June 30, 2010

What small thing would you like to change about football?

The worldcup football (now running in South Africa) is the largest sporting event in the world and football is the world's most popular sport. Apparently there is a lot right about football. Still, if you could change something about it, what would it be? I'm interested in what small changes (nothing is too small) you would like to make in the sport.  So my question is:

What small thing would you like to change about football?

June 27, 2010

Negative emotions in a positive light ... what's the relevance for solution-focused change?

Joe Forgas, an Australian psychologist, has studied the differential impact of negative and positive emotions on thinking and performing. His research shows that negative emotions and positive emotions have different advantages: while positive emotions foster creativity, flexibility,  co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative emotions breed attentiveness and careful thinking and paying greater attention to the external world and makes people less gullible and better at stating their case through written arguments.

To some extent this seems consistent with Barbara Fredrickson's explanation of the role of positive and negative emotions. In her book Positivity, she says that positive emotions broaden people's ideas about possible actions by opening us and making us more receptive and creative. Negative emotions, she says, spark a narrowed mindset which is important in case of threat. Barbara Fredrickson and Marical Losada's research has shed light on the role of positive and negative emotions in flourishing and found out that when there are three times or more as many positive experiences than negative ones, flourishing will start.

June 22, 2010

What is the most solution-focused song title?

Just for fun, let me know: what is the most solution-focused song title?
Here is a beginning of a list, please help me make it longer:

Solution-Focused Songtitles

June 16, 2010

How can crime rates be brought down? → Priorities in law enforcement

Crime is an underestimated problem
High crime rates are a serious problem in many countries including many highly developed countries. Crime actually is a badly underestimated problem which does much damage, primarily to disadvantaged groups. Of course, there is the direct damage to victims like loss of property, suffering, disability, fear, etc. But there are other, more hidden costs of crime, too. An important category is the costs of avoiding victimization. This does not only consist of things like buying locks for doors, alarm systems, and hiring security. The most important form of crime avoidance is shaping one's behavior in order to avoid victimization risk, which may consist of moving to a safer and more expensive neighborhood, increased length of commutes leading to crowded highways and so on. Another cost is that crime is itself criminogenic, in other words crime leads to crime. Having been confronted with crime increases your likelihood of becoming criminal.

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

June 11, 2010

The art of asking irresistible questions

Sometimes I feel that the core of solution-focused coaching and managing comes down to the art of asking irresistible questions. Now and then, on forehand, situations and problems seem so complex that you wonder how it will be possible to bridge differences, to stimulate cooperation and to start finding ideas for solutions, let alone to make progress. Even though, as a solution-focused coach, you may have had lots of experience with how problematic and seemingly hopeless situations have eventually turned out good, when a new one comes along, you may again wonder how this next one can possibly go right. At least I do. When reflecting afterwards on these situations, it is interesting to think about what worked. How was it possible in this situation to 'get' people to cooperate and to focus their attention on desired outcomes, on past successes and on steps forward? Usually I conclude that powerful questions contributed a lot. Solution-focused questions at their best can be so powerful; you might even call them irresistible. Sometimes clients and participants in our training programs say things like: "I just had to let go of my anger, I could not hold on to it any longer", or "That question was such an eye opener, it helped me to see my situation completely different".

June 10, 2010

Focusing people's attention on the desired situation rather than asking them to admit they were wrong

In solution-focused change we take a direct route toward the desired situation and we avoid detours. One counter-intuitive example of this principle is that people, when they have been involved in problems, are generally not asked to admit they have been wrong. This appears to be counter-intuitive. Often, we tend to first want to confront people with what they have done wrong. Our 'intuitive logic' is usually that only once they will see what they have done wrong and will have taken responsibility for this wrong-doing they will be able and ready to start doing something about it. And although this sounds logical, it is doubtful whether it works.

June 9, 2010

"And you have to not care whether you live or die"

About 15 years ago, I saw the movie First Knight, a film about the King Arthur myth. Several scenes in the movie impressed me and this scene in particular. In the scene, Lancelot has just spectacularly won a sword fight and his opponent, a tall man called Mark, is amazed. The following conversation follows:

How did you do that? ... How did he do that? Was that a trick?
No, no trick, it's the way I fight
Could I do it? ... Tell me, I could learn.
You have to study your opponent, how he moves, so you know he’s gonna do it before he does it.
I can do that
You have to know that one moment in every fight in which you win or lose and  you have to know how to wait for it
I can do that
And you have to not care whether you live or die
…. (stares and keeps quiet)

June 7, 2010

Exchange is the root of virtue and prosperity

You might think that Matt Ridley's book The Rational Optimist is 'just' a long explanation of how human history has been the story of progress and that this progress is a good thing. But it is not. The book does indeed provide many examples of how things have gotten better, both in recent history and over the long haul and predicts the future will be bright. But it also provides a thought-provoking explanation of how this happened.

Ridley puts forward a hypothesis of how human beings have become so successful. He says that we as a species have been able to change extraordinarily, not primarily because we have evolved so dramatically as individuals but because human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that distinguishes us from all other species.

June 3, 2010

Subtly transforming the negative into positive

The previous post mentioned Bob Sutton's assertion that the best bosses belief that 'it is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive'. At first, this assertion may surprising to people interested in 'positive  change approaches' like the solution-focused approach, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, etc. Is there a contradiction between the tenets of these approaches and this assertion? Does this indicate that there is a divide in the way professionals think about how to manage and how to change with one side favoring a focus on the negative and the other side in favor of accentuating the positive? Let's explore this.

June 2, 2010

Key beliefs that are held by the best bosses (according to Bob Sutton)

Bob Sutton will soon publish an new book called Good Boss, Bad Boss. In this book he presents a list key beliefs that he thinks, based on his experience and his reading of the research literature, are held by the best bosses:
  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.

The Silent Client

Recently, we experimented with a simple exercise we call 'the silent client'. You can try it out with a colleague or friend. One of you takes on the role of the coach, the other one is the client. The client thinks of something he or she would like to be different. The coach asks a solution-focused question. The client thinks about this question but does not answer it. When the client has found an answer to the question he or she gives a sign that the coach can ask the next question. The coach asks the next question. Throughout the process, the client says nothing. Here are some examples of questions for the coach:
  • What would you like to be different?
  • How would like the situation to become?
  • What have you already accomplished?
  • What will be the first small sign that will tell you that things are starting to move in the right direction?
  • What ideas do you get from this for taking a small step forward?
The responses were interesting. If your try this exercise, do let me know how it went.

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