February 28, 2014

Are progress-focused skills just conversational tricks?

In a recent training group I had been teaching participants about several progress-focused techniques such as the NOAM 7 steps  approach, the progress-focused circle technique, the positive no technique, and progress-focused directing (which is a way of making your expectations clear in a motivated and constructive manner).

On the second day of the training, one of the participants made a remark which was something like this: "First of all, I really find all of this interesting and useful but I am wondering about something. If both we employees and managers learn progress-focused skills aren't both parties just becoming better at conversational trickery? First my manager will try to make a clever formulation to try to get me to do something and then I will counter that will some clever formulation of the positive no technique. It feels just like we are just applying tricks? I just don't think we will still be able to be honest and spontaneous!"

February 27, 2014

It can also be useful to look at what is outside of the outer circle

The progress-focused circle technique is getting more well-known and popular. It works like this: the coach draws two circles on a piece of paper or on a flip-over sheet, an inner circle and an outer circle. On small post-it notes clients write down what progress they have already achieved and then they hang them in the inner circle. Next, clients write on post-it notes what progress they further need and/or want to achieve and they hang these in the outer circle. Finally, clients choose which note(s) they first want to be able to move from the outer circle to the inner circle and how they will try to accomplish this.

On the first day of a training I gave to a group of teachers I explained the circle technique and invited them to experiment a bit with it. I also gave an example of how I had once used the circle technique with a client of mine. What was interesting in that situation was that my client had not only hanged post-it notes in the inner and outer circle but also outside of the outer circle. He explained: "I won't be able to achieve those things anyway!" The fact that he hanged a few post-it notes outside of the outer circle I found somewhat surprising but it did not form a problem in any way. Shortly after I had coached him he achieved a terrific result.

February 24, 2014

How intelligent groups discover and learn from new ideas

In his new book Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex Pentland introduces the discipline of social physics, a big data approach to social science. The discipline focuses mainly on how ideas flow through groups and communities and how social learning takes place to enable productivity and creativity. The book describes much large scale research and many core concepts of social physics and it introduces ideas on how groups, organizations, cities, and societies can be made more effective.

February 4, 2014

What is meaningful work?

As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown, making progress in work that is meaningful is one of the most motivating, if not the most motivating, things in work. Even small progress may have a big positive impact on one's inner work life (this is the authors' term for perception, emotions and motivations in one's work).

'Meaningful progress', of course, consists of two parts: the meaningful part and the progress part. I have focused a lot on the progress element in many previous posts. I'd now like to focus on the meaningful part.

February 3, 2014

How progress can make itself invisible

The feeling of making progress in something which is important to you is very motivating. But sometimes you make progress without being aware of it and thus you miss this motivating effect needlessly. In this article I explained some reasons why achieved progress can sometimes be hard to notice. One reason I mentioned is sensory adaptation. This means that we get used to the progress we have made and because of this we stop perceiving it. A second reason I mentioned is that we may interpret progress negatively. An example of this is that we may view the availability of technological resources not as advantages but as perils or problems. A third reason why we may not notice progress is that we may, sometimes unconsciously, concurrently raise the bar for ourselves. When this happens, not only our competence level has increased but also the level we aim for. Because of this, the distance between our current level and our goal remains the same (or even increases).

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