July 31, 2012

Rousseau’s Oxford Handbook of Evidence Based Management

BY DAVID CREELMAN

Carnegie Mellon’s Denise Rousseau is not just a leading authority on evidence-based management (EBMgt); she is a leading force in bringing the field to life. A landmark step in the maturation of EBMgt is the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Management, on which Denise acted as editor. The book, though not light summer reading, should still bring a smile to the face of managers. It reassures us the EBMgt is real, is vibrant, and represents progress for the profession. I spoke to Denise about the Handbook and about the field of EBMgt.

Creelman: Am I right in seeing this book as a landmark for the field?


Read the interview here

July 27, 2012

Study: high work engagement and low burnout associated with focus on improving deficiencies not with focus on using strengths

A pro-active perspective of employees’ focus on strengths and deficiencies in relation to work engagement and burnout

by Sanne Smits

Abstract: Traditionally, the improvement of employees' weaknesses predominated in the literature. This negative perspective has started to change with the upcoming positive psychology; the focus then shifted to positive constructs and strengths of employees. This current study has attempted to build further upon literature in both areas by introducing strengths- and deficiency oriented behavior. These constructs refer to self-starting behavior of employees that is either focused on using strengths or on addressing deficiencies. The relationships with both work engagement and burnout were investigated. Moreover, the combination of displaying the two types of behavior simultaneously in relation to work engagement and burnout was examined as well. 95 respondents from a high-tech organization located in the Netherlands participated in this research. The findings led to unexpected results. Surprisingly, only deficiency oriented behavior was positively related to work engagement, and negatively related to only one of the subscales of burnout: reduced accomplishment. The remaining hypotheses could not be confirmed. These findings were not in line with work in the positive psychology area. It is expected that this is the result from the very specific and homogeneous sample that is being used in this study, as well as the fact that the organizational climate of the participating company is already focused on utilizing the strengths of their employees. This gives some leeway to employees and could in turn inspire them to become also pro-actively focused on improving their weaknesses, next to playing to their strengths.

Also read:

July 26, 2012

The beginning of infinity

I am now reading a book which is related to the topic of the knowability of objective reality. Three posts I have written before about this topic are On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser, Objective reality as an asymptote, and The map is not the territory.

The book I am reading is written by David Deutsch and it is called The beginning of Infinity, Explanations that transform the world. The book is about 'broadly about explaining reality, thinking rationally, and the beginning of infinite human progress.'

Book description: Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life's mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve.

July 18, 2012

The Price of Inequality

I am now reading The Price of Inequality. How Today's Divided Society Endangers our Future by Joseph E. Stigliz.

I wrote about the dangers of large income inequality before in How Equality is Driving Thriving. In that article I wrote about The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, a book by epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.The research described in that book shows that many health-related and social problems are associated with the level of inequality of society.

Joseph Stigliz' book provides evidence from an economist's perspective of the dangers of great inequality in societies. The book shows how inequality in the USA has increased enormously over the last three decades. The price for this rice in inequality, as Stigliz shows, is high. Some of the consequences: lower economic growth, lower GDP, more political instability, a weakened economy, and a diminished sence of fairness and justice.

July 17, 2012

Do you focus on accumulated progress or remaining progress?


This article examines a small-area hypothesis: individuals striving toward a goal end state exhibit greater motivation when their attention is directed to whichever is smaller in size—their accumulated or remaining progress. The result is that, at the beginning of goal pursuit, directing attention to accumulated progress increases goal adherence relative to directing attention to remaining progress (e.g., 20% completed is more impactful than 80% remaining). However, with closeness to the goal, directing attention to accumulated progress lessens goal adherence relative to directing attention to remaining progress (e.g., 20% remaining is more impactful than 80% completed; studies 1–2). The focus on small areas increases motivation by creating an illusion of fast progress (study 3). Therefore, when individuals wish to prolong goal pursuit and avoid reaching the goal’s end state, they slow down goal adherence when their attention is directed to small areas (study 4).

July 14, 2012

5 Progress-focused questions: a powerful sequence

A good way to enable progress is to pose some well thought out questions. It helps when these questions fit well with each other and build on each other. A few years ago, I developed a sequence of 5 progress-focused questions. I have used it often and I have found it to be powerful and flexible set of questions which can be useful in many change processes. Here it is: 5 Progress-focused questions: a powerful sequence.

July 13, 2012

Is Personality Fixed? Personality Changes as Much as ‘‘Variable’’ Economic Factors and More Strongly Predicts Changes to Life Satisfaction

Is Personality Fixed? Personality Changes as Much as ‘‘Variable’’ Economic Factors and More Strongly Predicts Changes to Life Satisfaction
Christopher J. Boyce, Alex M. Wood, & Nattavudh Powdthavee (2012)

Abstract Personality is the strongest and most consistent cross-sectional predictor of high subjective well-being. Less predictive economic factors, such as higher income or improved job status, are often the focus of applied subjective well-being research due to a perception that they can change whereas personality cannot. As such there has been limited investigation into personality change and how such changes might bring about higher wellbeing. In a longitudinal analysis of 8625 individuals we examine Big Five personality measures at two time points to determine whether an individual’s personality changes and also the extent to which such changes in personality can predict changes in life satisfaction. We find that personality changes at least as much as economic factors and relates much more strongly to changes in life satisfaction. Our results therefore suggest that personality can change and that such change is important and meaningful. Our findings may help inform policy debate over how best to help individuals and nations improve their well-being.

July 12, 2012

In defense of the social sciences

In the Los Angeles Times, Timothy D. Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of "Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change", defends the the social sciences: 

"Are the social sciences perfect? Of course not. Human behavior is complex, and it is not possible to conduct experiments to test all aspects of what people do or why. There are entire disciplines devoted to the experimental study of human behavior, however, in tightly controlled, ethically acceptable ways. Many people benefit from the results, including those who, in their ignorance, believe that science is limited to the study of molecules."

Read the article here

Self-Determination Theory Applied to Health Contexts

Self-Determination Theory Applied to Health Contexts. A Meta-Analysis.
Johan Y. Y. Ng, Nikos Ntoumanis, Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan, Joan L. Duda and Geoffrey C. Williams

Abstract:  Behavior change is more effective and lasting when patients are autonomously motivated. To examine this idea, we identified 184 independent data sets from studies that utilized self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) in health care and health promotion contexts. A meta-analysis evaluated relations between the SDT-based constructs of practitioner support for patient autonomy and patients’ experience of psychological need satisfaction, as well as relations between these SDT constructs and indices of mental and physical health. Results showed the expected relations among the SDT variables, as well as positive relations of psychological need satisfaction and autonomous motivation to beneficial health outcomes. Several variables (e.g., participants’ age, study design) were tested as potential moderators when effect sizes were heterogeneous. Finally, we used path analyses of the meta-analyzed correlations to test the interrelations among the SDT variables. Results suggested that SDT is a viable conceptual framework to study antecedents and outcomes of motivation for health-related behaviors.

July 11, 2012

The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice

The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice 
Eduardo Salas, Scott I. Tannenbaum, Kurt Kraiger, & Kimberly A. Smith-Jentsch (2012)

Summary Organizations in the United States alone spend billions on training each year. These training and development activities allow organizations to adapt, compete, excel, innovate, produce, be safe, improve service, and reach goals. Training has successfully been used to reduce errors in such high-risk settings as emergency rooms, aviation, and the military. However, training is also important in more conventional organizations. These organizations understand that training helps them to remain competitive by continually educating their workforce. They understand that investing in their employees yields greater results. However, training is not as intuitive as it may seem. There is a science of training that shows that there is a right way and a wrong way to design, deliver, and implement a training program. The research on training clearly shows two things: (a) training works, and (b) the way training is designed, delivered, and implemented matters. This article aims to explain why training is important and how to use training appropriately. Using the training literature as a guide, we explain what training is, why it is important, and provide recommendations for implementing a training program in an organization. In particular, we argue that training is a systematic process, and we explain what matters before, during, and after training. Steps to take at each of these three time periods are listed and described and are summarized in a checklist for ease of use.We conclude with a discussion of implications for both leaders and policymakers and an exploration of issues that may come up when deciding to implement a training program. Furthermore, we include key questions that executives and policymakers should ask about the design, delivery, or implementation of a training program. Finally, we consider future research that is important in this area, including some still unanswered questions and room for development in this evolving field.

When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit

When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit 
By Ayelet Fishbach and Jinhee Choi (2012)

Abstract: We explore how attending to the goals an activity achieves (i.e., its instrumentality) impacts the motivation to pursue the activity. We propose that the focus on the activity’s instrumentality renders the activity more valuable yet its experience less positive. Because experience is mainly salient while pursuing (vs. planning) an activity, attending to the activity’s instrumentality increases the intention to pursue the activity but decreases how persistently individuals pursue it. We document this impact of attending to goals on increased intentions but decreased persistence on various activities, from a exercising on a treadmill (Study 1) and creating origami (Study 2) to dental flossing (Study 3) and practicing yoga (Study 4).

July 10, 2012

Money talks……and sometimes a bit too much!

Guest post by Stefan Söderfjäll, Ph. D, Ledarskapscentrum

Let's make one thing clear once and for all. Money is a powerful motivator. If what you have been told in life so far has made you think otherwise you can hit that out of your mind immediately. Money is indeed a strong motivator, so powerful that it can actually make us commit the most heinous and immoral acts in pursuit of it. You only have to look at all the scandals in corporate life, such as, to name just one, the Skandia scandal that took place in Sweden the years around the millennium, to understand what the pursuit of mammon can cause.

Or, by all means, document every legal case brought to court in a country during one year and I promise you will find a steady stream of gruesome murders and violent crimes, robbery, burglary, and financial scams, which in one way or another have been performed by people with dollar signs for their eyes. In fact, the mere thought of money triggers the cash register that is located somewhere deep in our brains and stimulates us to commit various less socially desirable actions. It is basically sufficient with a quick glimpse of a bill for it to go running at full speed. If you doubt that this is true, please read on.

Self-concordant goals and self-regulation

Here is a new post which explains that having personal goals that are selected for autonomous reasons (so-called self-concordant goals) increases increase the use of self-regulatory strategies such as implementation planning, action planning, putting in effort, and coping which in turn lead to more goal progress.

Read the post: Self-concordant goals → effective self-regulation → goal progress

Bill Gates reviews Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

How would you go about making the world a fundamentally better place? Eliminating violence, particularly violent deaths, would be a great start. Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows in his masterful new book just how violence is declining. It is a triumph of a book. People often ask me what is the best book I’ve read in the last year. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined stands out as one of the most important books I’ve read – not just this year, but ever.

Read the review here.

July 9, 2012

Goal shielding and progress

The perception of progress may motivate people to make further progress. But this does not always happen. Sometimes focusing on progress leads to a disengagement from our goal. In Sometimes focusing on progress disengages us from our goal I explain the concept of goal shielding and the circumstances under which our goal focus may be diminished by focusing on the progress we have made. Also, I suggest two types of interventions to sustain motivation for our focal goal.

July 8, 2012

The circle technique

The circle technique is an easy and flexible technique for making progress more visible and for helping people make further progress. It can be used individually but also in coachings and in team facilitation. It works like this. First you draw to two circles on a big piece of paper, an inner circle and an outer circle. The inner circle represents progress which has already been made; the outer circle stands for progress which has yet to be made. You can use these circles by going through the following 4 steps:
  1. What is the topic you want to use the circles for? Write down what that topic is and why it is desirable and/or important for you to make progress with respect to that topic.
  2. What progress have you already made since you started working on that topic? Write everything you have already accomplished on small post-it notes down and put them in the inner-circle. Take your time to think of every little step forward you have taken; nothing is too small.
  3. What further progress do you need or want to make? Write down on post-its what to try, learn, master and/or accomplish next. Formulate those steps forward in positive and specific terms.
  4. Choose your next step forward. Which post-it from the outer circle would you like to move to the inner circle first? Think of how and when you want to take that step.

July 7, 2012

Review by Alasdair J Macdonald of Rethinking Aging (Hadler, 2011)

Invited review by Dr Alasdair J Macdonald, consultant psychiatrist (www.solutionsdoc.co.uk)

Hadler, NM (2011) Rethinking Aging: Growing old and living well in an overtreated society. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, USA. ISBN 978-0-8067-3506-7

This timely book examines the effects of corporate involvement in research and the financial incentives for doctors within the healthcare system. Hadler is a professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology in North Carolina. This book addresses the presentation of new research in medicine, especially that funded by external agencies and corporations. He remarks that a study of 10000 persons which shows a risk reduction from 6 cases / 10000 to 3 cases / 10000 does not justify the statement ‘50% decrease in risk’. Also, endpoints for studies may be chosen arbitrarily from available parameters, sometimes for marketing reasons. This may create false goals for treatment.

July 4, 2012

Goals that fit with personal interests and values

Here is a post on self-concordance of goals which is the degree to which they fit with personal interests and values: Self-concordance theory.

July 3, 2012

Visualizing progress

Visualizing progress can have a powerful motivating effect. I have written a post with the following four suggestions about how visualizing progress may be used:
  • expect fluctuation
  • watch the trendline 
  • watch the slope 
  • watch the accumulation

Self-Determination Theory Applied to Health Contexts. A Meta-Analysis

Self-Determination Theory Applied to Health Contexts. A Meta-Analysis
By Johan Y. Y. Ng, Nikos Ntoumanis, Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan, Joan L. Duda, and Geoffrey C. Williams

Abstract: Behavior change is more effective and lasting when patients are autonomously motivated. To examine this idea, we identified 184 independent data sets from studies that utilized self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) in health care and health promotion contexts. A meta-analysis evaluated relations between the SDT-based constructs of practitioner support for patient autonomy and patients’ experience of psychological need satisfaction, as well as relations between these SDT constructs and indices of mental and physical health. Results showed the expected relations among the SDT variables, as well as positive relations of psychological need satisfaction and autonomous motivation to beneficial health outcomes. Several variables (e.g., participants’ age, study design) were tested as potential moderators when effect sizes were heterogeneous. Finally, we used path analyses of the meta-analyzed correlations to test the interrelations among the SDT variables. Results suggested that SDT is a viable conceptual framework to study antecedents and outcomes of motivation for health-related behaviors.

July 2, 2012

Beneficial effects of a progress focus

On this blog I hope to share and develop insights about what progress is, how it can be achieved, and what its effects are. While the topic of progress ultimately may be as complex as any topic in psychology it is actually possible to say a few general simple things about the beneficial effects of focusing on progress.

Perceived progress, the perception of unimpeded movement forward or overcoming obstacles, appears to be a powerful thing. Here are some proven advantages associated with the monitoring progress and the perception of progress:
  1. Self-evaluation of progress is a key motivational process. The perception of progress generally increases self-efficacy and motivation (Schunk & Usher, 2012). 
  2. Both the belief in and actual progress toward goals increases subjective well-being (MacLeod, Coates & Hetherton, 2008). 
  3. An individual’s sense of progress toward life goals is related to better physical health and less depression (Street, O’Connor & Robinson, 2007). 
  4. Reflecting on progress helps to learn if something you have tried is effective and, if not, to make modifications to your approach (Cleary, 2011). 
  5. Focusing on progress is highly motivating both in work settings (Amabile & Kramer, 2011) and in one’s personal life (Elliot, Sheldon & Church, 1997). Progress seems to be crucial for finding meaning and gratification in work and in life in general, especially when the progress is related to the fulfillment of the individual’s need for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Sheldon & Kasser, 1998). In later posts I will explore some more nuanced findings about progress.

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