Tag Archives: Thinking


Creating Productive Thought Patterns

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

Leaders’ actions actions are influenced by unspoken self-talk.
Sometimes, these thoughts are self-critical and provoke anxiety.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), developed by University of Pennsylvania’s Aaron Beck, provides a systematic way to notice and restructure “irrational self-talk.
Similar approaches were developed by Albert Ellis in Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET), and David Burns in his synthesis of CBT and RET.

David Burns

David Burns

Arizona State University’s Charles Manz and Chris Neck  translated these self-management processes to managerial development.
They outlined a Thought Self-Leadership Procedure as a five-step circular process:

Charles Manz

Charles Manz

1. Observe and record thoughts,
2. Analyze thoughts for potential errors in reasoning (jumping to conclusions, exaggeration, etc)
3. Develop alternate positive, realistic thoughts and notice how these sound”,
4. Substitute alternate more positive, realistic thoughts, and monitor how they seem,
5. Notice if more negative thoughts appear, and substitute the more productive thoughts.

Screenshot 2023-03-04 at 10.06.57Additional strategies for Productive Thought Patterns at work were summarised by writer Parismita Goswami, drawing on evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural approaches.

John Crimmins

John Crimmins

Other recommendations to manage thoughts about stressful situations were distilled by John Crimmins of Behaviour Institute in coaching people at work.

-*What practices do you use to develop and apply productive thought patterns?

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Career “Planning” = Career “Improvisation”

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions.

As a result, it is difficult to  meaningfully respond to the interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances when processes and decisions are 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

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing are hallmarks of agile software development and are more suited to rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect current career paths.

Alison Maitland

University of London’s Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson offered forecasts in 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 consider The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work and 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 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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Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur (E.piphany, Zilog, and more) and Stanford consulting associate professor, argues that entrepreneurs need two types of “wisdom” or cognitive processing:

  • Pattern recognition based on a “constrain stream of data processing in the background”
  • Epiphanies that “serendipitously snap together”, outlined in Four Steps to the Epiphany.

He provides examples of pattern recognition in each of the four phases toward “epiphany” in building a business:The Four Steps to the Epiphany

  • Customer Discovery, which assesses market potential and customer preferences
  • Customer Validation, in early sales
  • Customer Creation, including strategy definition, startup launch, and iterative product  experimentation
  • Company Building, which prepares to “Cross the Chasm” in Geoffrey Moore’s model.
    Robert Baron

    Robert Baron

    Crossing the Chasm

Robert Baron of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute echoed Blanks emphasis on pattern recognition in his Academy of Management Perspectives article,

Opportunity Recognition as Pattern Recognition: How Entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to Identify New Business Opportunities” which he said enables entrepreneurs to evaluate:

  • Economic value
  • Newness
  • Desirability

by comparing existing “mental models” or cognitive prototypes and real-world exemplars to new offerings.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

He quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “…I should …wish…for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which. . .sees the possible…”

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis says that pattern recognition is a critical skill for in intelligent decision making, and cites Tor Nørretranders’s The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size to point out that most cognitive processing is outside of normal awareness.

In fact, his research suggests that over 99.99% of the processing in the brain happens at a subconscious level, and is therefore beyond our “control.”

Tor Nørretranders

Tor Nørretranders

She added to Blank’s description of “processing in the background” that synthesizing past
experience, intuition, and common sense and sorting out the “noise” can equip people with relative accurate “best guesses” about future occurrences.

The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size-Tor NørretrandersHowever, if the filter is overzealous, individuals may overlook opportunities because “cognitive dissonance” makes it uncomfortable to integrate information that doesn’t fit with an existing mental model.

Another cognitive bias is overlooking the potential impact of “wild cards” refer to low-probability, high-impact events.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the related idea of black swans: unforeseen rare, difficult-to-predict, high-impact, rare events – such as financial crises, natural disasters.

He observed that these occurrences are often explained away when hindsight reveals individual and collective “blindness” to uncertainty and its large role in these rare historical events.
His book recent book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, posits that randomness  enables strengthening processes under pressure and can catalyze positive change.

AntifragileHe celebrates volatility as a sign that recalibration may be more achievable than after long periods of stability enable risks to accumulate until a catastrophe.

Applied to career choices, he argues that a seemingly “secure” corporate job disguises dependency on a single employer – often an “at-will” employer, though he discounts the value of “economies of scale” in this work arrangement.

As a result, the unlikely possibility of unemployment leads to cataclysmic reduction in income.
In contrast, occupations with variable earnings, like sales or professional services, acclimates the individual to cyclic or unpredicted income reductions, and practice enables mitigation planning.

This perceptual bias impairs people’s accurate anticipation adaptation to changing.

Pattern recognition can be increased by mindful attention to thinking processes, and frequent self-reminders to scan for perceptual bias and unconscious cognitive processing.
However, other people’s unconscious cognitive processing can be an advantage for marketers, according to Douglas Van Praet, who suggests taking advantage of these via six steps to robust marketing in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) MarketingUnconscious Branding

  1. Interrupt the Recognized Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action.

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How Can Dance Inform Business Thinking?

Peter Lovatt

Peter Lovatt founded the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire, which combines his performance experience as a professional dancer with his training as a research psychologist.

In several TED talks, he marvels at his career trajectory because he “was rubbish at school,” and was relegated to Special Education classes, probably due to his undiagnosed ADHD.

His career demonstrates an innovative synthesis of disciplines with his current research agenda investigating the impact of dance on problem solving using divergent thinking and convergent thinking strategies.

Peter Lovatt at TED

Lovatt’s experiments demonstrated that volunteers who engaged in improvised dance movements solved divergent thinking problems more quickly than when they performed more structured dance maneuvers, or no movement at all.

Similarly, his work showed these volunteers increased their speed of solving convergent thinking problems after they engaged in choreographed dance moves.

These findings may not imply that innovation teams should engage in structured and unstructured movements at work, but it does support the positive impact of dance movement on neural processing speed and problem solving.

Lovatt extended this work to patients with Parkinson’s disease, known to disrupt divergent thinking processes, to validate his findings with normal volunteers.
He demonstrated that Parkinson’s disease patients improved the divergent thinking problem solving after they engaged in improvised dance sequences, and hypothesized that these patients develop new neural pathways to “work around” dopamine-depleted blockages.

Peter Lovatt leading dance experiment

Lovatt’s group found increases in self-esteem among participants in dance styles that:

  • Include more improvisational elements (“high degree of tolerance for not getting it right”),
  • Are gender or culturally neutral
  • Raise the heart rate
  • Are repetitive
  • Encourage looser fitting clothes (in contrast to ballet)
  • Are non-competitive

Related Post on impact of dance:
Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity 

Twyla Tharp

MacArthur Fellowship and Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp discussed innovation and collaboration through the lens of dance in two books with lessons applicable to business.

In The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life she asserts that creative expression requires perseverance, practice, hard work, “showing up,” and cultivating systematic habits to act upon innovative initiative.

This echoes the action-orientation advocated by Malcolm Gladwell in his observation of 10,000 hours of practice to develop virtuoso performance and by sports psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, summarized in these related posts:

Tharp’s The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together discusses both how collaboration can change the participants, and practical approaches to collaborative creation – which she acknowledges has not been completely smooth in some of her work with luminaries including Richard Avedon, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bob Dylan, Milos Forman,  Norma Kamali, Frank Sinatra.
Two related posts on Collaboration are:

Dance provides a fresh perspective and metaphor for business challenges including problem solving, innovation, and collaboration.

-*How do you react to Lovatt’s and Tharp’s application of movement in problem solving, collaboration and innovation?

Organizational Hierarchies are Easier to Understand, Remember, Manage – Especially those Lead by Men…

Larissa Tiedens

Larissa Tiedens of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Emily Zitek of Cornell, assert that “we produce hierarchies to make our lives easier cognitively… (so we) like them more.”

They conducted a series of studies, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, to investigate organizational structure preferences and their impact on organizational performance. They suggest that organizational design should be determined by organizational objectives rather than allegiance to the ideal of “equality” in all situations.

Emily Zitek

Tiedens and Zitek demonstrated that there was a negative correlation between remembering and liking hierarchies; that is, people didn’t like what they couldn’t easily remember, and they liked what they could remember.

They observed that participants had difficulty understanding and learning symmetric organizational relationships, in which people could give orders to peers and receive orders from these same peers.

Their final experiment determined that participants more quickly memorized hierarchies in which men were at the top, and surmised that male hierarchies are more familiar and expected than other types of social structures.
As with the other experiments, the subjects were more likely to express a preference for the structure they learned the quickest.

Tiedens and Zitek conclude that people generally understand, learn, and like hierarchies more than egalitarian relationships because they are predictable and familiar.
If firms eliminate hierarchies, Tiedens suggests making explicit specific role because “people need a way of organizing information, including information about relationships among people. You need a way to enhance people’s ability to understand what the organization is and how individuals operate within it.”

-*Which organizational hierarchies do you find most memorable? Which are most attractive to you?

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Biases in Unconscious Automatic Mental Processing, and “Work-Arounds”

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow’s Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior reviews evidence of automatic, out-of-awareness brain processing that handles emotional experience and routine task execution, in the same vein as  best sellers by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) and writer Malcolm Gladwell (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking).

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman

All three authors outline the potential costs of rapid mental processing: error and bias in perception and decision-making, which are less present during mindful analytic problem-solving.

Mlodinow, a Physics Professor at CalTech, has collaborated with Stephen Hawking on two books, and like Kahneman and Gladwell, is a talented storyteller who explains implications of laboratory-based research on cognition and brain functioning.

Carol Tavris

Carol Tavris

Psychologist Carol Tavris discusses the cost of similar biases in cognitive processing in Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, 

Numerous studies of erroneous eyewitness testimony demonstrate that memory is constructed of fragmentary elements “stitched” together to form a cohesive narrative.
This contrasts the notion that memory is a “snapshot” replica of an event.

Opportunities for cognitive error are apparent in this Constructivist view of perception and cognition.

Most authors suggest “mindful” practices to counteract inherent biases in cognitive short-cuts, consciously focusing in present perceptions and experiences.

Mlodinow’s previous book, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, demystifies the use of statistics in everyday life, and prepares readers with considered questions to avoid mis-judgments based on seemingly convincing quantitative data.

He demonstrates the prevalence of chance influences in life outcomes, and the pervasive illusion that people have control over many more outcomes than they actually do.

Mlodinow reminds readers that “success” and “failure” contain random influences, and “success” is more dependent on persistence and maintaining an optimistic outlook than raw ability.

-*What practices have helped you mitigate potential cognitive bias associated with rapid mental processing and cognitive “short-cuts”?

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How Gaming Can Help You Live Better and Longer

Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal

Game designer Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk that gaming fulfills the basic human wishes expressed by dying hospice patients:

• Work less hard
• Stay in touch with friends
• Let myself be happier
• Have the courage to express my true self
• Live a life true to my dreams

She discussed a practical game, Superbetter, she developed following her own experience of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which left her bedridden, in persistent pain, and suicidal for more than a year.

Based on her love of “Special Missions and Secret Objectives”, she developed four research-based challenges to increase her resilience and capabilities:

• Physical
• Mental
• Emotional
• Social

She asserts that these tasks help players strengthen abilities to remain motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenge, and boost physical and emotional well-being.
McGonigal links these capabilities to strengthening social support, increasing stamina and willpower.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that McGonigal’s twin sister and fellow Ph.D., Kelly McGonigal, conducts research at Stanford University on methods to increase willpower and compassion, and to reduce stress and pain.

Her recent book is The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

Jane McGonigal seems to triumph in this Jane vs. Colbert face-off …though he may have tried to distract her by mentioning that she is “a girl, and an attractive one at that…with that Big Hair…”

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

Six-time Stephen Colbert guest, Hayden Planetarium astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s commented that “you’re lucky to come away with your skin when you appear on Colbert’s show.”  Jane seemed to come away with her skin intact.

-*How have you seen gaming improve lives?
-*To what extent do you concur with the hospice patients’ wishes – and implied advice to younger people?

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“Nudging” Compassion, Resilience to Reduce Conflict, Stress

David DeSteno

David DeSteno, directs Northeastern University’s Social Emotions Lab, where he investigates cognitive and neurological mechanism related to social behavior.
In Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us , and at his PopTech talk, he shared how he investigated whether evoked compassion and empathy is associated with reduced aggression.

He described experiments in which volunteers solve math problems for money.
In some conditions, one of DeSteno’s associates posed as another volunteer and noticeably cheated to earn more money than the real volunteer.
In other conditions, the confederate abided by the rules.

For some experiments, the cheating confederate, a professional actor, evoked empathy and compassion by saying that she was  worried about her brother, who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In these situations, the volunteers were less likely to intentionally inflict discomfort on her in the following study of “taste perception,” a measure of aggression.

In this experimental trial, the volunteer measured a discretionary amount of extra-hot sauce into a cup for the cheating or non-cheating confederates to taste.

Volunteers poured five times more hot sauce for cheating confederates than non-cheating confederates, but they treated cheaters who evoked empathy the same as non-cheaters.

DeSteno noted most people are willing to help others who have some similarity to them, such as a shared identity of sharing a religious faith or hometown, or even are moving together as in conga lines, military drills.

He suggested that movement “synchrony causes separate identities to merge into one,” and demonstrated this trend in a music perception study, where volunteers in the same room tapped their hands on sensors when they heard tones.

In some conditions, the tones were synchronized so the volunteers were tapping at the same time as other volunteers, and in other conditions, the tones were independent.
De Steno found that 50% of volunteers who tapped at the same time were willing to help other volunteers, whereas 20% of those who tapped at different times helped others.
He concluded that volunteers felt more similar by tapping together, so felt more compassion, and were more likely to help others.

DeSteno is investigating social media like Facebook as a platform for sharing similarities to reduce aggression in conflict, cyber-bullying, victims of distant natural disasters.

He  said uses Cass Sunstein’s and Richard Thaler’s idea that small behavioral and organizational changes can “nudge” people to healthier, safer, more productive, and prosperous habits outlined in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness 

Their practical recommendations for designing effective “choice architecture” are consistent with DeSteno’s research-based findings:

* Align incentives with desired outcomes
* Identify possible alternative outcomes in familiar terms
* Provide default options that favor desired outcome behaviors
* Offer prompt, relevant feedback about choices and outcomes.
* Expect deviation from the targeted outcome, and build in ways to prevent, detect, and minimize this variance.
* Structure complex choices to reduce the difficulty of decisions-making

-*How have you seen “similarity” affect workplace collaboration and support?

-*Where have you seen organizations implement “choice architecture” to encourage employee behaviors toward positive goals?

BJ Fogg

Related Post
“Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes

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Online Brain Training For Attention, Memory, Processing Speed, Interpersonal Skills

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich is Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science and his work has been featured on four PBS specials: The Brain Fitness Program, Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound, The New Science of Learning, and Brain Fitness Frontiers.

He asserts that “you can change your brain at any age…You lose your memory because what you hear is not represented clearly in your brain.”
Posit’s online BrainHQ training is designed to help users develop and maintain accurate listening to better remember and speak

This 30-40 hour training uses tasks validated by scientific research to improve the accuracy of receiving information and using it.
Peer-reviewed research studies support the use of systematic brain training to combat the effects of age-related performance decrements, and to assist children with conditions that slow their progress in learning to read.

Posit’s online brain training helps users:
• Focus attention
• Increase brain speed
• Improve memory
• Enhance people skills

Like a gym membership, this series of exercises focuses on increasing strength, stamina, speed, resilience, and capacity.
Exercises include auditory processing, a foundation of accurate memory processing, and useful field of view, imperative in tasks like driving a car safely.

Merzenich discusses the development of brain plasticity from birth
and his TED Talk expands his remarks.

MyBrainSolution offers a different solution based on similar findings in brain plasticity and training studies.
Free trial .

-*What brain development practices have you seen render more benefits?

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