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Category Archive: interventions

The Science of Interest

interestingOn Annie Murphy Paul’s predictably interesting The Brillant Blog, there are two new posts about interest; about what it is, how it develops and what its consequences are (here and here). I’ll try to summarize -and paraphrase, here and there- some of the things she writes but do visit her blog to read more.

Annie writes about the emerging science of interest which shows that, when we are interested, we process information better and deeper, we work harder and persist longer. So, when do we find things interesting? It seems that, in order to be interesting, things must be novel, complex and comprehensible. Once we are interested in something, our interest may autonomously grow and develop further because when we know something about our topic of interest, new information we come across may not fit well with what we know. Because we want to resolve the conflict between what we know and the new information, our interest is sustained. Click here to read more »

Why we don’t use the concept of the future perfect

The main inspiration for our progress-focused approach is the work by Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer and their colleagues of the Brief Family Therapy Center (read all about it here). These pioneers, building on the work of Milton Erickson, The Mental Research Institute, and others, developed the core of what is now known as solution-focused brief therapy.

We – and many other people – started applying the principles and techniques outside the context of psychotherapy, some 13 years ago. In recent years, we have started to call our approach ‘the progress-focused approach’. We are still indebted to the work by de Shazer, Berg and others but our approach has evolved in different directions than mainstream solution-focused work seems to have evolved. Click here to read more »

Alfie Kohn’s critique on praise (which differs from Carol Dweck’s)

Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards, has written an article, Criticizing (common criticisms of) praise, in which he says that his critique on praise differs from Carol Dweck’s critique on praise. Kohn views praise as a way of doing something to people instead of working with them and he prefers the latter. Apart from this value judgement, he says, praise has the negative effect of undermining people’s intrinsic motivation for the task they are praised for. Furthermore, praise, according to Kohn, signals conditional acceptance (while children need unconditional care). Kohn points out what he is not arguing for: 1) to praise less frequently, 2) to praise more meaningful, 3) to praise for effort rather than ability, 4) to give kids only praise when they deserve it. Click here to read more »

Discuss progress with each other

discussBy focusing on progress in meaningful work, your work experience and your performance are stimulated. It is useful to make explicit what progress you have achieved, for example by keeping a progress diary. If you don’t make progress explicit it may well be that you are not aware of the progress you are actually making. This is because progress can remain largely invisible if you don’t consciously focus on it. The reason for this is that we usually focus our conscious attention mainly on what has gone wrong and on what we still have to do. Progress which you have already made is thus easily overlooked. Click here to read more »

Focus on meaningful work

Harnessing the progress principle, requires that you, at least on several days of the week, make time to focus and work undisturbed, at least for half an hour to an hour, on work that is most meaningful for you.

In a new interview, Teresa Amabile says that in many organizations creative work is hampered by a continuous stream of demands and distractions which comes their way. She’s talking about emails, interruptions, deadlines, and the incessant pressure to be productive and creative. She compares working in many organizations with walking on a treadmill and suggests that in many organizations the speed of the treadmill has become higher and higher. Click here to read more »

The NOAM 7 steps approach of progress focused work

Remove obstacles

Making progress in meaningful work is one of the most motivating factors for employees. Therefore, it is important to talk about and to describe desired and achieved progress, frequently. But did you know that negative occurrences such as setbacks and failures can have a  2 to 3 times stronger (negative) effect on motivation than positive factors? This was shown in a study by Amabile and Kramer.

Because negative events can have such a strong negative impact it is important to, whenever you can, prevent and take away any disturbing factors. Managers play an important role  in this. As a manager, by removing obstacles, you can enable motivated employees to make the progress they want to make. Here are four examples of such obstacles: Click here to read more »

5 steps to harness the progress principle

In their large-scale study, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have discovered that making progress in meaningful work is a main contributor to a positive work life and to good performance (Read more about this study, here). Here are a few practical suggestions to harness the power of meaningful progress.

  1. Define ‘meaningful': It is progress in meaningful work which is so motivating. Therefore it is important to know what ‘meaningful’ means to you. You can do this by deliberate thinking about what is important to you at work and by discussing meaningfulness with colleagues and managers. Chances are, you will start to start to see the meaningfulness of your work better and maybe you will even manage to increase it. > More about this Click here to read more »

How to compose a successful critical commentary

In his new book, Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking, Daniel Dennett describes a list of rules made by social psychologist Anatol Rapoport for how to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

3 Questions and answers about the growth mindset

mindsetxYesterday, I attend a congress presentation which included a section about the advantages of a growth mindset. After the presentation there was room for a few questions from the audience. The following questions were asked: 1) Can you change people’s mindset?,  2) What proportion of the people have a fixed mindset and what proportion have a growth mindset?, 3) Is it really necessary that everybody has a growth mindset? Wouldn’t it be better to have a combination of people with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset in your team?


These are questions I have heard before and which I think are interesting. The presenter gave some good answers but I have some additional answers I’d like to share here. Click here to read more »

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