Category Archives: Thinking

Thinking

Career “Planning” = Career “Improvisation”

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances in which processes and decisions are typically linear, argued Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt and Behnam Tabrizi in their analysis of global computer product innovation.

In contrast, frequently-changing or uncertain conditions with many iterative modifications require improvisation coupled with frequent testing.

Behnam Tabrizi

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, current career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions more appropriate for an agile strategy.
As a result, it is increasingly difficult to meaningfully respond to the frequently-asked interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing characteristic of agile development and design thinking are more suited for rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect known career paths.

Alison Maitland

University of London’s Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson forecast Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive In the New World of Work,
and related books by Deloitte’s Cathy BenkoMolly Anderson, with Anne Weisberg of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP considerThe Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Workand Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce.

-*When have you found it more useful to “improvise” instead of “plan” your career?
-*What are the benefits and drawbacks of career “improvisation”?

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Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ most significant blind spots were:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  the top leadership problems were:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a personal journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are least effective and most costly approaches to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Windowjohari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide(3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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Walking Linked to More Creative Solutions than Sitting

Marily Oppezzo

Marily Oppezzo

People who walked instead of sat generated more novel and feasible ideas, reported Santa Clara University’s Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz of Stanford University.

Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz

More than 175 volunteers completed well-validated assessments of creative thinking:

Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU) for common objects, created by University of Southern California’s J. P. Guilford, to measure of cognitive flexibility and divergent thinking,

JP Guilford

Edward Bowden

Edward Bowden

Compound Remote-Association test (CRA), developed by University of Wisconsin’s Edward Bowden and Mark Beeman of Northwestern to evaluate convergent thinking,

Barron’s Symbolic Equivalence Test (BSE), introduced by Frank Barron of University of California, Santa Cruz to calibrate the number of original insightful analogies generated for complex ideas.

Frank Barron

Oppezzo and Schwartz coded analogies according to a protocol developed by Northwestern’s Dedre Gentner to measure:

  • Appropriateness,
  • Novelty,
  • Quality, determined by:

o   Level of detail (vague vs precise),
o   Semantic proximity to the base statement (near vs far),
o   Relational mapping to the base statement (low vs high).

Dedre Gentner

Dedre Gentner

Walking was associated with increased divergent creativity on Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU) for 81% of participants and improved convergent thinking measured by Compound Remote-Association test (CRA) for 23% of participants’ scores
This trend significantly increased when volunteers walked outside:  These participants produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.

Walkers generated an average of 60% more creative ideas than when seated.
In addition, people who walked were more talkative, and their greater verbal output was associated with more valid creative ideas.

Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Participants generated more valid creative solutions when they walked first then sat for the next problem-solving session.

John Jonides

John Jonides

These effects may be explained by Attention Restoration Theory (ART), described by University of Michigan’s Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan as two types of attention:

Involuntary attention, captured by inherently intriguing stimuli (“bottom-up”),

-Voluntary or directed attention, directed by cognitive-control processes (“top-down”).

Stephen Kaplan

Stephen Kaplan

They suggested that walking in natural environments renews directed attention and improves performances on difficult tasks even when no longer walking.
Even viewing photographs of nature was associated with improved performance on a complex backwards digit-span task.

In contrast, walking in an urban walk requires directed attention to avoid obstacles and dangerous situations, and provides less opportunity to restore directed attention.

Jin Fan

Jin Fan

After volunteers walked, they performed better on attentional function tasks measured by Attention Network Test, developed by Jin Fan of Mount Sinai Medical School.
Items evaluate:

-Alerting,

-Orienting,

-Executive attention.

Benefits of walking on creative production were not related to mood or weather conditions during four different seasons.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

These studies validate Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation that “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking and suggest the value of walking in a natural setting before generating creative ideas.

Because amount of talking was associated with increased number and quality of creative ideas, allocating sufficient time for extended discussion is likely to increase innovative output.

These findings suggest that access to walking places in natural settings enhances cognitive functioning and performance.

-*How effective have you found taking a brief walk outdoors before high-stakes discussions?

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Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Optimally matching assertiveness style to specific situations can determine success in negotiations, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.

Abbie Wazlawek

Abbie Wazlawek

Earlier, Ames and Stanford’s Frank Flynn reported that moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
They also found that most observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However, most people do not accurately assess others’ evaluation of their assertiveness in specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.
These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from others, which provides faulty information.

More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames Assertiveness

Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation outcomes: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated greatest value to both parties.

Ames Assertiveness U CurveStrategic umbrage also appeared effective:  People who received these intentional emotional displays by their negotiation partners were more likely to rate themselves as over-assertive in their negotiation position.
However, negotiators who applied strategic umbrage rated these self-critical negotiation partners as appropriately assertiveness.
Ames and Watzlawek called this misperception of others’ perceptions the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Nearly 60% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately assertive but felt over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the inferior deals for themselves and their counterparts.
This suggests that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiation partners to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.

Jeffrey Kern

Jeffrey Kern

To improve accuracy of meta-perception – other people’s perception of assertiveness style – Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

-Participate in 360 degree feedback,

-Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,

Consider whether negotiation proposals are reasonable in light of alternatives,

-Request feedback on reactions to “strategic umbrage” displays to better understand perceptions of “offer reasonableness,

-Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:

Gary Yukl

Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation but the cost may be ruptured interpersonal relationships and a legacy of ill-will, according to Jeffrey M. Kern of Texas A&M as well as SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

  • Consider cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, where dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations.In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.
Edward T Hall

Edward T Hall

Likewise, under-assertiveness may minimize interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility in future interactions, according to Ames’ related research.

To augment a less assertiveness style:

  • Set slightly higher goals,
  • Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict,
  • Consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes
  • Assess the outcome of collaborating with more assertive others.

To modulate a more assertiveness style:

  • Make slight concessions to increase rapport and trust with others,
  • Observe and evaluate the impact of collaborating with less assertive others.

The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can attenuate individual confidence and assertiveness.

*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?

*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?

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Organizational Trust vs “Only the Paranoid Survive”

Organizational life can be punctuated by social uncertainty, leading to mistrust.

Andy Grove

Andy Grove

In fact, Intel’s Chairman, Andy Grove explained his success in guiding the company through a critical flaw in its Pentium chip, which threatened Intel’s brand value, noting “Only the Paranoid Survive.

Christel Lane

Christel Lane

However, organizational paranoia’s counterpoint, trust, is associated with productivity, creative problem-solving, employee commitment and retention, remarked University of Cambridge’s Christel Lane and Reinhardt Bachman of University of Surrey.

Reinhard Bachmann

Reinhard Bachmann

Likewise, Alan Fox catalogued negative consequences of suspicion in work settings.
Stanford’s Roderick Kramer offered both support and caveats to Grove’s pro-paranoia mantra by noting that people in organizations often misconstrue and overvalue suspicions, leading to low collaboration and isolation at work.

Roderick Kramer

Roderick Kramer

He noted that people with fewer resources or less power may engage in self-protective behaviors, accompanied by increased hypervigilance, consistent with findings by Princeton’s Susan Fiske.

Susan Fiske

Susan Fiske

These strategies increase the possibility of “paranoid social cognition”, and may lead people to engage in:

-Personalized construal of interactions,

-Sinister attribution error,

-Perception of conspiracy, highlighted by Rutgers’ Ted Goertzel.

Ted Goertzel

Ted Goertzel

To balance “prudent paranoia” with organizational trust, Kramer recommends that people in organizations consider alternate interpretations from people likely to hold different views, while skeptically considering “reality as an hypothesis.”

-*How do you find a balance between organizational trust and “prudent paranoia”

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Leader Self-Efficacy Beliefs Determine Impact of Challenging Work Assignments

Stephen Courtright

Stephen Courtright

“High potential” employees often receive “stretch assignments” to expand their organizational knowledge, skills, and contacts.

Amy Colbert

Amy Colbert

The individual’s leadership self-efficacy (LSE) expectations about personal capabilities to deliver successful outcomes determine the actual results, reported Texas A&M’s Stephen H. Courtright, Amy E. Colbert of University of Iowa, and Daejeong Choi of University of Melbourne in their four month study of more than 150 managers and 600 directors at a Fortune 500 financial services company.

Daejeong Choi

Daejeong Choi

Individuals develop self efficacy, according to Stanford’s Albert Bandura, in response to individuals’:

  • Personal accomplishments and mastery,
  • Observing others’ behaviors, experiences, and outcomes,
  • Corrective feedback from others via coaching and mentoring,
  • Mood and physiological factors.
Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

Bandura posited that people’s expectations about their personal efficacy determines whether they:

  • Use coping behavior when encountering difficulties,
  • Apply exceptional effort in meeting challenges,
  • Persist for long periods when encountering difficult experiences and obstacles.

These behaviors lead to the “virtuous cycle” of increased self-efficacy beliefs.

Laura Paglis Dwyer

Laura Paglis Dwyer

A measure of leadership self-efficacy (LSE), developed by University of Evansville’s Laura L. Paglis Dwyer and Stephen G. Green of Purdue University, evaluates a leader’s skill in:

  • Direction-setting,
  • Gaining followers’ commitment,
  • Overcoming obstacles to change.
Sean Hanna

Sean Hanna

Two additional Leader Self Efficacy characteristics were proposed by United States Military Academy’s Sean T. Hannah with Bruce Avolio, Fred Luthans, and Peter D. Harms of University of Nebraska:

  • Agency,” characterized by intentionally initiating action and exerting positive influence,
  • Confidence.
Jesus Tanguma

Jesus Tanguma

Women demonstrated significantly lower leadership self-efficacy beliefs than men in research by University of Houston’s Michael J. McCormick, Jesús Tanguma
, and Anita Sohn López-Forment, and a related post on this site reviews women’s lag in expressions of “confidence,” with consequences for women’s representation in executive leadership roles.

However, Bandura found that these beliefs can be modified with intentional interventions like training, coaching, mentoring and cognitive restructuring practice.

Courtright’s team reinforced that beliefs result from previous experiences can determine future outcomes, suggesting the importance of monitoring and managing these guiding ideas.

-*How do you maintain robust Leadership Self-Efficacy expectations even after disappointments and setbacks?


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Laptop Note-Taking leads to “Shallower Cognitive Processing” than Manual Notes

Pam Mueller

Pam Mueller

Taking notes by hand enhanced understanding and recall more than taking on a laptop computer in a study by Princeton’s Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA.
Volunteers who hand-wrote notes performed better on factual and conceptual questions about the content than those who took notes on a laptop computer.

Mueller and Oppenheimer differentiated two types of note-taking:

Virpi Slotte

Virpi Slotte

More “superficial” information processing is linked to less accurate text comprehension, found University of Helsinki’s Virpi Slotte and Kirsti Lonka.
In addition, shallow processing is associated with lower performance on integrative and conceptual understanding, reported Clemson University’s Brent Igo, Roger Bruning of University of Nebraska, and Victoria University’s Matthew McCrudden.

Kirsti Lonka

Kirsti Lonka

Participants viewed 15-minute TED Talks or recorded lectures while capturing handwritten notes typed on a laptop computer.
Next, volunteers completed two 5-minute distractor tasks and a reading span task to test working memory.

Roger Bruning

Roger Bruning

By that time, 30 minutes had elapsed since the end of the lecture, and participants answered questions about the content:

  • Factual-recall, such as “Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?”
  • Conceptual-application, like “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?”

Mueller-Oppenheim Question TypesVolunteers who took notes on a laptop were more likely to record verbatim notes and showed poorer performance on factual-recall questions and conceptual-application questions.

Even when participants were explicitly instructed to “take notes in your own words and don’t just write down word-for-word what the speaker is saying,” people using laptops recorded more verbatim notes than manual note-takers, and their comprehension performance did not improve.

Matthew McCrudden

Matthew McCrudden

A similar study included a significantly longer delay between the lecture with note-taking and the comprehension test,.
Half the participants reviewed their handwritten or laptop notes for 10 minutes before the test and the other volunteers answered test questions without reviewing material.

Daniel Oppenheimer

Daniel Oppenheimer

Findings confirmed that people who paraphrase content demonstrate greater content comprehension, enabled by  slower processing with manual note-taking.

Taking notes on a laptop computer enables users to transcribe information at higher speeds, and drawbacks include:

  • Shallower information processing,
  • Decreased conceptual understanding,
  • Reduced factual recall,
  • Distraction in multi-tasking on email or social media.

-*How do you maintain increase comprehension and retention when taking notes using a laptop computer?

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