February 29, 2016

Positive stereotypes can hinder performance too

Who is good at this game? Linking an activity to a social category undermines children’s achievement
A. Cimpian, Y. Mu Y, & L.C. Erickson (2014)

Abstract: Children’s achievement-related theories have a profound impact on their academic success. Children who adopt entity theories believe that their ability to perform a task is dictated by the amount of natural talent they possess for that task–a belief that has well-documented adverse consequences for their achievement (e.g., lowered persistence, impaired performance). It is thus important to understand what leads children to adopt entity theories. In the experiments reported here, we hypothesized that the mere act of linking success at an unfamiliar, challenging activity to a social group gives rise to entity beliefs that are so powerful as to interfere with children’s ability to perform the activity.

February 28, 2016

The belief that you can change your emotions is good for you

Beliefs About Emotion: Links to Emotion Regulation, Well-Being, and Psychological Distress
Krista De Castella et al. (2013)

Abstract: People differ in their implicit beliefs about emotions. Some believe emotions are fixed (entity theorists), whereas others believe that everyone can learn to change their emotions (incremental theorists). We extend the prior literature by demonstrating

February 27, 2016

Basic needs, intrinsic motivation and innovative work behavior

Keep the fire burning: Reciprocal gains of basic need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour

Devloo et al (2014).

Abstract: Drawing on insights from self-determination theory, we explored the dynamic relationship between intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour (IWB) over time. Specifically, we investigated how basic need satisfaction influences IWB through its effect on intrinsic motivation and how IWB in turn affects basic need satisfaction as measured the next day (i.e., a reciprocal relationship). The current study used a longitudinal design comprising a 6-day period and relied on multi-source data from 76 students in industrial product design and electronic engineering who participated in an innovation boot camp.

February 25, 2016

5 Reasons to abolish pay-for-performance for top managers

In a new article in Harvard Business Review Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen, both professors of organizational behavior and strategic management, argue for the complete abolishment of contingent pay for top managers. They offer the following 5 arguments:

February 23, 2016

Teacher’s autonomy support predicts students’ autonomy and vitality

The relationship between teacher’s autonomy support and students’ autonomy and vitality
Núñez et al. (2014)

Abstract: What makes a student feel vital and energetic? Using the self-determination framework, we analyzed how the behavior and feelings of students depend on social factors such as the teachers’ attitudes. The goal of the study was to test an integrated sequence over a semester in which teacher’s autonomy support acts as a predictor of autonomy, which, in turn, predicts changes in vitality.

February 22, 2016

Interest drives performance

This study supports what I wrote in this article, namely that interest drives performance:

The role of interest in optimizing performance and self-regulation
Paul A. O’Keefe & Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia (2014)

  • Task performance was optimized when affect- and value-related interest were high. 
  • Depletion was also minimized when affect- and value-related interest were high. 
  • Interest supports effective and efficient engagement without depleting resources. 
  • Results underscore the importance of interest as a motivational variable. 

February 21, 2016

Winning a competition predicts dishonest behavior

Viewing work primarily as a competitive endeavor may harm our enjoyment, performance and relationships (read more). New research shows that competitiveness not only affects our behavior before and during the competition but also after the competition. It shows that when winners feel they outperformed their co-contestants they tend to behave more dishonestly due to an enhanced sense of entitlement. Thus, entering a competition may increase unethical behavior, winning may further reinforce it.

February 20, 2016

How the fixed mindset makes the consequences of rejection worse

Since long, it has been known that how we interpret events in our lives has a strong influence on our feelings and behavior and, because of that, also on future events in our lives. An example of an event which can have a strong emotional impact is to get personally rejected. As new research by Howe & Dweck (2016) shows, the degree to which people can recover from personal rejection depends on how they think about personality.

5 steps to harness the progress principle

Coert Visser, September 6, 2013

In their large-scale study, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have discovered that making progress in meaningful work is a main contributor to a positive work life and to good performance (Read more about this study, here). Here are a few practical suggestions to harness the power of meaningful progress.

Discuss progress with each other

Coert Visser, September 12, 2013

By focusing on progress in meaningful work, your work experience and your performance are stimulated. It is useful to make explicit what progress you have achieved, for example by keeping a progress diary. If you don’t make progress explicit it may well be that you are not aware of the progress you are actually making. This is because progress can remain largely invisible if you don’t consciously focus on it. The reason for this is that we usually focus our conscious attention mainly on what has gone wrong and on what we still have to do. Progress which you have already made is thus easily overlooked.

Exercise: keep a progress diary

Coert Visser, September 21, 2012

Research suggest that there are some powerful advantages of frequently monitoring progress. Among other things it may contribute to your motivation, well-being and even health. To try how monitoring progress might work for you I suggest you keep a progress diary for one month.

Focus on meaningful work

Coert Visser, September 10, 2013

Harnessing the progress principle, requires that you, at least on several days of the week, make time to focus and work undisturbed, at least for half an hour to an hour, on work that is most meaningful for you.

In a new interview, Teresa Amabile says that in many organizations creative work is hampered by a continuous stream of demands and distractions which comes their way. She’s talking about emails, interruptions, deadlines, and the incessant pressure to be productive and creative. She compares working in many organizations with walking on a treadmill and suggests that in many organizations the speed of the treadmill has become higher and higher.

Remove obstacles

Coert Visser, September 9, 2013

Making progress in meaningful work is one of the most motivating factors for employees. Therefore, it is important to talk about and to describe desired and achieved progress, frequently. But did you know that negative occurrences such as setbacks and failures can have a 2 to 3 times stronger (negative) effect on motivation than positive factors? This was shown in a study by Amabile and Kramer.

Define ‘meaningful’

Coert Visser, September 7, 2013

In 5 steps to harness the progress principle I mentioned the research finding that progress in meaningful work is extremely motivating. In other words, the more you think that your work contributes to what is valuable to you, the more motivating it will be for you to achieve progress in this work. To speak of meaningful work, means to go beyond a simple task or results focus. To do meaningful work means that, as an employee, you have the feeling that completing the task or achieving the results is linked to an underlying purpose that is valuable to you. Here is an example.

The Progress Principle

Coert Visser, Juli 1, 2012

In 2011, Teresa Amabile, a professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist published the book The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work which is one of the most compelling cases yet for focusing on progress in work. In the book they report on a large scale study into worker performance and motivation.

One thing Amabile and Kramer did was to survey more than 600 managers from dozens of companies, asking them to rank the impact on employee motivation and emotions of five workplace factors: recognition for good work, incentives, interpersonal support, making progress and clear goals. The majority of these managers, chose “recognition for good work”. But a multiyear study which tracked day-to-day activities of 238 people in 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries showed that these managers were not right about this.

The study examined the relationships between workday evens, inner work life (the perceptions, emotions and motivation of the individual) and individual performance (creativity, productivity, work commitment, and collegiality). The primary finding of the study was that three types of events had the most positive impact on work life and performance: 1) progress in meaningful work, 2) catalysts (events that directly help project work), and 3) nourishers (interpersonal events that uplift the people doing the work). Of these three factors, progress was by far the most powerful. The negative opposites of these three factors (setbacks, inhibitors, and toxins) had negative effects on worklife and performance. Their effect turned out to be much stronger than that of the positive factors. Even small progress and setbacks often had strong effects on inner work life.

I have made this figure to summarize the main findings of the study:

Question: What do you think about this research?

February 18, 2016

Feigning anger is an unwise tactic

In progress focused work we argue for positive, goal oriented ways of communicating. As much as possible we try to avoid negative expressions such as anger or blame because these generally needlessly threaten both the issue and the relationship. Sometimes people ask whether such negative communication might be effective or even necessary in certain situations. They argue that these negative expressions might create a sense of urgency and pressure in your conversation partner to go along with your expectations. Based on this idea they may even argue that feigning anger is a good way to get people to go along with your expectations. This tactic, according to them, could be applied in conflict situations, negotiations and in conversations in which performance expectations need to be clarified.

February 11, 2016

5 Characteristics of effective teams at Google

Members of Google's HR department conducted a two year study to find an answer to the question: What makes a Google team effective? They conducted over 200 interviews and analyzed 250 characteristics of more than 180 teams at Google (see here). They expected that the answer to the question would lie in the combinations of individual traits and skills of the team members. But they found a very different answer.

February 9, 2016

Saving capitalism (Robert Reich)

Some time ago I wrote about economist Richard Wolff's book Democracy at work. A cure for capitalism in which he argued that capitalism is inherently threatening to democracy and that a fundamental change is needed in the direction of Worker Self-Directed Enterprises (WSDEs) which would be an alternative to capitalism (read my explanation of this argument here).

While I found the book interesting, I wasn't convinced that capitalism should be replaced. Now, there is a book by another economist, also one who is very critical about current day capitalism and concerned for the protection of the democracy, Robert Reich. The book is called Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and it argues not for the replacement of capitalism but for its rescue.

February 8, 2016

Is it possible to prevent and reverse presbyopia?

Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain to keep developing throughout life. Over the last decade or so more information has become available about how great this capability of the brain is. In this post I write about how important neuroplasticity's role can be in healing diseases and in this post I discuss some skeptical views on neuroplasticity. Since I started reading about neuroplasticity, about 10 years ago, I began to wonder how far the possibilities of brain training could go. One of the questions which interested me in particular was the question of to which degree age-related problems can be prevented or reversed. A topic about which I was specifically curious is presbyopia, the condition in which aging people are progressively less able to focus. This condition usually starts around age 40 and, from what I read, from age 50 nearly everybody is so affected by it that reading glasses are necessary in order to read.

The steady rise of Radical Enlightenment ideals

Recently I have referred to the influence on modern societies of ideas and values from the Enlightenment. Here I call Enlightenment values an important basis for the progress which has happened in the Western world over the last two centuries and suggest that the rest of the world can benefit from them as much (which is actually happening more and more).

From level-thinking to progress-thinking

I'd like to introduce two concepts: level-thinking and progress-thinking. Below, I will explain what I mean with these two terms and argue for putting less emphasis on level-thinking and more on progress-thinking.

Level-thinking is a way of thinking in which people, when they assess other people or themselves and when they set goals, emphasize the achieved level and desired level.  Progress-thinking is a way of thinking in which people, when they assess or set goals, emphasize achieved and desired progress. These two ways of thinking have a number of different characteristics and consequences which I will describe below.

Should teachers focus on performance differences between students or within students?

Teachers’ perceptions and actions can have a great impact on students’ beliefs, motivation, effort and performance. One way in which teachers affect their students is in the way they evaluate students’ performance. Falko Rheinberg (1980) showed that some teachers tend to compare students with each other – this is called a social reference norm orientation (social RNO) – while other teachers tend to compare a student’s current learning outcomes with his or her previous performance – this is called an individual reference norm orientation (individual RNO).

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