April 30, 2010

The build up phase

I find one of the most fascinating findings in Jim Collins' classic Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't that, in the spectacularly successful companies he and his team researched, breakthrough success was NOT the result of sudden breakthrough transformations. Instead, it was the result of maintaining  a consistent focus on continued improvements and delivery of results for periods of 10 years or longer. Collins called such a period the build up phase. When suddenly the companies became spectacularly successful, which the outside world could notice clearly, there had not been any magical intervention, turning point, new product launch, new market strategy or drastic process change. The opposite was the case, after years of disciplined focus on incremental change, there was a tipping point and the success suddenly exploded. The following graph illustrates that.

April 29, 2010

Signs of Safety: a solution-focused approach to child protection

A recent post on this site showed how broadly the solution-focused approach is applied nowadays. But even that list of applications wasn't complete. One other area in which solution-focused principles and techniques has been applied for many years is the field of child protective services (see for instance Building Solutions in Child Protective Services). One specific solution-focused approach to child protection is called Signs of Safety (see for instance Signs of Safety: A Solution and Safety Oriented Approach to Child Protection Casework). This approach focuses on building partnerships with parents in cases of suspected or proven child abuse or neglect. Instead of focusing on causes of problems or assigning blame, the approach focuses on building a working partnership with the family which leads to the development a family safety plan which emphasizes the roles and responsibility of the safe (safer) caregivers. Co-developers of the approach, Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards, have developed an assessment and planning format which is also inspired by solution-focused principles. The reason for developing these tools was that the law usually requires a risk assessment (more info here).

April 25, 2010

Motivational impact of evoking third-person perspective positive behavioral representations

On BPS Research Digest is an interesting article on the power of visualization. (Thanks Jim Mortensen for pointing me to it). It explains there are two ways of visualizing yourself being successful at something: from a first-person perspective as in real-life, or from an external perspective, as an observer might see you. Researchers Lisa Libby and colleagues have demonstrated that it's this latter, third-person perspective that is far more effective in raising the likelihood we will go on to perform a desired behavior  "The researchers said these findings extend prior work showing that we tend to interpret other people's actions as saying something about them, whereas we interpret our own actions as saying more about the situation we're in. So, when we picture ourselves acting in the third-person, we see ourselves as an observer would, as the 'kind of person' who performs that behavior  "Seeing oneself as the type of person who would engage in a desired behavior increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior", the researchers said."

April 23, 2010

Exit genetic determinism: example of genes-environment interaction

Yesterday's post Bye bye genetic determinism, described a relatively new view on the influence of genes on how we are and become. Briefly, it states that genes are not the simple causal agents of our traits we once thought they were. Instead, genes interact constantly with a multitude of environmental factors. It is not simply the genes, but the genes-environment interaction (GxE) which determines how we are, what we do and how we develop.

Applications of the Solution-Focused Approach

This week I did an informal poll asking: in which contexts and roles do you apply the solution-focused approach? 59 people did the poll. Here are the results (click on the picture for an enlargement):

April 22, 2010

Bye bye genetic determinism

How important are genes in determining how we are and become? Obviously, genes are quite important. Genes contain the instructions which lead to the formation of proteins, the molecules which play vital functions such as to help create cells. So, genes are definitely important. But how important are they? Or: how are they important?

Chapter 2 of David Shenk's  The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong is about genes. It describes how, until very recently, the dominant view of what genes do, was that they determine what we are and become. However, this popular conception of the gene as a simple and powerful causal agent is not valid. A new interactionist model which describes the role of genes more accurately is briefly summarized as 'GxE'.

The old view of genetic influence was an additive model in which genes (nature) and environment (nurture) each had a separate influence. The nature-nurture debates that got much attention tried to establish how great the relative influence of nature and nurture respectively were. This old view is visualized as follows (page 26):

April 21, 2010

The solution-focused approach is not about empathic understanding

Is empathy important in the solution-focused approach? Not according to Insoo Kim Berg. Solution-focused coaches are open and accepting to what clients say about their feelings, perceptions and convictions. But it is not the case that the solution-focused approach is very empathic. Insoo Kim Berg has said the following about that: 
"The field has emphasized 'empathic understanding' so everybody strives for this. But that is impossible. I don't ever expect anybody to understand me completely. Sometimes I don't understand myself or I may change my mind. So I think the best we can do is be open to what is said. That is why I emphasize using the client's exact words, instead of paraphrasing. Because when we rephrase what they have said we fit it to our idea of what they mean."

April 20, 2010

How honest is it to assume the solution-focused posture?

Ten years ago, when learning the basics of the solution approach, I sometimes pondered on the question: how honest is it to assume the solution-focused posture? When I observed and read about solution-focused practitioners I noticed they never seemed to disagree with their clients and they complimented their clients quite frequently. I wondered how honest this was. It all seemed so positive, almost too good to be true. At first, I thought, this could not be very honest. After all, we can't always agree with everything a client says, can we? And we can't always appreciate everything every client does, can we? We must disagree sometimes, mustn't we? And we must sometimes dislike something a client has done, mustn't we? If so, my reasoning was, is it not dishonest NOT to express these sentiments?

April 17, 2010

At no point were confrontations needed

What is the non-confrontational character of the solution-focused approach and how can it work?
One of the remarkable things with solution-focused coaching is its non-confrontational character. Solution-focused practitioners, as a principle, work with whatever their clients say about what's happening in their lives and about what they want to achieve. Several concepts illustrate how solution-focused coaches work with whatever their clients present, such as leading from one step behind, the not-knowing attitude and language matching.

What is the reason for taking so seriously what the client says?
Roughly since the 1960's there has been a growing attention for client-directedness in psychotherapy and several other helping professions. Working with client perception has some important advantages. If coaches take very seriously what clients bring forward, clients will generally feel understood, will experience safety and will perceive the conversation as relevant. Also, it will be likely that this being taken seriously will help to quickly build a good relationship between coach and client. A more confrontational style of intervening by coaches may not work so well because clients may get irritated or defensive (read here why), may feel their coach does not really understand, may start to feel worse about themselves, etc. It can be highly threatening to be confronted. Philosopher Daniel Dennett once said something which explains this: "You seldom talk anybody out of a position by arguing directly with their premises and inferences."

April 14, 2010

Did I pass the test?

Recently, I heard a nice little conversation between a teacher and one of her students. The brief conversation reminded me of Carol Dweck's work. The conversation took place in the hallway of the school during a brief break.

April 12, 2010

Where Insoo Kim Berg's tenacity to hang in there came from

"Where does my tenacity and ability to hang in there like a pit bull with a bone come from? It is because of the belief in people, that is, this absolute belief in people that if they have survived this far in their lives, they surely know how to go a little further. Most clients have abilities but they do not believe they do. Therefore, if you do not see it, it is easy to become discouraged.”
~ Insoo Kim Berg

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