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Tag: positive organizational scholarship

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!

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Essential HR in the recession

The Recession: How big is the problem?

Six years ago, before I left Zimbabwe, I did some work for the UNDP in Harare. Their Representative, whom you might think of as the UN Ambassador, was, as you might expect calm, multilingual, knowledgeable, worldly, and very experienced. He said something to me that was memorable, as I am sure he intended it to be.  He said:

Right now you are in a tunnel, and you cannot see the light at the end. But you will pass through the tunnel and see light at the end again one day.

As it happened, I left Zimbabwe, as have three to four million others, and I have found myself in the ‘West’ in the middle of the financial crisis, experiencing deja vu.

Where are we in our understanding?

The stage theory of bereavement is often criticized, but is nonetheless useful for thinking in an organized way, about catastrophic events.  We aren’t in a deep dark tunnel, as we were in Zimbabwe, and as Zimbabwe still is.  We are in the very early phase of denial.  After this will come anger, then bargaining and at the every last, accommodation.

At the moment, we are still trying to fix things, to make them stay the same. We lop off a few workers here, and cut back on some expenditure there.   And in the process, in all likelihood, we make the recession worse!  We retreat into what we know, or into the laager as they say in South Africa, and cut off all possible creative and generative engagement with the unknown.

But if we don’t take immediate action to retrench and downsize, will we survive?  Won’t we just be overrun, and go out of business?

What is the alternative?

Situations like these are exactly what positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship address. Our dread of the tunnel does not make the tunnel go away. And sadly, our dread of the tunnel leads us to do things that feel so right, yet could be so deadly. For example, is it a good idea to conserve the batteries on our torch?  It is?  When we don’t know how long the tunnel is going to be?  Maybe we need a fresher look at what it happening.

The principle of positive human sciences, whether we are looking at psychology generally, or ‘organizational scholarship’, is to identify the processes that have led to our strengths.   As we have no idea what the future holds, we don’t want to squander those strengths, and more importantly, we don’t want to destroy the processes that generated those strengths, and that will sustain and regenerate them.  It is not just the strength we look for, in other words, it is the process that generated the strength that we seek.

Capital we have seen is as volatile as pure alcohol – it evaporates in a flash.  It is part of the business package.  We need it.  But it is not dependable.

The distinct role and contribution of HRM

Our job in HRM during the recession, is to focus our attention on our human strengths, and on the value of our relationships with each other.  It is tough to do this when people are in a panic.  They want relief from the terror of the tunnel.  And they want relief now.

Calming the panic is our first duty.   When the Chief Executive, to the high school student on-work-attachment, are calm, they bring their technical knowledge to bear, and find innovative solutions that last week, we didn’t know were possible. They turn the tunnel from an object of dread, and real danger, into a place of opportunity and growth.

We also need to remember that some people don’t show their panic.  So we have to judge their mood by their activity.  Are they suggesting solutions, or is their very lack of complaint, suggestive of loss of efficacy?  Calming different personalities, from the voluble executive to the quiet person who falls into passive-aggression, calls on our unique technical training.

Our chances

Will we always succeed?  No of course not.  In business, winning is not a given.  But, if we do not believe that our people are capable of working constructively and together, on the challenges we face, then we can be sure of one thing.  We will communicate our doubt.  And our doubt contributes to a downward spiral of self-efficacy and collective efficacy.  We become part of the problem.

Our ethical responsibility, when we don’t believe in our company and more importantly, its people, is to resign, and make way for someone who can work with them, to find the sweet spot where they will surge ahead.

Sadly, when we take short term actions to ‘feel safe’, we may experience the satisfaction of immediate relief.  We might feel less exposed, temporarily, until our customers and suppliers are in trouble, as has happened in the financial sector.  It is a case of making haste and less speed.

To quote @Pistachio of yesterday.

The world seems to run on courage.  When mine falters, things get so stuck and difficult.  When it flows, things start to flow also.


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Recommended reading:  David Whyte, British-born corporate poet now living in Seattle has a marvellous CD, Mid-Life and the Great Unknown, available through Amazon.

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The way ahead at John Lewis, a British department store where the staff are shareholders in the business.

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



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5 years’ time: where will we be?

Skate to where the puck will be

“She’ll be alright”. “Manyana, manyana”. We may not wear this attitude on our sleeves but we English are notorious short-term thinkers.  Not for us, saving for a rainy day or a stitch in time.

Is it healthy though, to plan ahead? Isn’t planning ahead exactly the opposite of what is recommended by positive psychologists: be mindful and attentive to what is going on around us?

The difficulty with living in the present seems to me that we can be living in the past. Just as the ice hockey player skates to where the puck will be, we have to interpret the present in terms of the energy and dynamism that it represents. One of the beautiful phrases asked by positive organizational scholars emerging in the business schools in the US is: what is trying to emerge here?

What will the UK look like in 5 years’ time?

In some respects, I am sure the UK will not have changed muchin 5 years’ time. An endearing quality of the UK is that it piles layer over layer. A scratch below the surface is always interesting.

Demographic change

There will also be some trends that will stretch out linearly. For the most part, those people who already here will still be here. 5 year olds will be 10. 40 year olds will be 45. 75 year olds will be 80. Some people will be off exploring the world, but we will mostly be here. Even in Zimbabwe, most people are still there!

Structural changes

But some things will change qualitatively, fundamentally, or definitively.

I have just read a prediction that IN FIVE YEARS, Africa will overtake China as the supplier of low cost labor.

On line virtual laboratory

Being linked to universities, another prediction that caught my eye is that new ideas will no longer come out of US business schools. Nor will they come out of Chinese or Indian business schools. They will come out of ‘on line virtual laboratories’. There are obvious implications for universities who carry on treating the value chain as the long 7 year process of thinking up ideas, testing them, and publishing them.

Journalism collapsing

Similar changes are being predicted in journalism. Jeff Jarvis predicts changes even deeper than those predicted for academia. Editors will no longer drive news policy. They will encourage the creation of better news.

So what is my time line?

From time-to-time, I play with Curriculum Illusione in which you input what you think will happen between now and the year you die (chosen by yourself). It is interesting how hard it is, particularly when you have to back up your ideas with photos.

So where are we exactly?

Or maybe, the question for today is what do we need to know?

Is it sufficient to get up and go to work and just hope for the best?

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Simultaneity: The future is an arrow that arrives at our feet

Yesterday, I posted on my difficulty explaining the simultaneity principle in positive organizational scholarship and extrapolating the implications for organizational design.  If you can help me, please do!

Today, I followed up a review about a book on New Zealand history in The Economist.  I’ve extracted this quote wholesale:

“Christina Thompson is a New Englander from a trim town outside Boston with a white church and a green. Seven belongs to the Ngapuhi tribe and his family lives in a ramshackle settlement at the end of a dirt road. Ms Thompson is an intellectual in the tradition of the Enlightenment, an editor of the academic Harvard Review. Seven, with his belief in ghosts and aliens, is the very man that tradition hopes to enlighten. She weighs options and makes plans. He sees the future not as an arrow he shoots ahead of him, but as an arrow that arrives at his feet.”

The future is an arrow that arrives at our feet.

I intuit it.  Who can explain it further?

UPDATE:  I first thought of this as the future coming from behind me.  Now I think of myself as standing still and the future coming towards me.  How about you?

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Is the essence of a happy life a point-of-view?

I read a great post this morning suggesting the Clay Shirky has it wrong.  We don’t really have a cognitive surplus, or we cannot make use of the cognitive surplus, because people prefer desultory entertainment to purposive action.

Positivism vs constructivism

The author writes in a scholarly genre: dealing with facts and evidence in a positivist way.  I almost responded likewise.

What if the author, Steve, looked at the world through other eyes?

What if the mytho-poetic tradition, a la Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, are correct and we like to hear a narrative?

  • Does that explain why we prefer to watch stories about someone?  Rather than a read explanations of some thing?

What if we like to write stories in a narrative (even though it was beaten out of us at college)?

  • Would we feel more cheerful, me and Steve included, if we were allowed to tell stories about
    • action,
    • purpose,
    • calling,
    • doubt,
    • triumph?
    • All the human attributes banned from psychological reports?

Positive psychology and the narrative

Positive organizational scholarship, for example appreciative inquiry, are quite clear that a positive approach includes social constructionism – in other words, our voice and the voice of others.  The positive principle is expressed not only as something positive and not negative, but as something purposeful, compelling, engaging, enduring, exciting, soothing, validating.

Positive psychologists (as opposed to positive scholars) tend to retreat back to questionnaires to measure their strengths and virtues.  Just as happiness strictly refers to a life well-lived (not a mood, person or moment in time), I suspect someone better read than I can explain why a strength or virtue belongs in a narrative, probably as a ‘calling.’

In short, the Hero’s Journey, or narrative structure is still to be adopted by positive psychologists with vigor.

The essence of positive psychology is a point-of-view

Would I be going too far on this Saturday morning to suggest that the essence of a positive approach is a point-of-view?  We all want to hear who does what, and why.  What was their deep moral case for spending time the way we do.

And is it so wrong to relax by following the moral case of others?

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5 slides on positive organization design

Positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, Positive Organizational Scholarship, & Positive HR

Almost a year ago, I put together a set of slides to illustrate the concepts and process in Positive Organizational Design. If you are beginning to read around the field of positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, positive organizational scholarship, or positive HR, you may find them useful.

They are five slides, each with quotations, beginning with

  • David Cooperrider on Appreciative Inquiry
  • The link between appreciating your own unique contribution and possibilities emerging in the world around us
  • Conversations about strategy, affirmations of hope, and recognition of the possibilities in the present
  • Nonaka’s Ba and designing organizational spaces
  • Rilke’s Swan as a metaphor of the rightness of what emerges.

I am standing on the shoulders of giants here. The quotations are referenced but not my sources. Please do google the quotations to dig deeper into the original works.

I would welcome any feedback or elaborations.

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So if I am not going to reify my organization, what should I do?

I was following up the new field of “performance studies“.   I have lost the link unfortunately.   Here are five statements and questions I re-phrased in “plain-language”.

1.  We make the company every day by what we do.

2.  Together we act out a story.

3.  Remember there is more that one story we could tell.

4.  Why do I have to speak for you?  What can’t people speak for themselves?

5.  What does the story we are acting out say about our relationships with each other and are we willing to talk about this question?

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