What's It All About?
Much of my current curiosity and passion for doing something is driven by the themes described in this presentation given by Sir Ken Robinson. The institutions we live in seem to subvert the human spirit of our birth right. While Sir Robinson laments the soft tyranny of our educational systems, one can see similar travesties in our bureaucratic institutions and projects of many kinds. It is to our peril if we ignore these dysfunctions of our modern age. More than ever, we need the full creative capacities of people to face the challenges, seen and unseen, headed our way.
This is not a website devoted to surly messages. For the most part, the visitor will find an optimistic pursuit of ideas and potential for human projects. In keeping with Sir Robinson's key antidote against suppressing the human spirit, I intend to make a lot of mistakes in crafting this website, and worry little about it. The goal is to fill it with enough gems that someone will find just what they needed.
What Makes it Worthwhile?
In this animated presentation (The Surprising Truth About Motivation), Dan Pink looks at the research about "human" motivation in organizations. I don't think his is the last word on the matter, and certainly not the only model that describes motivation in organizations. But he makes a compelling case for changing management-as-usual, if the aim is to get high performance. Current practices do just the opposite.
In situations where even a moderate level of cognitive activity is required, the rules of motivation are diametrically opposite of the reward-incentive approaches typically in practice. It turns out that when cognitive skills are needed, the greatest motivators and rewards are: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Indeed, Dan Pink claims that we are "Purpose Optimizers." What's amazing is that monetary incentives actually REDUCE performance when cognitive tasks are involved.
The Autonomy and Mastery variables are interesting as well. People respond with higher motivation when given flexibility to be creative. And, they respond with higher motivation when opportunities are provided for advancing their mastery of skills, knowledge, and control over things.
The Power of Vulnerability
Like many things in life, this counter-intuitive insight is a powerful key to unlocking the potential of human relationships. Brene Brown reviews her research efforts over the past umpteen years to understand how "connection" works. This led her through a meandering path about shame, fear, courage, love, worthiness, and the importance of vulnerability. The quality of relationships rests upon authenticity and this inevitably gets down to how comfortable we are with our vulnerabilities.
This is a most inspiring presentation. I highly suggest you have a look at it. You won't be the same after you do. There is an adage somewhere about wisdom as being able to see a familiar thing for the first time, anew. This is one of those looks. When you're finished, I suspect you will see yourself again, familiar, but with a new level of appreciation. And, that appreciation will extend to others you know as well.
Brene Brown's work about connectedness and vulnerability led to her to further study about the ultimate "culprit" in this whole affair; viz., SHAME. She points out that shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is about "I did something wrong," whereas shame is about "I am something wrong." The former is a behavioral issue and more easily reconcilable than the latter. Shame is an existential problem. It makes us want to "stay small" or keep "under the radar." It makes us remain less than we are. It is highly correlated with addiction, depression, bullying, violence, suicide, eating disorders. Guilt, on the other hand, is inversely correlated with those things.
Another thing that Brene brings out in this video is that shame is organized by gender. While it feels the same for both men and women, the driving factors are different. For women, is the unattainable and competing expectations about who they are supposed to be. For men, it is more simply, do not be perceived as weak. While simpler for men, it is more deadly in that getting comfortable with vulnerability is less attainable. Surprisingly, women push this on men more so than other men do.
All of this is ultimately aimed at a heightened level of happiness. When the Dali Lama was asked about the purpose of life, he replied:"To be happy." And this leads us to the next video below by Daniel Kahneman.
What Do We Know About Happiness?
Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist, Nobel Laureate in Economics, and author of Thinking Fast and Slow, posits that we have two selves. One is an "experiencing" self. It operates on a very short time frame of mere seconds. The other is a "remembering" self. It operates in a distorted time frame that keeps score by creating stories about the experiencing self. Most of the experiencing self is fleeting and lost, except for what is captured by the remembering self to create mental narratives. What defines a story are changes, significant moments, and endings. As it turns out, the ENDINGS are the most important part. They determine whether it is a good story or a bad story. When we make decisions, it is the remembering self that shapes our choices. That is, when we decide about something, we are really selecting toward a future story.
Happiness is also distinctly different between the experiencing self and the remembering self. The former reflects our actual well-being moment to moment and how we live. The latter reflects our life story and general satisfaction with things. The two are not the same and there is a very loose correlation between happiness in one and happiness in the other.
Daniel Kahneman is Senior Scholar, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus, and Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University. He is also a Fellow of the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has held the position of Professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1970--1978), the University of British Columbia (1978--1986), and the University of California, Berkeley (1986--1994). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and the Econometric Society. He received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (2002); the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1982) and the Grawemeyer Prize (2002), both jointly with Amos Tversky; the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (1995); the Hilgard Award for Career Contributions to General Psychology (1995); and the Lifetime Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (2007). He is the recipient of the 2011 Talcott Parsons Prize of the American Academy. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.
Two Systems of Mind
Daniel Kahneman, in collaboration with Amos Tverski, also uncovered and explicated two systems of mind. System One is fast, intuitive, emotional, and "worldly." It works almost effortlessly, can multi-task, and integrate large amounts of information -- even subtle information. But ... it is highly fallible to errors in logic. System two is slow, analytic, logical, and requires mental effort or deliberate cognitive cycles. System two requires huge allocations of a very scare resource; viz., attention. Because of this, systems one and two can interfere with each other. His recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, lays out the empirical work. If you are interested, but don't have the time to digest the full thing, there is an abridged version available on Amazon Kindle, Thinking, Fast and Slow ... in 30 minutes.
The Advent of Positive Psychology
What Turns Us On?