Want to be lucky? Prepare, be there, express & say yes!

Nico Rose - TEDxBergenYesterday, I told you that I would be going to give a TEDx talk at Bergen/Norway today. And that´s already history by now. I had a great time and would like to congratulate the TEDxBergen team for the great job that they´ve done (the event is entirely run by students!). Thanks for inviting me…

Since it´s probably going to take a couple of days until there´s a video available, let me give you a bit of advance information. My topic was: “How to be the architect of your own fortune”. I talked about how some People be seem to be luckier than others by sort of inviting luck into their lives.

In doing so, I cited some work by Richard Wiseman, Esa Saarinen, Steven Johnson/Stuart Kauffman, and Angela Duckworth. I also integrated some quotes by Louis Pasteur, Woody Allen, and Richard Branson, and talked about how God “manages”.

Here´s the summary, basically – which was also my punchline for the talk. If you want to bring more luck into your life, this is how it goes:

Prepare, be there, express & say yes!

Watch out for my video in a couple of days…

 

A TEDx Talk on the Art of Being Lucky

Just a short info: right now, I’m on my way to Bergen in Norway. Tomorrow, I’ll be a speaker at TEDxBergen. I was invited to give this talk just five days ago – because another speaker had to cancel. Lucky me.
That’s why I decided to give a talk on luck and serendipity – and how we can be the architects of our own luck. I’ll share it here once it is available online…

Excellence in Creativity: Of Poets and mad Conductors

Arianna HuffingtonFrom last week’s Wednesday to Friday I stayed at London’s beautiful St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (where the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” video was shot) to attend a conference that my employer Bertelsmann held for about 200 top executives. The overarching motto for the conference was creativity – since, as a media company, our biggest asset is creative output in all of its forms. Among the many guest speakers were people such as Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar, Simon Cowell, Arianna Huffington, E.L. James (author of “50 Shades”), will.i.am, and Beth Ditto.

DittoHere, I´d like to share three things (or rather: people) that impressed me the most – and whose topics also have a distinct connection to Positive Psychology.

First in line is Arianna Huffington who said a lot of smart things about mindfulness, meditation, getting enough sleep etc. – while gracefully marketing her book “Thrive”. Here´s the one sentence that really lingered in my mind:

Your eulogy will not be resumé.

Second, I was deeply impressed by poet David Whyte – who taught me about the power of words, allowing for repetition, long pauses – and speaking without PowerPoint. It is really hard to recount his talk without sounding corny – so instead you might want to watch his TED talk:

And finally, I tremendously enjoyed the talk of conductor Itay Talgam, who illustrated different leadership styles by showing video footage of some of the greatest conductors of the past and present. He also has a TED talk out there. So enjoy!

 

Here´s how Organizations create a Culture of extraordinary Creativity

For a long time, people have been interested in creativity, especially “creative geniuses” such as Mozart, Edison, or van Gogh. We´ve tried to find out what is “special” about these persons: was there something extraordinary about their intellect, their personality, even their brains?

While these are very interesting questions, there is another angle on creativity that may be somewhat more relevant to our everyday lives. Creativity and, in turn, innovation, are key facets of enduring success for most organizations on this planet. Most of this creative output will be “everyday creativity”, not some big mind-blowing leap into another dimension: small, incremental changes that lead to a competitive advantage at least for a while. So while it is surely helpful to ask “How can I get exceptionally creative people on board?” – an even more important question could be:

Killing CreativityHow can we create organizational cultures that foster creativity in each and every person?

As noted in the beginning, research on this special topic is more scarce than then the investigation of individual creativity – but it has been done. Researcher Laird D. McLean has published an article that reviews studies on the connection of organizational culture and creativity, roughly from the 1960s to 2000, incorporating findings from experts such as Harvard´s Theresa M. Amabile and Rosabeth M. Kanter.

Here are the key factors that separate highly creative organizations from the rest:

  • Organic design: influence is based on expertise instead of position, decision-making authority is decentralized.
  • Organizational encouragement: risk-taking is valued and evaluated supportively; collaborative idea flow and participative decision-making is fostered.
  • Supervisory encouragement: managers clarify team goals and support team’s creative work, support open interaction.
  • Work group encouragement: organization actively fosters/leverages diversity, integrating creative personalities into “organizational mainstream”.
  • Freedom and autonomy: organization grants sovereignty to employees with regard to determining the means by which to achieve goals.
  • Resources: finding the „golden mean“ with regard to time and money: scarcity produces fear, distrust, and burnout, excess decreases creative performance.

No rocket science, huh…? If you are a manager, now go out and do that… :-)

 

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New Article in Professional Magazine: Workplace Happiness and Job Crafting

Mach Dich zufriedenFor my German-speaking readers…

In the October issue of managerSeminare, Germany´s premier professional magazine for coaching and training, the lead article is concerned with workplace happiness and job satisfaction. I´ve been interviewed for that piece and was able to contribute some notions on job-crafting as theorized by MAPP lecturer Amy Wrzesniewski.

The print article lies behind a paywall but I might be able obtain a PDF to share in some weeks. In the meantime, you might want to listen to a podcast based on that article. This is available for free. Enjoy!

By the way: an article from spring 2014 in that same Magazine, which deals with a more general introduction to Positive Psychology, can be obtained for free here.

 

The Eudaimonic Wellbeing and Happiness of Undertakers

UndertakerYesterday, I gave a one-hour introductory talk on Positive Psychology. Yet, the listeners weren´t your usual business crowd. The talk was embedded in a convention of about 100 undertakers (more formally: morticians); precisely, they were a youth organization (in this case meaning: under 40) of the “German Association of Morticians”. The convention was held in a larger hotel complex and there even was an exhibition for hearses, caskets, urns, and other…well…undertaker supplies. Actually, some of the regular hotel guests looked a bit scared.

While introducing Marty Seligman´s PERMA model of flourishing and talking about meaning in life, and interesting question came to my mind: Are undertakers happier or unhappier than the average person? And: are they experiencing higher levels of eudaimonic well-being in their lives?

Obviously, undertakers are confronted with death and mortality all the time – but not necessarily their own mortality. Yet, this could be the case, of course. And this, in turn, should lead to specific consequences. Making people think about their own death (inducing a “limited time perspective”) has been shown to increase prosocial behavior and diminish one´s “extrinsic value orientation”. And this is associated with higher eudaimonic well-being.

I did some straw polls with their participants. Most confirmed that they are leading fulfilled lives. But they also admitted there seems to be a high prevalence of burnout in that profession – probably as a consequence of the “emotional work” it entails.

Anyway, that should be an interesting study from many different angles: comparing undertakers with the general population. Anyone wants to do it?

 

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The Scientific Case for Compassion – feat. a TEDx Talk by Dacher Keltner

Even though the idea of compassion lies at the heart of virtually each and every religious and spiritual movement (with Buddhism and the Dalai Lama problably being the frontrunner), psychological science has ignored this important feature of our human nature for quite a long time, describing it as a subtype of other, more primary emotions. Starting with research on meditation, such as carried out by pioneers such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, the topic has slowly but surely entered the “regular” academic discourse. Nowadays, the science of compassion is a full-blown discipline, being researched, e.g., at Stanford´s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) or Berkeley´s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC).

In 2010, researchers Jennifer L. Goetz, Dacher Keltner, and Emiliana Simon-Thomas authored a review article that sought to make a case for the idea that compassion is a truly distinctive feature on the continuum of human behavior and emotion. Here´s what they have to say in their conclusion:

Our review reveals compassion to arise out of distinct appraisal processes, to have distinct display behaviors, distinct experiences, and an approach-related physiological response. The state like experience of compassion, and the trait like tendency to feel compassion, fall under the purview of three evolutionary arguments: that compassion evolved as part of a caregiving response to vulnerable offspring, that compassionate individuals were preferred in mate selection processes, and that compassion emerged as a desirable trait in cooperative relations between non-kin.

If you want to hear the full story, please read the aforementioned article. You may also want to watch this TEDx talk by Dacher Keltner (who´s the director of the aforementioned GGSC). Enjoy!