7 wonderful TED Talks related to Positive Psychology (Self-Motivation, Body Language, Positive Stress… and more)

Here, I present to you seven (more or less…) recent TED talks related to Positive Psychology. Enjoy!

Here´s an older list of 20 TED talks based on Positive Psychology. And by the way: I firmly believe that my own TEDx talk needs to have a least one million views. That´s just 996.783 to go. Are you going to help me out? :-)

Your Strengths, as seen by Others: The Best Reflected Self™ Exercise

If you’re a bit like me, you do have a hard time talking about your strengths. As a German, I tend to be not that good at this – it basically is not really something that you do in our culture. I could tell you a long story about each and everyone of my flaws, but you probably don’t want to hear that.

Maybe you don’t even know what your strength are. So how are you going to find out? Obviously, there’s lots of tests and questionnaires out there. By way of example, you could take the Gallup StrengthFinder, or the VIA Questionnaire which will display your personal order of 24 character strengths according to a framework by Positive Psychology researchers Christopher Peterson and Marty Seligman.

But then, you might feel uncomfortable with regard to being assessed by an algorithm. Those tests are very reliable but on the other hand, they will only show you results depending on a fixed framework. What others really think of you or perceive as being your strengths could be a lot more nuanced than what those tests will be able to show you.

Granted, might feel a little awkward asking other people to name your strength. The good thing is: there is a structured framework to achieve just that: the Best Reflected Self™ exercise. It was developed at University of Michigan´s Center for Positive Organizations and you can purchase the official exercise book there in case you want to use the that tool with your students or clients.

But basically, it involves just a couple of easy steps:

1) You ask a group of people that know you (friends, relatives, coworkers, clients etc.) to provide you with feedback. They should tell you what your strengths are from their point of view and ideally provide examples to back up their opinion. Instead of asking people in person, yesterday, I reached out to my network on Facebook to do just that:

Best_Reflected_Self

2) You gather all the responses and try to identify common themes. Here, I tried to detect all the words that alluded to a strength, turned them into nouns, and then harmonized those terms that represent very similar concepts. Finally, I took the result and inserted it into http://www.wordle.net. Here´s what came out of it (it´s German, but I guess you´ll understand most of it anyway):

Best Reflected Self - Nico Rose

3) Now, write up a paragraph, summarizing your findings, describing what you are really, really good at: this is your personal strengths profile.

4) Finally, you should reflect on your current life roles with regard to this profile. E.g., does your current job give you frequent opportunities to play on your strengths? And if the answer is “no”: what could you do to adapt your role so it better reflects your best self (–> Job Crafting)?

I have to admit it was really touching to get all this positive feedback. Typically, when you work in an organization, you tend to get feedback (if things go well…) based on what you do well, but mostly on your potential (a.k.a.: where you need to improve). Explicitly asking people to look on your bright side exclusively yields a special kind of learning experience – it´s like a mirror that somehow manages to make you look really, really good. I definitely know that it´s an idealized picture that I don’t live up to each and every day – but I know that I have it me. And I can rely on it when life requires me to shine…

7 Research Articles linking Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing to Performance and Success Measures

One of the most stunning ideas from the field of Positive Psychology is that happiness (and other forms of positive affect) are not only a consequence, but also a prerequisite for success and performance in organizations. Yet, to be honest, the empirical evidence is still very scarce. Especially the link between employee happiness and performance on the organizational level is still uncharted territory to a great extent. Yet, some things are out there – here´s a little compilation for you.

  1. The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success
  2. Happiness at work
  3. The moderating role of employee positive well being on the relation between job satisfaction and job performance
  4. Psychological well-being and job satisfaction as predictors of job performance
  5. The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited
  6. On the role of positive and negative affectivity in job performance: A meta-analytic investigation
  7. Well-being and organizational performance: An organizational-level test of the happy-productive worker hypothesis

Happiness_Success

A Robot will probably take your Job soon. Here’s why we should be Happy about it

RobotThis is off-topic, but then, it might not be that off at the end of the day…

In June, I attended INSEAD, France’s premier MBA School, for a week of executive education. Basically, we were taught change management, strategy, and finance. At one point, we were discussing the consequences of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics. Over the last couple of years, a lot of articles and books have been published on this subject. Quite a lot of those take on a distinctly pessimistic perspective, claiming that squillions of jobs will be lost in the process. And indeed, a Chinese firm has announced that it plans to build the first robot-only factory site. Additionally, if you want to know the likelihood of being replaced by a computer in the medium run, please check this article on Fortune.com.

Now the fascinating question is: Is this a good or a bad development? The answer may, in fact, depend on the timeframe we´re looking at – and on the scope we´re considering. Have a look at this “arithmetic” problem that was given to us by INSEAD profesor Kevin Kaiser:

If a farmer with a tractor can do the work of 100 farmers without a tractor in the same amount of time: What´s the value of the tractor? The answer is: 99 farmers that are able to do something else.

This is basically what has happened over the last 1000 years or so. In the middle-ages, only a tiny fraction of the population was not working in farming. Even though, mankind could barely produce enough food to sustain itself. Today, only one percent of the U.S. population is working in that profession. The output per farmer has multiplied twelvefold – and that only covers the timeframe between 1950 and today. Just try to imagine the magnitude of the difference between a medieval and a modern farmer.

Now what has happened to those several hundred millions of people that aren’t farmers any more? Did they all become “unemployed farmers” and starved to death? The answer is no, of course. Over time, lots of them became craftsmen or merchants, later on, factory workers, service agents, psychologists, game designers, bloggers …,  [fill in whatever you like]. In short: they did something else – at least in the long run!

The idea that technological advancements will lead to large-scale unemployment is known as luddite fallacy, named after early 19th century textile workers in England, who protested against the implementation of mechanical stocking frames, culminating in riots and the destruction of factory equipment. It´s called “fallacy” because the machine breakers turned out to be wrong. They (mostly) did not starve: they did something else instead.

The fallacy is based on the assumption that there´s a limited amount of work in this world – so when a part of that whole is automated, it is “lost” to humans. This assumption is most likely wrong. We´re constantly developing new jobs (mostly services) that fulfill certain needs arising with the arrival of new technologies. By example, this article lists ten jobs that did not exist ten years ago. My question is: Why should this development suddenly come to an end?

Yes, it is true. Millions of people will lose their job to a computer or robot over the next 20 to 30 years. And from the vantage point of the individual, there will be tragedies. Some people clearly will not be able to cope. But: In the long run, people will do something else. They will not sit around and wait until they starve. They will do something else.

And again, it is true. For a lot of us, it is not clear as of now what this “something else” might be like. But I am a die-hard optimist. I am firmly convinced that whatever remains (or arises) will be more fulfilling than those jobs that are going extinct. Let´s be honest: Those jobs in that robot factory in China: how satisfying would they have been for human workers? And even if, somewhere in the near future, algorithms will be able to write news articles that are comparable in quality to those of human journalists, those journalists will find more creative work that cannot be matched by a computer program.

Recently, the German “new work guru” and former IBM executive Prof. Gunther Dueck said in a keynote:

“The simple part of work will disappear – for all of us. What remains is the challenging (or: sophisticated) part – for all of us.

Let´s all find out what the sophisticated part of our work is – the one that is truly creative and fulfilling: the one that cannot be matched by a silicone chip.

P.S.

If you want to know more, please read this article by Forbes contributor and new work expert Steve Denning: The ‘Jobless Future’ Is A Myth. Another angle on that story is provided by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Markoff. In an intriguing long-read for Edge.org titled The Next Wave, he makes the point that we´re probably overestimating what artificial intelligence will be able to achieve in the near future. By way of example, he showcases results from a recent robotics contest, where most machines weren’t even able to properly used a door handle (“If you’re worried about the Terminator, just keep your door closed”).

The 7 Habits of Highly Obnoxious Self-Help Articles

Double Face-PalmIn the light of recent events, here´s my list of the seven habits of highly obnoxious self-help articles:

1) Know-what: They tell you what to do instead of how to achieve it.

That’s basically useless. People typically know what´s “good and right”.

2) Scienciness: They tell you that “science says ” (or “research says”) XYZ without further explanation or linking to the original sources.

I mean, seriously? Go and do your homework!

3) Sloppiness: They use vacuous stock photos.

That´s not a crime, but as a matter of fact, inconsiderate. If I see one more article on Positive Psychology adorned with a smiley, I´ll go bonkers (…yet I plead guilty to having done that in the past).

4) One-track mind: They claim to make you “successful” – equating success with money.

Life is complex and colorful – and success comes in all shapes and sizes. Cash is only a small part of the equation.

5) Lectio interruptus: They tell you part of the story but then require you to download/buy XYZ to get the whole picture.

Hey, if you mojo is really worth it, I´m more than happy to buy your book. But don´t force me to.

6) Megalomania: They tell you that “after reading this all your problems (in the area of XYZ…) are solved forever”.

Duh…

7) Simpleness: They tell you that whatever they propose is “easy”.

Adding two and two is easy. But life mostly is not, at least not those things in life that are worth striving for. Get used to it…