June 28, 2014

What if your interest fades or is absent?

I have received quite a few responses to my article Interests as drivers of competence development; most of them fairly enthusiastic. In the article I make an argument for structurally engaging yourself in and learning about what interests you. The word interest, in my article, refers both to doing and learning about what you find enjoyable and doing and learning about what you find important. By focusing on what interests you your thinking is enhanced and it will be easier to persist (see more). Finally, in the article, I propose that interest focused development not only benefits individuals but also organizations.

Here, I want to focus on two questions I have received about the article. The first is: what do you do when your interest fluctuates or fades? The second is: What can you do if you do not really know what you find interesting or if you do not seem to find anything really interesting?

"We must make clear agreements!"

Sometimes I am asked to facilitate a team meeting which has the purpose of establishing some clear agreements and rules. Such agreements and rules may refer to things like attending meetings, being on time in meetings, submitting time sheets timely, and timely and properly doing what you have agreed to do. When I am asked such questions, there often have been previous attempts within such organizations to establish agreements and rules and attempts to ensure compliance to them but these attempts have usually not worked satisfactorily. The question I am asked is how they can now, for once and for all, make some clear agreements and rules that will be complied with. It is an understandable question but will it work?

June 20, 2014

Neurochemical effects of conversation behaviors

Many scholars have pointed out that people generally are affected more strongly by negative than by positive occurrences (see for example this). For example, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer found in their research that the impact of setbacks was two to three times as strong as the impact of progress (read more). The same thing seems to be happening in conversations. People appear to be (negatively) affected stronger by negative occurrences in conversations, such as being criticized and rejected, than they are (positively) affected by positive occurrences in conversations, such as being taken seriously and appreciated.

June 12, 2014

The pleasure and the usefulness of improvising together

In our training courses we sometimes use some nice improvisation exercises. This week that happened once again. We asked participants to form small groups of 3 or 4 people and to go and stand together somewhere in the room while facing each other. Then we gave the following instruction:
We are asking you to start improvising together. The first person will say a word, the next person will say a word that builds on the first person's word, the third person will say a word which builds on the second person's word, and so on, in such a way that you will produce well-formed sentences together. Make sure to do this rather quickly and once a sentence is completed you can start to produce a new sentence. So please, go ahead and try it out.

June 9, 2014

Introductory reception

In the past, we began our training sessions with an introductory round. During that introductory round people were asked to say their name and tell the other participants what they did professionally and what their reason for doing this training was. Participants would in turn have the opportunity to answer these questions. Sometimes we would notice that the attention of some of the participants would drop, especially when one of the participants would speak a bit lengthy. Gradually, we began to realize that introductory rounds were not the most effective way of working, especially in larger groups. We realized that people had to wait and listen long to other people. Also, we had the impression that some participants were sometimes more focused on preparing what they would say themselves than on listening to what other participants were saying. And finally, introductory rounds sometimes took up a great deal of time which was sometimes perceived, to some extent, as a waste of time.

Getting-into-it exercises

We used to start our training sessions with an extensive presentation on the topic of the training. The reason for doing this to give the participants could a good introduction to the topic so that they could get a good idea of what the training day was going to be about. Sometimes. during our presentation, after 20 minutes or so, we would notice that some participants' attention would drop a bit. But, hey, we thought, it would be better to finish the presentation anyway. Otherwise they wouldn't have heard the whole background story of the topic, which wouldn't be good, of course.

June 8, 2014


In our training courses on progress-focused coaching and management we give participants homework suggestions. What we usually do is give them 6 homework suggestions and ask them to chose which 3 of these 6 suggestions they want to do. Providing them a choice like this often works quite well. Research by Patall et al. (2010) has demonstrated that giving students choice in homework has the following advantages: (1) higher intrinsic motivation to do the homework, (2) feeling more competent regarding the homework, (3) better performance, and (4) better completion of the homework.

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