Tag Archives: Jeffrey Pfeffer

Mindfulness Impedes Implicit Learning, but May Enhance Explicit Learning

Chelsea Stillman

Chelsea Stillman

People typically develop habits without consciously and “mindfully” thinking about them, and habits often develop through “implicit” or unconscious learning.
Moreover, the trait of mindfulness can interfere with habit formation and pattern recognition, according to Georgetown’s Chelsea Stillman, Alyssa M. Coffin, James H. Howard and Darlene Howard.

Chelsea Stillman-Triplet Learning TaskMany recent studies linking positive outcomes to increased mindfulness, so this caveat may be surprising.

James Howard

James Howard

Adult volunteers completed an inventory that assessed their degree of mindfulness as a character trait rather than as a transient state.
They also completed either an alternating serial reaction time task or a triplet-learning task using colored circles to assess their ability to learn complex, probabilistic patterns.

Darlene Howard

Darlene Howard

Those who scored high on trait mindfulness were less effective in detecting and learning the patterns than those with lower mindfulness scores.

Stillman concluded that high attention and awareness of stimuli may inhibit implicit learning, suggesting many questions about situations in which mindfulness is most effective.

Previous blog posts noted that mind wandering may have other virtues, like enabling innovative problems solving.

Travis Proulx

Travis Proulx

Implicit learning, such as required to develop habits, is helped by “unrelated meaning threats” in addition to mindlessness, according to Tilburg University’s Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine of University of British Columbia.

They provided volunteers with an “unrelated meaning threat” in a short story by Franz Kafka or in a task requiring participants to “argue against one’s own self-unity.” Other participants received no “unrelated meaning threat” to serve as a comparison group.

Steven Heine

Steven Heine

Those who received the threat showed increased detection of patterns within letter strings and better performance on a artificial-grammar learning task, in which they detected a novel pattern embedded in the letter strings.

Proulx and Heine concluded that people may use association patterns unrelated to the original meaning threat when trying to maintain meaning, which they called the “meaning-maintenance model.

Gavriel Solomon

Gavriel Solomon

Differing findings were reported by University of Haifa’s Gavriel Solomon and Tamar Globerson of Tel Aviv University, who found that mindfulness may augment explicit rather than implicit learning.
They argued that
effortful, volitional mindful attention is a key contributor to learning and bridging “the know-doing gap,” described by Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, supporting recent “pro-mindfulness” findings.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer

-*How do you use mindfulness and mindlessness to enhance learning and creative problem solving?

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Power Tactics for Better Negotiation

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani points to research documenting women’s tendency to negotiate for salaries, promotions – and even task-sharing in relationships, less often than men in Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want

Her book offers guidelines to speak up assertively while developing the resilience and “thick skins” many in sales have mastered.

These recommendations echo those suggested in research studies and popular articles, and perhaps more Machiavellian, realistic, and perhaps disconcerting come from one of her endorsers, Stanford University Graduate School of Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer

He analyzes individual power dynamics in corporate hierarchies, and offers recommendations to acquire and use power in Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t 

Power-Jeffrey PfefferIn Rezvani’s book, Pfeffer notes that “Power is about 20% conferred and 80% taken.
Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who ask, negotiate, and push.
For women—or men—to get what they deserve, they must get over the platitudes and attitudes that hold them bac
k.”

Pfeffer debunks the hopeful idea that the world is fair and just,  and counsels those seeking to have the power to “get things done” to promote themselves, avoid giving up or delegating power, but instead,  give up the wish to be well-liked.

Because the work world is not fair, Pfeffer says that intelligence, performance, and likeability alone are not the most important factors in advancing in an organization.
Instead, he argues that ambition, energy, and focus drive key power behaviors:

  • Self-promotion and seeking organizational visibility
  • Building relationships, networking, and supporting the immediate manager
    Cultivating a reputation for control and authority by managing information and first impressions (halo effect, attention decrement, cognitive discounting, self-fulfilling prophecy, biased assimilation)
  • Embodying powerful demeanor in speech, dress, posture

Useful skills in acquiring power are:

  • Self-reflection and self-knowledge
  • Confidence and self-assurance
  • Ability to “read” others by empathically understanding their perspectives
  • Capacity to tolerate and remain calm in conflict

Although power is valuable to enable execution and results, there are downsides and “prices to pay” for having and using power.
Often, the costs of power are not fully considered or anticipated by those who aspire to it, so Pfeffer usefully suggests the following drawbacks of power:

  • Loss of privacy due to public scrutiny
  • Loss of autonomy
  • Necessary investment of time and effort that might be spent in other ways, such as with family, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, pursuing non-work interests
  • Trust, confidentiality, conflict-of-interest, ethical dilemmas
  • Possible intoxication with power as an “addictive drug”
Kathleen Kelly Reardon

Kathleen Kelly Reardon

It's All PoliticsPfeffer’s Stanford University colleague, Kathleen Kelly Rearson shares specific examples of skillful, modulated application of power in her book, It’s all Politics.

-*How do you ask for what you want at work?

-*What power tactics do you employ to influence your negotiation outcomes?

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