7 videos of joy, zest, enthusiasm

During Christmas, I am going to rewatch some videos on positive psychology that I have found particularly inspiring. Here are 7 of the best.

Smile and the whole world will smile with you.

A gentle love story about smiling, validation, emotional contagion and if you look carefully toward the end, the effect of networks on happiness.

Everyone gets an A

Ben Zander speaking at TED

Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman speaking at TED

Exuberance

Kay Jamison on exuberance

My stroke of insight

Moving yet inspirational talk by,  Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroscientist, talking about her own stroke at TED

J.K. Rowling delivering the commencement address at Harvard

And continuing here.  Author of Harry Potter books talking about sticking to her passsion and the responsibilities of Harvard graduates.

Starting close in

Dr Rao speaking at Googletalk

Have a good Christmas and a joyful and unexpectedly prosperous 2009!

You smile, I smile, we smile

Spread a smile

This morning, I quite fortuitously stumbled a charming little video around the theme “smile and the world will smile with you“.

Without spoiling the story,  a parking attendant sets the whole world smiling while he validates tickets at his counter in his gloomy, underground office.  Ostensibly, this is a touchy-feely, Polyanna-type, love story of a hero’s journey in 16.5 minutes.  The hero hears a call and sets off to ‘win the rings’.  He encounters trials and tribulations along the way, meets his nemesis, succumbs briefly to despair and then adjusting to reality, continues his life’s work.  Like all good love stories, everything ends happily.

A coach or trainer could use this video to explain the meaning of

  • validation
  • emotional contagion
  • hero’s journey.

It is a pleasant 16.5 minutes on a grey Sunday morning in the northern hemisphere.

Look out for the network effect

The reason I am flagging the video, though, is that it demonstrates the network effect of  happiness.   Fowler & Cristakis’ article in the BMJ on happiness and networks exploded into the blogosphere during the last fortnight.  Everyone in the personal development space, from Harvard down to myself reported this article in one way or another.  Its press coverage alone would make an amazing student research project.  I’ll let Zemanta recommend some of the articles for you to read.

Most reports took a slightly simplistic view of  ‘smile and the world will smile with you’.  Network effects are hard for us to understand.  Hidden in the story is an example of the network.   Someone began to smile when the network smiled.  I won’t say more, but look out for it!

As we reach the end of the video, it is easy to miss the import of the network effect, or to treat it as a just crutch to help the story along.  In a typical narrative, we focus on the hero, the hero’s actions and in shallow stories, on the hero’s rewards.  In deeper stories, we will look at the interaction of the hero’s character and circumstances.  How did he bring circumstances about?  How did he choose to react?  How did he change as a result?

Collaboration

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.  After you’ve watched the video, maybe you can ask yourself whether the network effects matter and whether it matters whether we can explain it well to our clients?

I’d love to collaborate on developing a set of narratives and stories that help clients understand how this works and how they can use it to understand their work.

Please do drop me a comment if you would like to collaborate.

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You know, that credity thing

A young female of White-fronted Capuchi Monkey...
Image via Wikipedia

With apologies to a London cab driver, what do I want to know about the credity thing?

I’m very interested in understanding the financial crisis, the meltdown, the credit crunch, or whatever you want to call our current predicament.  There is a lot of talk about managers’ bonuses and  the USD70 cost per hour for a worker who makes my car (is that a lot?), and surprising little talk about the role of legislation and the culpability of Company Directors.

I would like to know a lot more about the cost break downs in companies currently in the spotlight, and in our vision for Britain in the next 50 years.  Who will do our work?  Who will deliver our letters and our babies?  What work do we want to do and what is it’s price on the world stage?  I would like conversations about all these issues.

Curating clear presentations

For now, I am collecting straightforward descriptions of the crisis and posting them on one page.

Many of you may be familiar with Peter Fryer’s work on emergence in organizations and his concept of Trojan Mice.  If you don’t subscribe to his monthly newsletter, you should.  It’s packed with quotations and links and if you read nothing but his newsletter, you would be well served.

In December, Peter included a magnificent description of SHORT SELLING which will help you explain it to anyone, regardless of their education level.

It’s good for a weekend smile.  Here it is.

Once upon a time, in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for £10 each. Seeing that there were plenty of many monkeys around the villagers went out to the forest, and started catching them. The man bought thousands at £10.

As supplies of monkeys started to diminish, the villagers ceased their efforts. The man then announced he would now buy at £20. So the villagers renewed their efforts and start­ed catching monkeys again. Soon the supply of monkeys diminished even further and peo­ple started going back to their farms. The man increased his offer to £25 and the supply of monkeys diminished to the extent that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch one. But the man now announced he would buy monkeys at £50!

However, since he had to go to the city on business, his assistant would now buy on his behalf. In the absence of the man, the assistant said to the villagers: “Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at £35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for £50 each.” The villagers thought that was a great idea so they collected all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

They never saw the man nor his assistant again. But they had plenty of monkeys Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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Happiness and research: looking for a research buddy

Breakthrough work on happiness

Happy networks

The blogosphere this week has been awash with comments on the article on happiness published by the British Medical Journal on happiness in social networks.  What does it mean that happiness is collective?   Are we also affected by our friends’ happiness online in networks like Facebook?

Expansive, successful business teams

Getting a lot less press, over at Pos-Psych, Marcial Losada has published two reports about increasing the emotional space in business teams and improving business performance.   Losada aims to develop teams whose positive to negative talk falls between 3:1 to 11:1.

New stats and new ways to think about psychological phenomena

The BMJ article relies on network theory and analysis.  Losada’s work relies on recursive differential equations.  Lost you? Exactly.  Few psychologists, and that includes me,  studied this type of statistical modelling  in their undergraduate years.

Moreover, these aren’t just new statistical techniques that we can plug into SPSS and go.  Both techniques offer epistemological and ontological revolutions in the way we think.

A zeitgeist

The ontological revolution is also happening in the qualitative areas of our field.  Take this phrase used by The Economist yesterday to describe India’s democracy: a political system that can cope with disgruntlement without suffering existential doubts.

That is a brilliant definition of happiness, though we might want a little more for flourishing!

Invitation

I started a wiki laying out the methodologies used by Losada in some detail and I would love a collaborator.  If you are interested, please drop me a comment and I will send you its name and password.

We are entering an interesting time in psychology and I can see all the textbooks being rewritten!

Singing hearts 2009

It begins

Earlier today, I asked a professional services provider why I was unable to book for Monday.   She inquired of her superiors and that is how she found out that she had been made redundant.

Shortfly afterwards,  I completed a planned trip to Woolworth’s, and stocked up on stationery in their closing down sale.  It really felt rotten paying.  I got brilliant service by-the-way.  If you are looking for good talented  people in the Milton Keynes area, pop into the Newton Pagnell branch.

We stutter

@Pistachio, who is an astonishingly interesting tweeter given to pithy phrases, asked today:  what is the one thing you would change if you could?

This is what I would change: the lack of a coordinated collective, community response to redundanciesPeople should not be left on their own.

But do we fall?

Yesterday, I started persuading my village to join Twitter.  If we are all on Twitter, traders will be able to communicate with us more easily, and we will benefit.   For example, yesterday the Coop had carrots at 50p.  Had you known that before you left home, you would have arrived with ideas on how to make carrot-based dishes.

When I heard my provider had been made redundant, I undertook to find out rents and to investigate whether we cannot hire her independently.

And what help would I value  from you?

I do appreciate people who pop by this blog and make a comment.  I am very appreciative of people who’ve helped me settle well in the UK.

I want you to answer @Pistachio‘s question, but slightly differently.  I want you to think what you want for 2009.  Not what you commit to do as a type of New Year’s Resolution, but what you want.  I want to know what would make your heart sing and your spirits soar?

And then, flick Ian Jeanes a message.  Ian is organizing people with like dreams, and I will help him.

What is your dream for 2009?

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Why some people stay cheerful in spite of the recession

Psychology of loss and gain

Economists who study behavior will tell you that we value something we lose, much more, than we value something we gain.

This is a pertinent emotion during a recession.   Most of us will lose something.  We may not get the  increase in salary we worked so hard for, or we might make less profit.  We might suffer a large loss, such as our job, or our business.  Some of our possessions may get repossessed.  We could even lose our houses that we saved and skimped and spent many weekends working on.  What chumps we will feel!

Loss is devasting, and distracts us from possibility.

Tom Peters today passed on a fabulous anecdote about Kurt Vonnegut,  Joseph Heller and a hedgefund manager.

“At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.'”

Amen!
And thank you, John Bogle!
(And Judith Ellis.)

Coping with loss

It’s really difficult not to focus on loss when it happens.  Indeed, we shouldn’t move on too soon.  Grieving has its place.

I find the advice from the 5 stages of group formation useful: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning.   The leader’s task during ‘adjourning’ is to help an individual break their tie with the group, and to proceed back into the world quite happily as an individual.

Applying that advice to the horrible events that happen in recessions, we have three broad steps.  We need

  • Signal that change is going to happen in sufficient time
  • Plan a rite of passage (like a graduation ceremony)
  • Get people visualizing life without the group (or house or whatever).

No, that’s not quite right.  To talk about ‘life without’ brings our attention back to what we have lost.

Endpoint

We need to talk about our story, all the good times we have had, and gradually get to the point that we see jobs, companies, businesses, not as the end in themselves – just as ENOUGH.  They are there to help us get what we want.

What do we want?  And how are those projects going!  Incredibly hard to focus on those things when confronted with loss – the economists tell us so!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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4 hour work week?

Time management & goal setting from the masters

On Sunday night, Barack Obama put some numbers to Harold Macmillan‘s pithy saying: Events, dear boy, events. Obama’s numbers are 10% agenda and 90% circumstances.

What if we combine Obama’s numbers with Thomas Edison’s: genius is 1% inspiration and 90% perspiration?

90%
Circumstances
0,9% 89,1%
10% Agenda 0,1% 9,9%

 

 

1%
Inspiration
99%
Perspiration

Obama x Edison


4 hour work week

I’m a great believer in Kurt Lewin‘s adage: that there is nothing as practical as a good theory.  Principles, values and strategies established prior to action help me, at any rate,  keep perspective, and rapidly re-evaluate my tactics as events unfold.  In the army, they say, a plan never survives meeting the enemyThe value of the plan is in the planning, when we front-load the facts, issues and principles that will help us react quickly.

So at 9.9% of a 7 hour day, maybe 40 minutes will be spent on thoughtful and assiduous planning at the beginning of the day, and doing work that we actually planned! A 4 hour work week?

In the past, we’ve always been advised to plan only for only 60% of time.  That is about 4.5 hours per day!  The remaind 40% of the day, or 3.5 hours is used for unfolding events!

How much has your working life changed in the last few years towards a 4 hour work week – 4 hours of planned work?

What is true for politicians is true for professors, writers and musicians too!

Interestingly, work on high performing academics and violin players produce similar figures.  Violin players spend the whole day on music but about 1 hour on thoughtful and deliberate practice.

High performing academics, who typically produce 7x what their peers produce, write daily, but in approximately 15 minute snatches, and rarely for more than 1.5 hours.  Typically, they write early in the morning, before their households or departements get noisy.  They spend the rest of the day reacting to emails, student enquiries, going to the gym, and taking walks and sometimes even naps!

You have 45 minutes a day that you can spend on programmed work?   How should you spend this time?

As I write this, I am considering what to spend my 40 minutes on.  Having launched Rooi a few months back, I am moving into a project management phase.  So, I suppose, my 40 minutes should be spent on a review of projects and their priorities.   That feels right!

Out comes the calendar: time to do a ‘don’t break the chain exercise’.  What time of day will I spend reviewing projects and priorities?  Where will I do this work?   How will I get in the habit?  Can I put a small card in my purse and cross off each day and ‘never break the chain’?

How do you distribute your time?

What is the essential task that you do before all else, everyday?

Check out Ned’s comment below.  Do what has to be done first thing in the morning. Then if the rest of day turns to anarchy, who cares!

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3 characteristics of recession-lovers

I need your help

This is a serious post and I would love some of the heavy hitters out there like Jon Ingham, Scott MacArthurBay Jordan and Jon Husband to critique it. Others please join in!

I am a work psychologist. That means I am as much concerned about work as I am about psychology. I do a lot of background reading about management, organizations, new work like nanotechnology, etc.

McKinsey’s advice on management & organization in a recession

McKinsey have just circulated an old report 2002 report on risk and resilience in recessions.

They argue that firms that come out of a recession in the upper quartile, differ significantly from other firms.  The winning group, lets call them “recession-lovers”, either hung on to their upper quartile position, or came up from below.

The McKinsey report has a few sentences I find ambiguous. They are also talking about firms that make the UQ. They aren’t talking about firms who climb from LQ to Median say, so we should be careful not to over-extrapolate.

3 winning characteristics in a recession

I have found THREE characteristics of the ‘recession lovers’.

1.  ‘Recession-lovers’ surge ahead because they were always clearly focused on what they are doing. Prior to the recession, recession-lovers are involved in less acquisition activity than their rivals. Recession-lovers maintain their acquisition activity during a recession, while others drop acquisition activity to the steady level of the recession-lovers.

Can we conclude that firms who are less successful during a recession were involved in shakier business prior to the recession?

2.  Recession-lovers make 33% more sales per employee than their rivals. During the recession, they maintain this ratio by spending MORE money on sales and general costs. To do this, they absorb lower margins (TESCO’s just announced this I think).

Can we conclude that more successful firms move to protect and maintain their central markets?

Can we conclude that less successful firms are willing to jeopardize their market position by taking quicker profits?

3.  Recession-lovers spend more money on R&D and double this expenditure during the recession.

Can we conclude that rivals had thought that their markets and products were stable and by cutting back further believe that markets will be essentially unchanged after the recession?

3 thought-provoking questions for HR Managers to ask

If I have summarized this report correctly, then there are hard questions HR Managers should be asking as they consider redundancies, cutbacks, etc.

1.  When we hired staff, we assured them of their importance, and the value and importance of the products and services they would deliver.  What has changed?

2.  Now the market is tougher, surely we should give staff  more, not fewer,  resources to do their work and to sell our products and services.   If we don’t allocate more resources, than why?    Was our previous allocation of resources thoughtless, or,  is the market is worth protecting, in which case .  .  .  What are the ethical and legal implications of what we are saying?

3.  If we are making less provision for R&D, then are we saying that the demand for our products and services will be stable into the future?  Is so, why not write long-term contracts for staff on those lines?

What’s your take?

I would like to phrase these questions as constructively as possible and I don’t want to overreach.

How can we improve our understanding of a business so that in the future we can ask the right questions earlier?

Where do young HR managers in UK develop and test their understanding, BTW?  Which are universities and firms known for turning out HR Managers with solid business sense?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

$$$ with collaboration

Global supply chains

McKinsey have just circulated an article on supply chain management.  I read it hoping to find information on local modularization, i.e., breaking up the supply chain in the way done by Boeing.

Rules-of-thumb for organizational structure

The article was about linear, but global supply chains.  In HRM, we have very few rules-of-thumb to guide us about what is possible.  Here are three that I gleaned from the article.

The demand for labor within a firm varies huge

1.  Demand for mobile phones is often inaccurate by 400%.  Evidently, if we have no idea whether we need to make 1 of something or 5 of something, we will have heaps of productive capacity idle much of the time.  We are also going to have people hanging about, or we have to hire people at short notice with consequent loss of skill, team cohesiveness, and performance.

Companies who ‘play well’ with their supplier reduces their order times and save money on ‘capital employed’

2.  A company who shared market information increased their suppliers’ confidence in the company’s predictions [industry unstated] and decreased inventory by 45% and order-shipment cycle time by 70%.    Do we deduce that this reduction in capital-employed and stock-outs and the improved the cash-flow of the business with a positive knock-on effect into other areas like HRM?

Companies who share sales data with suppliers benefit from fewer stock-outs

3.  A retailer who provided a supplier with direct access to their data and ceded the management of their supply chain improved the availability of availability in store by 70%, and overall supply chain inventory by 20%.  Improvements of this size are likely to decrease lost sales and the price of the product itself  and increase competitiveness.

Lateral communications across organizational boundaries

It is stunning that improvements of this magnitude come about from improving the lateral communication structures across the organizations boundaries.

I wondered earlier today whether there any examples of HRM across a whole supply chain.   It would be an interesting project.

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CEO and Me

What do HR Managers do?

What do HR Managers do?  Who do IT Managers do?  What do any staff managers and trusted subordinates contribute to the leadership of an organization?

What does the boss do and what should subordinates and staff managers do?

While I have been in the UK, I have been struck by the confusion and discomfort that local HR practitioners feel over their role in the management team.

Learn from Henry Kissinger about advising the boss

People who do feel under appreciated, or who are looking for better ways to describe their role, may enjoy this piece by Henry Kissinger, where he describes the relationships between the members of the ‘security team’ at the White House – the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary for Defense and the National Security Adviser.

The contribution of the National Security Adviser seems to mirror my understanding of the HR function.

  • “to ensure that no policy fails for reasons that could have been foreseen but were not and that no opportunity is missed for lack of foresight.”
  • “takes care that the president is given all relevant options and that the execution of policy [by various departments] reflects the spirit of the original decision.”
  • “insisting — if necessary — on additional or more complete options or on more precision in execution”

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.