From Penn with Love: The 3 Positive Psychology-Infused Books you need to read in 2016

Nico Rose - Angela Duckworth - Adam Grant2016 is going to be a really nice year for non-fiction aficionados. Below, you´ll find three upcoming books that were all written by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania: Angela Duckworth, Adam Grant, and Scott Barry Kaufman.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

by Adam Grant will be out on February 2, 2016. About the content:

How can we originate new ideas, policies and practices without risking it all? Adam Grant shows how to improve the world by championing novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battling conformity, and bucking outdated traditions. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Parents will learn how to nurture originality in children, and leaders will discover how to fight groupthink to build cultures that welcome dissent.

Here´s what Malcolm Gladwell has to say about the book: “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.”

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth will be out on May 3, 2016. About the content:

Penn - Books - 2016Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments. Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. She takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance.

This is what Arianna Huffington thinks about the book: “At a time when our collective notion of success has shrunk to the point of being unrecognizable, Angela Duckworth arrives to restore it. With a mix of masterful storytelling and the latest science, she shows that perseverance and passion matter at least as much as talent and intelligence. And far from simply urging us to work harder for the sake of working harder, Grit offers a truly sane perspective: that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.”

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire will be out two days from now, on December 29, 2015. About the content:

The book offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Revealing the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking. Kaufman and Gregoire untangle a series of paradoxes – like mindfulness and daydreaming, seriousness and play, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration – to show that it is by embracing our own contradictions that we are able to tap into our deepest creativity.

What Martin Seligman has to say about the book: “Scott Barry Kaufman has just written the go-to book on creativity and genius. With Carolyn Gregoire, he puts together the newest scientific findings from the brain, from mental life and from the messy world of emotion to whiz us to the cutting edge of the highest human accomplishments.”

Happiness lies in the Joy of Achievement and the Thrill of creative Effort.

There are literally hundreds of quotes and definitions on “the happy life”. I find that a lot of them point towards the quieter, more modest forms of happiness, such as practicing gratitude – being content with what we have. 

But there are others sides to happiness – those can be found in the letter A of Martin Seligman’s PERMA definition of the good life. Therefore, I was thrilled to stumble upon this quote by former POTUS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Enjoy!

 

Another 3 Positive Psychology-infused Books I´m really looking forward to

This is the magic of books: One can never have enough of them. After publishing two lists of recent and upcoming books that are infused by Positive Psychology over the last days (list one, list two) people kept pointing my attention towards more exciting stuff. So here´s another list of three books that you should definitely put on your reading list.

Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind. Scott Barry Kaufman is the scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center and author of “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined”. About the book:

“Based on psychologist Kaufman’s groundbreaking research and Gregoire’s popular article in the Huffington Post, Wired to Create offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Revealing the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking.”

Jane McGonigal: SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games. Jane McGonigal is a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future and the author of The New York Times bestseller “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” About the book:

“McGonigal reveals a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games—including videogames, sports, and puzzles—change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She explains how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more “gameful” mind-set.”

D. J. Moores, James O. Pawelski & others (Eds.): On Human Flourishing: A Poetry Anthology. James Pawelski is the Director of Education and Senior Scholar in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he serves as the founding director of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program. About the book:

This collection of verse brings together poems of felicity, capturing what it means to be well in the fullest sense. Presented in 14 thematic sections, these works offer inspiring readings on wisdom, self-love, ecstasy, growth, righteousness, love and lust, inspiration, oneness with nature, hope, irreverence, awe, the delights of the senses, gratitude and compassion, relation to the sacred, justice, and unity.

Positive Psychology Books - 3

The ROI of Happiness: Spreading the News across Germany

Dr. Nico Rose - Handelsblatt CFO KongressI am super-happy today. Just came back from back-to-back talks on Positive Psychology / Positive Organizational Scholarship in Frankfurt and Munich. On Tuesday evening in Frankfurt, I spoke to a group of about 50 CFOs at a convention hosted by Handelsblatt, one of Germany´s premier financial news outlets. I was a bit nervous since, a) it was a dinner speech and I am not that experienced in giving speeches without a PowerPoint presentation; and b)  I am obviously not a CFO myself – all participants were much older and more advanced in their careers than I am right now. Nevertheless, people were listening attentively and I received a lot of positive feedback. These were my ten main points to convince the financial leaders that investing in their employees´ happiness will bring them a solid financial return:

  1. Compensation: Happy employees are more intrinsically motivated and therefore need less extrinsic motivation. In turn, a happy workforce helps to keep personnel costs at a reasonable level over time.
  2. Health: Happy employees are sick less often, and if they are, return to work after fewer days. This helps to keep healthcare costs in check.
  3. Retention: Happy employees stay with companies for a longer time and create positive word-of-mouth. This helps to keep save costs concerning the functions of employer branding, recruiting, and training.
  4. Cooperation: Happy employees typically display more positive self-regard and therefore are better at handling conflict and situations that entail negotiation.Dr. Nico Rose - Handelsblatt CFO Forum
  5. Engagement: Happy employees display more organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and therefore are willing to take on responsibility over and beyond their role descriptions and department boundaries.
  6. Innovation: Happy employees are more creative on average. This may foster innovation processes.
  7. Problem-solving: Additionally, they will find solutions to existing problems faster and more frequently.
  8. Meaning: Happy employees experience more meaning at work – which is one of the strongest drivers of motivation and engagement.
  9. Contagion: Happy employees will make other employees happy (at least: happier) by way of emotional contagion, potentially creating an upward-spiral of emotional well-being in the workplace.
  10. Customer Satisfaction: Happy employees will make your customers happy – via their motivation, exceptional engagement, and emotional contagion as well.

Since I was talking to CFOs, I closed my speech by referring to an article from the Journal of Financial Economics. In a paper titled “Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices”, Wharton´s Alex Edmans was able to show that a fictional stock portfolio build out of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America’’ (as a proxy for companies whose employees are highly satisfied) has significantly outperformed carefully selected benchmarks on a yearly basis between 1984 and 2009. Ain´t that nice? They day after in Munich in a very stylish old movie theater, I spoke about Positive Psychology in general to 160 people working for the German branch of the Bonnier Group, a Scandinavian publishing house. Hopefully, this gave them tons of ideas for new books on Positive Psychology here in Germany. 🙂 Since this was my wife´s birthday and I couldn´t be home that day until dinner, I asked my audience to sing “Happy Birthday” for her – and they did. Thank you, kind people at Bonnier…

Foto credits: Euroforum / Handelsblatt

10 more Positive Psychology-related TED talks you don´t want to miss

I´ve already posted a list of 20+1 Positive Psychology TED talks a while ago. Here´s some more for you…

The Ultimate Piece of “Positive Technology”? The Driverless Car!

Traffic Jam

Via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Yesterday, I did something that I have done just twice this entire year: I drove a car.

I was booked to give a talk in a smalller city near the North Sea coast and had to drive up there for about three hours. As I do not own a car, I had to rent one and then took to the famous German Autobahn. Yes, you´ve read correctly: I´m a German man and I don´t own a car. And in fact, I´ve never had one and I probably never will in this life.

And yesterday, I was powerfully reminded of why this is the case: because it´s a stupid waste of time. I wonder how many billion hours of human consciousness are lost each and every day because people have to sit behind a steering wheel staring at the car in front of them (or the empty road if things go well). How many books could be read in that time? How many blog posts or love letters could be written? How many business plans could be created?

I wonder how many billion hours of human consciousness are lost each and every day because people have to sit behind a steering wheel staring at the car in front of them.

Ok, not each and every country has the same quality public transportation system as Germany does (I take busses, trains, and the occasional cab to go basically everywhere). And yes, I do concede some people have fun while driving. Supposedly, it gives them a sense of freedom and being in control. And yes, driving a car, you can listen to music, you can make phone-calls using a hands-free kit, and you could even see driving as a mindfulness exercise – but let´s be honest here: how many people really do this on a regular basis? It´s no surprise that CEOs and other “VIPs” typically have a chauffeur. Their time is seen as too valuable to be driving a car. But isn´t that true for all of us?

That´s why I believe that driverless cars will be one of the most important pieces of (positive) technology to hit the market in the near future. Yes, it´s not that far away. If you´re interested, please check out this superb article that´ll tell you that they are already driving around on our streets, at least in some parts of the USA – and they are already (at least) as safe as the average human driver.

The point of market entry can and will be postponed by a couple of years, mostly because of juridical problems in the context of accountability (Who´s responsible when a driverless car causes an accident?) – but as always, those things will be worked out at the end of the day. Market entry will probably be postponed by the car manufacturers themselves, because they will – ironically –  be the biggest losers in this game (and that´s some very bad news for Germany, as millions and millions of jobs depend on the automotive sector). But it´s going to happen.

Here´s what we´re going to see in my imagination: Google will buy Tesla and afterwards Uber. Google has the navigational data and the necessary technologies in robotics and visual detection, Tesla has premium eco-friendly cars and especially the battery technology, and Uber will supply the reservation system. Of course, there could be lots of other contestants, but I don´t think this stunt can be pulled of by small start-ups – there´s too much money involved in R&D.

So, why is all of this bad news for car manufacturers?

Because personally owning a car is one of the most inefficient things a lot of us do. Cars that are not commercially used just stand around at least 90% of the day. And when we use them, we use them inefficiently. We´re driving alone most of the time instead of using up all of the available space, and we´re bad drivers in the sense that we do not take the shortest available route, that we create traffic jams, and so on. So basically, once the technology will be market-ready, the demand for cars is going to plummet to (my personal estimation) some 20% percent of the current level within a couple of years. This is also consistent with most surveys of Gen Y – most of them want connected and flawless mobility, but do not want to own a car. We will need to have a sufficient supply of driverless cars and they will have to be replaced regularly because they will be used almost without rest periods. And of course, some people still will want to own a car – just because. But otherwise, there´s going to be a lot less of them. And believe me, this is very(!!) good news for mankind, except for the automotive industry (and cab/truck drivers, probably).

Driverless driving means

  • more efficient usage (less standstill, more car sharing, always use of shortest distance etc.) = less cars = less use of fossil fuel/less pollution and other natural resources (this also pertains to the manufacturing process);
  • saver travel as driverless cars will produce far less accidents. More than 30.000 people are killed in the USA per year in car accidents. Most of those are caused by human error. Driverless cars will overlook fewer objects and they will also communicate with each other. This will not only minimize accidents but will also more or less eradicate traffic jams – as cars will be driving in a kind of convoy and otherwise, actively try to avoid crowded routes;
  • less stress and burnout and other health-related issues (see this Time article for an overview over negative effects of commuting);
  • massive unharnessing of human consciousness as people will be able to concentrate on more productive issues that steering a car from A to B.

The biggest hurdle to take (apart from the juridical challenges mentioned above) is the quality and cost of the visual detection unit that ensures the autonomous car does not hit other objects. The one that Google uses right now for their projects supposedly costs around 80.000 US$ per unit. But if you take a look at, e.g., the development of the cost for computer storage over the past decades, you basically know it´s just a matter of time until a system will be available for the mass market.

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… 🙂

 

Picture source