October 23, 2011

Five macro-trends overarching all of human history

Many things in the world fluctuate continuously but some things seem to keep on changing in one direction over long stretches of time. There even seem to be a few developments which stretch out over all of human history. Here are a few examples:

1. Anthropocentrism declines: long ago people used to interpret nature in human-centric terms. We thought we were the center of all things. Natural phenomena like thunder, outburst of volcanos and floods, were thought to be signs from god(s) meant especially for us. We thought the world was directed by gods who resembled people in many ways. Step by step we started to find out more about nature and about ourselves. We discovered much about natural phenomena and found out they often had little, if anything, to do with us.We also discovered the vastness of the universe. We found out that the earth is a tiny planet which is not at the center of our solar system, that our solar system is not at the center of our galaxy, the Milky way, and that people are not separate from animals but, instead, that we are animals ourselves. (Viewing tips: 1) The Center of all Things, 2) The Known Universe).

October 18, 2011

How is the growth mindset relevant for you as a manager?

People who learn about the growth mindset (the belief in the mutability of human capabilities by effort and experience) sometimes ask me whether this isn't mainly relevant for raising and educating kids. They as me if the principles of the growth mindset are also relevant for adults. A question which is frequently asked in particular is whether it is relevant for managers.

October 16, 2011

Deliberate practice: crucial factor behind top performance

These last few decades, a sub discipline has evolved within psychology which has produced knowledge which has replaced the traditional view on how top performance is developed. Researchers working in this discipline, of who Anders Ericsson (photo) in the most prominent, have shown that there is a lack of evidence for the claim that natural ability is the main reason for top performance. They have found out that what is crucial is the amount of time the individual has practiced and the specific way in which he or she has practiced.

October 15, 2011

Globalization could benefit the entire world

"In principle, the new globalization can ultimately be beneficial for the entire world. [...] The high income countries, including the United States, Europe, and Japan, can also be winners. The newly emerging economies produce a wide variety of low-cost goods and services that we desire, and in turn we can export a wide variety of goods and services to the emerging economies. Sectors that have strong economies of scale will benefit for the expanded reach of the global market. [...]

One ought to seek good reasons for believing something

"One ought to seek good reasons for believing something. Faith, revelation, tradition, dogma, authority, the estatic glow of subjective certainty - all are recipes for error, and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge."

~ Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

October 8, 2011

Finding the Plus Behind the Minus

I have argued that treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, may be the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation (read about that idea here). Sometimes it can be hard to, though. When someone says or does something which sounds or seems offensive or negative, it can be hard to not become defensive or negative oneself. What helps in such situations is to fall back on a deliberate strategy which I have dubbed "searching the plus behind the minus".

October 7, 2011

Organizational Change Exercise

One of the most practical theoretic frameworks on organizational change is the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), briefly TPB. I mentioned an adjusted version of this framework by Reeve and Assor (2011) in this article: Developing a Growth Mindset - How individuals and organizations benefit from it. Here is a simple vizualisation of that framework:

October 5, 2011

Steven Pinker on the illusion of ever-present violence

"Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children."

"The very idea [that violence has gone down] invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. Perhaps the main cause of the illusion of ever-present violence springs from one of the forces that drove violence down in the first place."

October 2, 2011

What does it take to make educational videos work?

Derek Muller is the founder of an online video education project in Physics called Veritasium. In his PhD thesis “How to create films to teach science (specifically physics)” he wrote about whether or how students in science can actually learn something from educational videos. This video shows what he has learned: Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos. He did an experiment in which he gave participants to the study a pretest, then showed them a video giving the correct information on the topics which were tested, and then tested them again. Surprisingly enough, although the participants found the videos clear, concise and easy to understand and were rather confident about having done the posttest better than the pretest ... they did not do better at all on the post test.

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