally, and not necessarily particularly enjoyable because it means you are focusing on improving areas in your performance that are not satisfactory. Thus, it stretches you. If you'll be able to do deliberate practice, you'll benefit by becoming better, especially if you'll be able to keep it up for extremely long periods of time. Top performance in a wide array of fields is always based on an extreme amount of deliberate practice. Researchers estimate that a minimum of 10000 hours is required. Also, to remain at the top, prolonged deliberate practice is required. An interesting thing about deliberate practice is that its effect is cumulative. You can compare it with a road you're traveling on. Any distance you have travelled on that road counts. So, if you have started at an early age, this will lead to an advantage over someone who started later. 

January 11, 2010


Hannes Couvreur (superblyhuman) did a brief interview with me on listening. You can read it here.

January 10, 2010

Interview with Insoo Kim Berg

© 2004, Coert Visser

Amsterdam, May 12, 2004 - There is probably not a single person more important to the invention and development of the solution-focused practice than Insoo Kim Berg. This fragile American lady from Korean origin has a gigantic reputation. She is one of the most important inspirators of nearly all of the solution-focused consultants I know. Together with her partner Steve De Shazer, she developed solution-focused brief therapy. Currently, she often travels the world doing consultancy and training people. Last year, she did a workshop in our Dutch training program for consultants and coaches. This year, I met her in an Amsterdam hotel and we had this conversation by the fireplace.

January 9, 2010

8 Tips for autonomy supportive teaching

Mastery through Myelin

An interesting book I have recently read is The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. by journalist Daniel Coyle. The book is one of the many books that have come out recently that explain that talent is not some mystical fixed power with which you happen to be born with or not. The Talent Code has three main topics: deep practice, ignition and master coaching. Deep practice is a way of attentive practicing which is key to developing skills. The way the author describes deep practice resembles the concept of deliberate practice a lot. Ignition refers to the process and events by which people become motivated to start a process of a long term investment in practicing in order to develop mastery of skills. Master coaching refers to what top coaches do to help their pupils develop their talent.

January 4, 2010

The transracial era

"I’m intrigued though, because Obama is exactly half white. Yet no one says he’s white. They say he’s black. And so you say he’s black because that’s how you treat him. That’s how you categorize him. But I look forward to the day when we look back at this time and saying that he’s black or saying that he’s anything, we just laugh at it. Because he’s as white as he is black but no one says he’s white. That’s kind of curious. Why don’t you say he’s white? Well, because he’s black, because he looks black. Well, he’s half white. So, are you going to call things what people look like? And what does it mean he looks black? In Africa, he’s got light skin. Compare skin color to Africa. He’s got skin color closer to a white person than the very dark skin of Africans. So the fact that anybody’s having that conversation at all, I look forward to the day that we just look back and laugh at it. We are looking for people with talent we need to lead the nation. Obama was just such a person. The current head of NASA is just such person. So, seeing where America was to where it’s trending to go, I see that as a very positive sign for a nation that could just simply value people’s talent no matter what their point of origin is. And I think they are describing such an era as being transracial."

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson (source)

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