February 27, 2011

2 Teachers' tools to help build an autonomy supportive classroom: SVE and FIV

Here are two tools for teachers to help build an autonomy supportive classroom. For young people growing up it is important to be able to define and choose direction-giving values, goals and interests which can function as criteria on the basis which decisions and choices in life can be made which feel meaningful. The more autonomous this process of formulation these direction giving values, goals and interests will feel, the more ownership the person will feel for them. How then, can we as teachers and parents, guide and facilitate this process without running the risk of distorting the perception of autonomy? In this book, Johnmarshall Reeve and Avi Assor describe recent research on two approaches to guide this process:

February 26, 2011

Is the solution-focused approach moving forward?

Our 2007 article Moving FORWARD with solution-focused change, was written briefly after co-developer Insoo Kim Berg had died. In the article, she is quoted, saying: "For any model to stay alive it will need to constantly keep developing and renewing itself. So, we need bright young people who will do that." Four years have passed since then. Is the solution-focused approach moving forward? Talking with various people I have heard different thoughts about this. Some seem to think it is alive and kicking; others say it the approach maturing. Still others say it is progressing by 'fusing' with other approaches. Yet others say it is not moving forward but think it may be disintegrating. I am curious what you think and welcome your thoughts.

My question is: is the solution-focused approach moving forward?

February 23, 2011

Promoting freedom and influence around the world

Abolishing dictatorships
That several peoples in several North African and Middle Eastern countries are revolting against their dictators seems a good thing to me. I think all people desire for freedom and influence and all countries deserve and are potentially capable of democratic self-rule. I am convinced that the liberation of these countries will not only free the peoples of those countries but also make peace in the region and in the world at large more likely. Why? Because I think that the tendency towards war usually (perhaps always) begins with tyranny; the threat of war seems like the fuel on which tyranny runs. Whenever non-democratic leaders face opposition from the people they attempt to neutralize this by creating fear and control. The reliable way to do this is to create the threat of war with self-created external enemies. This way they legitimatize the enforcement of loyalty. This may explain why dictators often routinely use a language of hate and violence up to the point of threatening to wipe out complete nations. So yes, not only am I glad for those peoples who now seem to be beginning to liberate themselves I am also glad for the rest of us because the world may eventually become a bit more peaceful.

February 22, 2011

Fry The Monkeys Create A Solution: The managers and facilitators guide to accelerating change using Solution Focus

There is a practical and accessible new book on organizational applications of the solution-focused approach: Fry The Monkeys Create A Solution: The managers and facilitators guide to accelerating change using Solution Focus. The author is Alan Kay from Toronto, Canada and several experienced solution-focused from around the world contributed (I myself also made a small contribution). Alan is an experienced solution-focused change consultant. He was one of the first people, some 10 years ago to start applying solution-focused principles and techniques to consulting. Here is an interview with Alan Kay and here is a video:

February 21, 2011

Structure and autonomy

Interview with Heidi Grant Halvorson

By Coert Visser (2011)

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, is an experimental social psychologist and the author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. She received her B.A. in psychology, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, and earned her doctorate at Columbia University, specializing in goal pursuit and motivation. Her research has focused on understanding how people respond to setbacks and challenges, and how these responses are shaped by the kinds of goals they pursue. She has published papers on topics ranging from achievement and self-regulation, to person perception, persuasion, and well-being. She also co-edited (with Gordon Moskowitz) the academic handbook The Psychology of Goals. In this interview, she talks about some of the most fascinating insights on how we can set goals wisely and how we can achieve those goals.

In the book you say something which may surprise many people: ”When you study achievement, one of the first things you learn is that innate ability has surprisingly little to do with success”. Could you explain that? 

February 19, 2011

Autonomy-support in organizations: what, why, and how?

While reading Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context I came across a wonderful chapter by Johnmarshall Reeve and Avi Assor called Do Social Institutions Necessarily Suppress Individuals' Need for Autonomy? The Possibility of Schools as Autonomy-Promoting Contexts across the Globe.

This excellent chapter explores themes like: What makes organizations controlling? Do they really need to be controlling? Can they be smooth-functioning while non-controlling and autonomy-promoting? What would such an organization (as an example they use schools) look like?

Why support autonomy?
As an enormous amount of research within SDT has shown that when people experience a sense of autonomy they experience affective, cognitive and behavioral benefits. In other words, they thrive. Research has also shown that environments can affect the degree to which individuals feel autonomous. Controlling environments undermine a sense of autonomy and thus thriving while autonomy supportive environments do the opposite.

February 13, 2011

The word 'talent'

The word 'talent' is used a lot but I'd rather not use it a lot. One reason I am not fond of using the term is that it is often unclear what is meant by it. When it is used, I think people usually mean one of the following two things by it: either high performance (for example wonderful guitar playing) or natural ability. Oxford English Dictionary defines it as the latter, namely as "natural endowment; natural ability". The conventional view among psychologists, educators, managers, and parents has been, for a long time, (and it still is, I guess) that talents, in the sense of natural abilities exist (and that individuals differ a lot in these talents) and that talents are great predictors of future achievement. Therefore it is often advised to identify your talents and to pursue those activities for which we have talents.

But a host of research that has been done in the last few decades has created serious doubts about the degree to which talent (in the sense of natural abilities) actually exist and even more serious doubts about the degree to which early differences in performance are good predictors of top performance. I'll briefly refer to some relevant publications:

February 11, 2011

Coaching Research

A recommendable chapter in Designing positive psychology is the one by Anthony Grant and Michael Cavanagh (photo) on coaching. I won't completely summarize it here but I'll highlight some points I found interesting.

What is coaching?
The authors explain that coaching, in the last decade, has become a mainstream activity both in business and in health settings. They define coaching as a relationship formed between a professional coach and the coachee for the purpose of attaining valued professional or personal outcomes. Also, they point out that most coaches do not have explicit training in the behavioral sciences and that most coaches do no tend to use coherent theoretical approaches or scientifically validated techniques and measures. As some applications of coaching they mention: 1) business coaching, 2) learning how to work well with difficult people, 3) career coaching, 4) team building, 5) coaching to improve sales performance, and 6) coaching to improve job interview performance.

February 10, 2011

Theory building in social science

The figure above summarizes the content of a 2005 paper by Paul Carlile and Clayton Christensen, The Cycles of Theory Building in Management Research. The authors propose a model describing an overview of the various elements and stages in theory building in management research (although I believe it is applicable to social science at large). Carlile and Christensen show how different types of data and methods contribute to the process of scientific theory building. Their paper describes a three-step process by which researchers build theory that is at first descriptive, and ultimately normative. Then, it discusses the role that discoveries of anomalies play in the building of better theory. Finally, it explains how one can evaluate and use published theories. I think the article is interesting and useful. You can read it here.

February 9, 2011

Coaching Effectiveness Survey

Have you recently visited a coach? Please participate in this study.

The purpose of this survey is to learn about what makes coaching effective. Will you please participate so that you can help us? If you have been a client of a personal or a business coach we ask you to answer the questions below. This will probably take you no more than 5-10 minutes.

->> Go to the survey.

February 4, 2011

How can managers get other people to adopt particular goals?

Heidi Grant Halvorson, psychologist and author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals wrote a brief blog post on how managers can get other people to adopt particular goals. This post, which is brief and elegant -and I recommend you read it- explains how people prefer to follow their goals they have chosen themselves. When goals have to be assigned, which inevitably happens now and then, providing as much choice and autonomy as possible leads to the greatest chance of fostering a sense of autonomy and thereby of acceptance of the goal. Heidi Grant Halvorson offers three tips to accomplish this:
  1. Explain why the goal they’ve been assigned has value. 
  2. Allow your employees to decide how they will reach the goal. 
  3. Invite your employee to make decisions about peripheral aspects of the task.
For more details read the original post here

February 3, 2011

In praise of task focus

In previous posts I have shown my skepticism with a strong focus on trying to understand oneself. My post How much self-knowledge is enough? argued against the idea of introspection as an optimal way to self-knowledge and I have expressed skepticism against the desirability of great striving to self-knowledge itself. My view is that is not necessary to know yourself precisely and that is also not doable. Instead, I think in terms of optimal self-knowledge. You don't have to know yourself any better than necessary. This view explains also my reservation against person focused interventions such as analyzing ones personality, identifying ones strengths, and person-focused compliments. I think this type of thinking reflects and plan-and-implement view on life and careers, whereas I find the validity of a test-and-learn view more credible. Instead of analyzing oneself and thinking about oneself a lot I think it may be wiser and provide more gratification to look into the world and find a way of interacting with it that seems to work both for yourself and for the world. You might call this 'doing what works'.

February 2, 2011

4 Essential ingredients of solution-focused change

On this website I have tried many times and in a variety of ways to describe what effective solution-focused coaching essentially is. Here is another attempt. I propose solution-focused coaching essential consists of four activities:
  1. Support client choice: solution-focused coaches not only respect and work with clients' autonomy and right to choose but they also deliberately ask questions and create opportunity that enhance clients' sense of autonomy and choice as much as external goals and circumstances allow. 
  2. Utilize client perspective: the perspective of clients is asked about and worked with. What clients bring forward is seen as and treated as useful.  
  3. Inquire about success: questions are asked aimed at getting vivid descriptions of desired success in the past, present and future. 
  4. Express positive expectations: throughout the process of helping clients solution-focused practitioners express subtly their expectations that clients will be able to cope and take steps forward and eventually to achieve what they desire to achieve.
Curious about what you think of these.

February 1, 2011

Designing Positive Psychology

There is a good new book on positive psychology: Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward by Kennon Sheldon, Todd Kashdan and Michael F. Steger. The book is refreshingly broad in its focus and has a much needed balanced view on where positive psychology stands and needs to go. Frequent readers may know that I, while I remain interested in positive psychology, I also have some worries about how it has developed. While its original mission statement was broad and inspiring, my view is positive psychology has been operationalized to narrowly in several senses (see On positive psychology: my worries, views, suggestions and questions). I was pleased to read the opening chapters by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura [have I ever read something by Csikszentmihalyi I didn't like?] by and by Todd B. Kashdan and Michael F. Steger [not at all afraid to be critical and independent] and notice that some of the worries I have are addressed. I skipped some chapters to read Anthony M Grant and Michael J Cavanagh's chapter 'Coaching and Positive Psychology' and think this one is excellent, too. Can't wait to read the rest.

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