Tag Archives: Problem-Solving

When Do Women Talk More than Men?

-*Are women really more talkative than men?
-*Do women in business meetings not claim as much “talk time” as male colleagues?

Kay Deaux

Kay Deaux

More than 25 years ago, NYU’s Kay Deaux and Brenda Major of University of California Santa Barbara proposed that context and expectations of the individual and others determine when females talk more than males.

Brenda Major

Brenda Major

More recently, participants with digital “sociometers” recorded identities of people nearby and talk volume during a work collaboration project, and during lunchtime social conversations in a study by Harvard’s Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Sebastian Schnorf, with David Lazer of Northeastern and MIT colleagues Benjamin N. Waber and Sandy Pentland.

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

During the work project women talked significantly more than men, except when groups included seven or more people.
Larger group size suppressed women’s verbal contributions to the project.
In addition, women sat closer to other women in these groups.

Sebastian Schnorf

Sebastian Schnorf

In contrast, during social conversations, women talked the same amount as men, and even more than men when the group was large.
As a result, group size seems to affect women’s verbal participation in groups depending on the task focus vs. social focus.

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl

This finding supports earlier reports of equal verbal participation by women and men by University of Arizona’s Matthias R. Mehl, collaborating with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis and University of Connecticut’s Nairán Ramírez-Esparza.
Together with Richard B. Slatcher of Wayne State and University of Texas’s James W. Pennebaker, they analyzed voice recordings from more than 390 participants, and concluded that women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day.

David Lazer

David Lazer

In addition, large group social settings seemed to enhance women’s verbal participation, in contrast to the opposite effect in collaborative work projects, found Onnela’s team.
The strongest difference in gender participation related to relationship strength and group size.

Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page

Contributions from all members of diverse work groups are required to produce the largest number and most innovative solutions, according to Loyola University’s Lu Hong and Scott E. Page.
They found that diverse work groups produce superior solutions compared with homogenous groups, even if groups were composed of uniformly top performers.

In fact, a group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is most closely associated with:

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

This “collective intelligence factor” is not related to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Sandy Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Diverse groups, including women, can most effectively produce innovative solutions when all participants contribute divergent views.
Women who  consciously increase verbal participation establish visibility and professional credibility, while contributing to improved group performance.

-*How do you determine your degree of verbal contribution in work groups?

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Four Leadership Behaviors Differentiate Top Performing Organizations

Ralph M. Stogdill

Ralph M. Stogdill

Effective leadership is a critical part of organizational health and growth and an important driver of shareholder returns, according to Ohio State’s Ralph M. Stogdill with McKinsey’s Aaron De Smet, Bill Schaninger, with Matthew Smith.

Bill Schaninger

Bill Schaninger

Consistent with this report, more than 90 percent of CEOs said they plan to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as their single most important human-capital issue, reported McKinsey’s Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan.
However, only 43 percent of CEOs reported confidence that leadership training investments will render an acceptable ROI.

McKinsey Organizational Health Index Top Leadership Qualities

To more accurately target developable leadership behaviors associated with superior organizational performance, McKinsey identified 20 critical leadership traits then surveyed 189,000 people in 81 organizations of varying sizes across industries.

Claudio Feser

Claudio Feser

They segmented organizations by leadership effectiveness measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index, and focused on companies in the top quartile and bottom quartile.

The team reported that four skills closely correlate with effective leadership and explained 89 percent of the variance in leadership effectiveness between top-performing organizations and lowest-performing organizations:

  • Effective problem solving by gathering, analyzing, and considering information before taking a decision,
  • Operating with a strong results orientation, developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives to efficiently achieve results,
  • Seeking different perspectives by monitoring trends affecting organizations and the external environment and by encouraging employees to suggest improvements,
  • Supporting others by demonstrating authenticity and sincere interest in colleagues to build trust and help others manage challenges.
Ramesh Srinivasan

Ramesh Srinivasan

A related post outlines other findings of top leadership competencies required for optimal organizational performance, including “Big Eight Competencies” described by Lominger’s Voices® 360˚ Assessment:

• Dealing with Ambiguity
• Creativity
• Innovation Management
• Strategic Agility
• Planning
• Motivating Others
• Building Effective Teams
• Managing Vision and Purpose.

-*Which leadership behaviors do you find most imperative?

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Bilingual Competence Strengthens Brain’s “Executive Control,” “Adaptive Modulation”

Andrea Stocco

Andrea Stocco

Learning a second language in childhood or later in life provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Increased cultural awareness,
  • Enhanced creativity,
  • Possibly delaying cognitive deterioration associated with dementia.

Bilingual individuals excel on several cognitive measures, including “executive control”, measured by speed in applying new rules and switching tasks on a Rapid Instructed Task Learning (RITL) paradigm, according to University of Washington’s Andrea Stocco and Chantel S. Prat.

Chantel Prat

Chantel Prat

In addition, bilingual volunteers showed greater “adaptive modulation” of the brain’s the basal ganglia striatal activity, suggesting that competence in multiple languages changes brain activation patterns and structures.

Bilingual people’s performance advantages in executive functioning may develop as they adaptively select and apply different rules when speaking multiple languages, surmised Stocco and Prat.
They suggested that this behavioral flexibility may strengthen the brain’s fronto-striatal loops that connect to the prefrontal cortex.

The team evaluated 17 bilingual and 14 monolingual volunteers on their language proficiency and arithmetic problems defined by a set of operations and two uniquely-specified inputs.
Participants completed practice problems using just two operation sets, then tackled another set combining new items and some from the practice set.
For the final round, volunteers completed new and practice items while in an fMRI brain scanner.

Bilinguals completed the new problems significantly more quickly than monolinguals, although both groups performed similarly on familiar items, suggesting that people with multiple language competence may have an advantage in rapidly processing new information and unfamiliar challenges.

The physiological basis for this performance difference was revealed by the fMRI scan:  There was increased activity during work on novel problems in the bilingual volunteers’ basal ganglia.
This brain area is associated with learning linked to rewards and motor functions, and to prioritizing information before directing it to the prefrontal cortex for further processing. 

Ellen Bialystok

Ellen Bialystok

This research suggests that learning multiple languages trains the basal ganglia to switch more efficiently between the rules and vocabulary of different languages, a skill which can generalize to other tasks such as arithmetic.

Michelle Martin-Rhee

Michelle Martin-Rhee

The roots of this cognitive advantage is based on childhood bilingualism, which can also train inhibition of attention for perceptual information, found York University’s Ellen Bialystok and Michelle M. Martin-Rhee.

They noted that this effect was not due to differences in representational abilities because monolinguals ands bilinguals performed similarly on these tasks.
Bilingual preschoolers also showed greater creativity in non-mathematical and mathematical problem solving, reported University of Haifa’s Mark Leikin.

Mark Leikin

Mark Leikin

He compared bilingual children from a Hebrew–Russian kindergarten and a Hebrew monolingual kindergarten was well as monolingual children from a monolingual school on the Picture Multiple Solution task’s measure of general creativity and the Creating Equal Number task for mathematical creativity.
Bilingual children from the bilingual kindergarten showed significantly greater creativity on general and mathematical tasks than monolingual children.

Fergus I.M. Craik

Fergus I.M. Craik

Besides the benefit of enhanced creativity, bilingualism seems to be associated with later onset of dementia by four years, and less cognitive decline among more than 180 volunteers evaluated by York University’s Bialystok with Fergus I.M. Craik and Morris Freedman of University of Toronto.

Morris Freedman

Morris Freedman

They analyzed repeated Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores and also found that elderly bilinguals performed better on switching attention between objects, as demonstrated in Stocco and Prat’s work.

Though learning a second language in adulthood is “an order of magnitude more difficult” than learning in childhood, according to Stocco and Prat, the cognitive benefits can make it worth the challenge and effort.

-*What benefits have you experienced associated with learning a second language or life-long fluency in another language?

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“Default Mode Network”, Positive Mood Increase Creative Problem Solving

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

“Aimless engagement” in an activity can enable a non-linear, integrative “free association” of ideas leading to creative breakthroughs, confirmed Drexel University’s John Kounios.

Graham Wallas

Graham Wallas

Many people recognize this experience of creative “incubation” while performing routine, well-rehearsed tasks, though they may not be aware that nearly 90 years ago, Graham Wallas of London School of Economics proposed this phenomenon one of four stages in the creativity process.

Michael D Greicius

Michael D Greicius

The brain’s posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) operate as a “default mode network” during this type of relaxed engagement, found Stanford’s Michael D. Greicius, Ben Krasnow, Allan L. Reiss, and Vinod Menon.

Rebecca Koppel

Rebecca Koppel

During free-flowing ideation, these brain regions “untether” thoughts from usual associational “mental ruts” to commingle in original ways.
Fixation forgetting” enables this innovative recombination of thoughts to develop innovative solutions, according to University of Illinois’s Rebecca Koppel and Benjamin C. Storm of University of California Santa Cruz.

Mark Beeman

Mark Beeman

Creative problem solving through insight also involves the right hemisphere’s anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), an area associated with recognizing broad associative semantic relationships, reported Kounios and colleagues at Northwestern, Mark Beeman, Edward M Bowden, Jason Haberman, Stella Arambel-Liu, and Paul J Reber, collaborating with Kounios and Jennifer L Frymiare, also of Drexel, and Source Signal Imaging’s Richard Greenblatt.

John Kounios

John Kounios

They concluded that creative problem solving requires the ability to encode, retrieve, and evaluate information.
When insight is involved, integration of distantly related information is also needed.

Ruby Nadler

Ruby Nadler

In addition to these skills, University of Western Ontario’s Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda found that cognitive flexibility for problem-solving activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas important in creative hypothesis-testing and rule-selection.
Additionally, they confirmed that creative solutions can be enabled by eliciting a positive mood.

Rahel Rabi

Rahel Rabi

The team induced positive, neutral, and negative moods using music clips and video clips, and asked volunteers to classify pictures with visually complex patterns.
People in the positive-mood condition showed better classification learning than those with induced neutral or negative moods, suggesting that upbeat music effectively enhanced creative thinking while boosting innovators’ mood.

John Paul Minda

John Paul Minda

Somewhat surprisingly, capturing ideas through handwriting or typing can attenuate innovation because recording requires a shift to a more linear organization of thoughts, posited Kounios.

-*How can you capture creative solutions while maintaining innovative momentum?

-*How can you prevent “fixation forgetting” from interfering with accessing information required for creative work?

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Time of Day Affects Problem Solving Abilities

People differ in their circadian rhythms, which determine times of greatest mental alertness, reflected in body temperature differences.

James A Horne

James A Horne

Morningness” describes people who awaken easily and are most alert early in the morning, whereas “eveningness” refers to “night owls” who awaken later and feel most alert late in the day, according to Loughborough University’s James A. Horne and colleague O. Östberg, who developed a self-report questionnaire to distinguish these these temporal preferences.

Mareike Wieth

Mareike Wieth

Creative problem solving is more effective at “non-optimal” times of day for both “morning people” and “night people,” according to Albion College’s Mareike B. Wieth and Rose T. Zacks of Michigan State University.

Rose Zacks

Rose Zacks

They studied volunteers who solved insight problems and analytic problems at their optimal or non-optimal time of day and found consistently better performance on insight problem-solving during non-optimal times, but no consistent effect for analytic problem solving.

During non-optimal times, people may be more distractible, less focused and more able to consider diverse information, alternatives, and interpretations.
These conditions can enable innovative thinking and creativity.

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky, formerly of University of South Carolina, argued that “timing is everything” in medical treatment, and Wieth and Zacks’ findings suggest suggests that working at “off-peak” times is effective for tasks that require creative thinking rather than analytic rigor.

-*How do you sequence your work tasks to enhance performance during “non-optimal” and “peak” times of day?

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Health Benefits of Positive Emotions, Outlook

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina posits that negative emotions aid human survival by narrowing and limiting people’s perceived range of possible actions, whereas positive emotions enhance survival by “broadening and building” options for action.

She detailed her lab-based research in Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life and her talk at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science CenterPositivity

Her lab’s findings suggest that positive thinking expands awareness and perception of the surrounding world, so can lead to innovative solutions to problems.

She suggests intentionally implementing a “broaden-and-build” approach to emulate this expanded view: Choose a degree of focus and perspective depending on requirements.

For example, to garner more clout in a discussion, she suggests involving more people who will provide support.
Similarly, to mitigate negative thinking or “tunnel vision,” think more broadly by viewing “the big picture.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School referred this perceptual shift as “zooming in” and “zooming out”, depending on the perspective requires.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Frederickson found that people who experience positive thinking are:

* Healthier
* More generous
* More productive
* Bounce back from adversity more quickly
* Are better managers of people
* Live longer
than those with a bleaker outlook.

Fredrickson’s research implies that positive emotions can mitigate the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions and stress.

In these activated conditions, people generally have increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, greater immunosuppression.
These conditions tax physical systems and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like coronary disease.

To mitigate these negative health consequences, Fredrickson recommends observing positive emotional experiences of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
Besides noticing these experiences, she advocates writing and meditating about these to increase grateful awareness.

In addition, Frederickson echoes common wisdom:

  • Spend time in nature to appreciate the natural world
  • Develop interests
  • Invest time in relationships
  • Reduce exposure to negative news
  • Practice kindness
  • Dispute negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.

Frederickson extends her research agenda on positive emotions in her latest book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Love 2-0

She broadens the concept of love to suggest that love – or an intense connection – occurs when people share positive emotion.
This lead to alignment between people’s biochemistries,  particularly the release of oxytocin and vagal nerve functioning.
Related emotions and behaviors synchronize and mirror each other, resulting in shared interest in mutual well-being  in a three-phase  “positivity resonance.”

She argues that love “literally changes your mind.
It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self.
The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable.
While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others.”

Fredrickson argues that this intense connection requires physical presence, and cannot be replaced by existing digital media — reinforcing her recommendation to invest in relationships with others.

-*What practices enable you to cultivate and sustain positive emotions?

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Companion Animals in the Workplace

Technology companies like Autodesk, Google, and Amazon made news when they permitted employees to bring companion dogs to work.Dog at work

This policy was viewed as an employee benefit or “perk”, but a recent study published in International Journal of Workplace Health Management indicates that bringing a companion dog to work can lower stress levels, increase productivity and make work more satisfying.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health conclude that companion animals can lower individuals’ cholesterol, trigylcerides, blood pressure, heart rates,  weight, stress, risk of heart attack, social isolation, inactivity, and overall healthcare costs, all of which benefit organization’s operational costs.

National Institute of Health

Randolph Barker and collaborators from Virginia Commonwealth University examined a service-manufacturing-retail company in North Carolina with 550 employees and between 20 – 30 companion dogs.

Randolph Barker

Randolph Barker

Researchers measured 76 employees’ stress levels via surveys of attitudes toward animals in general and in the workplace.
Equal numbers of employees perceived dogs’ presence as increasing or decreasing work productivity.

Employees’ perceived stress levels, measured by cortisol in saliva samples, were significantly lower and job satisfaction was higher on days when dogs were present at work.

Companion dogs at work appeared to boost interpersonal communication, organizational engagement, and morale when employees who did not own dogs asking dog owners to interact with dogs or take them for a walk.

Considerable research around the globe suggests that the stress-reducing effect of companion dogs is tied to an increase in oxytocin when humans and dogs interact.

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg of Uppsala University and author of The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, And Healing, reported that women and their dogs experienced similar increases in oxytocin levels after ten minutes of friendly contact, and women’s oxytocin response was significantly correlated to the quality of the bond they reported in a survey taken prior to the interacting with their dogs.

The Oxytocin Factor

Likewise, JS Odendaal and RS Meintjes, then of Pretoria Technikon, showed that friendly contact between dogs and humans release oxytocin in both and Miho Nagasawa‘s team  at Azabu University found that amount of oxytocin among dog owners increased with the amount of time they shared eye contact with their dogs.

Suzanne C. Miller’s research group showed that oxytocin increased among women but not men after greeting their companion dog when returning home from work.

Christopher Honts

Christopher Honts

Christopher Honts and Matthew Christensen of Central Michigan University extended findings on stress reduction to evaluate trust, team cohesion and intimacy among teams collaborating on tasks when a well-trained, hypoallergenic dog was present.
During a collaborative creative thinking exercise, participants rated teammates higher on trust and teamwork than those without a dog.

Teams with a dog during the prisoner’s dilemma measure of trust and collaboration were 30% less likely to betray teammates accused of being co-conspirators in a hypothetical crime scenario.

Hiroshi Nittono

Hiroshi Nittono

Hiroshi Nittono and team at Hiroshima University demonstrated improved performance on problem-solving, attention, perceptual discrimination, and motor performance tasks after volunteers viewing images of baby animals compare with adult animals or food, reported in Public Library of Science .

Despite evidence that companion animals in the workplace reduce stress, increase perceptual and problem-solving capabilities and health indicators, barriers include:

  • Cultural objections to dogs and other animals
  • Allergies to companion animals
  • Animals without proper obedience and social skills training for the workplace

-*What do you think about potential financial and morale benefits of companions animals in the workplace?

Gromit

Gromit

<-Will this

Miss Sarah's Guide

Miss Fido Manners

be replaced with this? <—————>

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