Happiness At Work #61 – how relationships matter to our learning, our communication and our happiness

The stories we are specially highlighting from this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, draw out ideas and new understandings about the connection and importance of relationships, to our happiness, yes, but for our learning and our creativity too.  And as well, as of course, to our effective communications, for the very definition of communicate, from its Latin root communicare means to share, to exchange.  And thus communication without relationship is more than an oxymoron, it is an impossibility.

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

–by Roman Krznaric

If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid…

…empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history—and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years—reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

…Respect the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. Highly Empathetic People challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them…

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. Highly Empathetic People expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”…

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,”  attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” Highly Empathetic People listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences…

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change…

Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children.  That’s why Highly Empathetic People support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence—and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement…

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of Highly Empathetic People is that they do far more than empathise with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough…

Empathising with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organisations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

Link to read this story in full, including  another video talk

50 Smiles Guaranteed To Make You Smile (get happy in less than 5 minutes)

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~Mother Teresa

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

Ken Wert writes…

It seems that with smiling, you can actually have your cake and eat it too!

Not only are smiles expressions of positive feelings (like happiness, excitement and enjoyment), the act of smiling, even if forced, enhances the very positive feelings that make us want to smile. So the smile is both cause and effect. The more we smile, even if we don’t particularly feel like it, the more we feel like it.

Moreover, one person’s smile is another person’s reason to smile. The smile, it turns out, is one of the most contagious of human conditions.

Why a post filled to the brim with happy faces?

This post is meant to instigate a ripple effect of smiles across the globe as you grin from your heart to your face (or your face to your heart, since smiling works in both directions) as you share your smile with others and they share theirs in turn (and please feel free to share this post with them too, while you’re in a sharing mood!).

Read the quotes and words under each photo and look at the smiley faces and see what happens to your own mood! Put yourself in the shoes of the happy faces and see if you can feel what they seem to be feeling.

And then just try not to smile. I bet you a 100 smiles you can’t make it to the end of this post without one creeping onto your kisser! :)

Link to this article and its 50 smiling faces

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

Steve McCurry’s Blog: When Words Fail

“When words fail, music speaks.”  (Hans Christian Andersen)

The brilliant photographer’s latest collection features his photos of people making music.

Ravishing and joyful and overflowing with relationships…

Link to Steve McCurry’s When Words Fail photographs

Looking To Genes For The Secret To Happiness

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Our genes may have a more elevated moral sense than our minds do, according to a new study of the genetic effects of happiness. They can, it seems, reward us with healthy gene activity when we’re unselfish — and chastise us, at a microscopic level, when we put our own needs and desires first…

…those volunteers whose happiness, according to their questionnaires, was primarily hedonic, to use the scientific term, or based on consuming things, had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body. Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also had relatively low levels of other markers that increase antibody production, to better fight off infections.

The volunteers whose happiness was more eudaemonic, or based on a sense of higher purpose and service to others — a small minority of the overall group — had profiles that displayed augmented levels of antibody-producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression…

…purpose is an elastic concept, not necessarily requiring renunciation but only that “you think first of someone else” or “have a goal greater” than your immediate gratification. Being a parent, participating in the creative arts or even taking up exercise so that you can live to see your grandchildren may ease you toward eudaemonia, he says. It may even be that this will enable your genes to respond more favorably to how you’re conducting your life.

Link to read the unedited version of this story

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

Business Renaissance Must Be Human-Centric

by 

…The typical approach is to define all the potential variables, then prioritize them based on impact, frequency, risk exposure…you see where I’m going with this, right? This is 20th century thinking to deal with a 21st century issue. Not the brightest approach, yet we keep banging our collective heads against the idiot wall and think something positive will happen if we just repeat it enough times.

The renaissance is, and must be, human-centric.

It is a return to seeing the value in a person as a person, not an asset to sweat. Life is complex. Technology is complex. Intertwining two complex systems results in chaos. We have learned to respond to chaos in our personal lives as a means of necessity. We seem to feel the organization should somehow be exempt from it. So, we create demanding and manipulative policies that only serve to frustrate, disengage and manipulate people…

It will be a changing of the guard that will be necessary, but difficult for many people. It will affect how we do business, how we define success and how we structure education regarding business. This is good. This is necessary. This is overdue…

Link to read the unedited version of this post

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

5 Steps To Building A Culture of Communication

It’s important to understand the gravity of effective communication in business, then build a culture around it. Putting great communication at the center of your business is the greatest way to ensure success. Bill Gates said it best, “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Here are a few steps that will help you build a culture of communication in your business.

1. Don’t Punish the Bad Ideas…

2. Every Personality is Different, Think of Key Ways to Communicate with Everyone…

3. Async Communication… a simple and passive way of communicating with your team on your own schedule when messages aren’t urgent or time based. This can be through email, or third party tools designed with this type of discussion method in mind… 

4. Talk, Even When It’s Not Comfortable…

5. Enable Transparency in Every Aspect…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Babies Learn To Recognise Words In The Womb

BETH SKWARECK

…The research team gave expectant women a recording to play several times a week during their last few months of pregnancy, which included a made-up word, “tatata,” repeated many times and interspersed with music. Sometimes the middle syllable was varied, with a different pitch or vowel sound. By the time the babies were born, they had heard the made-up word, on average, more than 25,000 times. And when they were tested after birth, these infants’ brains recognized the word and its variations, while infants in a control group did not, Partanen and colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Babies who had heard the recordings showed the neural signal for recognizing vowel and pitch changes in the pseudoword, and the signal was strongest for the infants whose mothers played the recording most often. They were also better than the control babies at detecting other differences in the syllables, such as vowel length. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth…

…Just because babies can learn while in utero doesn’t mean that playing music or language recordings will help the child. Partanen says there is no solid evidence that stimulation beyond normal sounds of everyday life offers any long-term benefits to healthy babies. Moon adds that playing sounds to a fetus with speakers close to the belly could even be risky because this could overstimulate the fetal ear and the rapidly developing brain. Too much noise can interfere with the auditory system and may disrupt the baby’s sleep cycles.

Rather than playing recordings for healthy babies, Partanen sees potential treatments for children at risk for dyslexia or auditory processing disorders, if hearing certain sounds in pregnancy turns out to speed up language learning—”but that’s a big if.” His team’s study looked only at babies less than a month old, and it’s not clear whether the babies will retain the memories as they get older, or whether in utero learning has an effect on language learning or ability later in life.

Link to read this article in full

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Handling Conflict

By 

Stevenson Carlebach, who used to teach acting and directing, says there are many similarities between his former profession and what he does now. For starters, “when an actor takes on a character they’re actually sort of negotiating with their mind to think like the character. When you’re trying to negotiate, you’re doing the same thing, you’re negotiating with your mind to be less antagonistic or to be more cooperative, to be more creative,” he says.

In other words, a good negotiator is really just a good actor in that they’re able to put themselves in another person’s shoes which promotes both empathy and understanding. As Carlebach says, both actors and negotiators are essentially asking what’s driving or motivating the other person, what’s causing them to behave in a certain way, and whether they too would behave in the same way under similar circumstances. But unlike actors, negotiators have their own interests to consider in this process as well.

He employs various exercises to do this including one he calls the “hot buns exercise” where three participants each assume a particular role: that of enquirer whose job it is to stay curious and ask open questions about a topic of their choice, that of speaker who takes a different perspective to that of the enquirer, and that of enquirer’s coach whose job is to observe whether the enquirer is, in fact, asking open questions.

Carlebach notes, “Going into this exercise everyone thinks, you know, ‘how hard can it be, I’m an open-minded person, sure I can do this.’ But within a minute the enquirer is only asking leading questions. They can’t stay curious. You know, ‘how could you be so stupid’, kind of questions. For most of us, we’ve never observed ourselves being close-minded.”

Indeed for many folk, this realisation proves to be a light bulb moment…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: It'sGreg via photopin cc

photo credit: It’sGreg via photopin cc

School Is A Prison – and damaging our kids

This research showing how young people are are at their most unhappy when they are in school mirrors research findings by London School of Economics Mappiness study, which found that people are most miserable when they are at work, second only to when they are ill.  What sort of world have we made for ourselves, and what will it take for us to start to undo and remake the conditions we live in and terms of engagement for the greatest time we spend of our lives: our education and our work?

As  writes in his article:

Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work

…Most students — whether A students, C students, or failing ones — have lost their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school. In a recent research study, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl and Jeremy Hunter fitted more than 800 sixth- through 12th-graders, from 33 different schools across the country, with special wristwatches that provided a signal at random times of day. Whenever the signal appeared, they were to fill out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness, by far, occurred when they were in school and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school playing or talking with friends. In school, they were often bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science.

As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that learning is unpleasant. We think of it as bad-tasting medicine, tough to swallow but good for children in the long run. Some people even think that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness, because life after school is unpleasant. Perhaps this sad view of life derives from schooling. Of course, life has its ups and downs, in adulthood and in childhood. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix. Research has shown that people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Rise of Authority Or Why Being An Expert Is Not Enough

The importance of relationship is emphasised, too, in this post, by , which draws the distinction between getting power and influence from being able to speak with authority – dependent entirely upon the perceptions made by the receivers of your communication – as opposed to expertise, a more fixed position of claiming to be right.  Authority comes from a blend of Aristotle’s’ three modes of credibility: Logos (appeal to the objective rational argument), Pathos (successfully connecting into a shared understanding of our values, beliefs, feelings and the things we hold to be most important), and Ethos (the credibility, believability, perceived authenticity and trustworthiness – gravitas – of the speaker):

…You have authority when the audience says you do. You earn that praise by “bringing the thunder” every day…

How do you spot an Authority in a crowd?

First, they aren’t trying to be an expert. ** They are trying to matter.**

They want their skills, perspective, and tools to be useful. They are in it for the long-term. This is why they seem to stay relevant, even when the latest fad cools and disappears.

You will also see:

Confidence  They are willing to take a stand, point out error, and go it alone. Their confidence doesn’t come from a slick website or a clever book title. It comes from years refining their craft.

Openness  An Authority welcomes inspection. They hate black boxes. They believe they grow when everyone can collaborate on a point of view. For this reason, Authorities often frustrate their followers because they are willing to change their mind. They don’t confuse decisiveness with stubbornness.

Curiosity An Authority is obsessed with “what if”. They quickly tire of the same line of conversation. They are looking for new connections and they are intensely focused on the unconventional strategies that the expert’s dismiss.

Productivity An Authority embraces “the grind”. They know that Authority is perishable. Authority stays fresh when it publishes. They are more afraid of being inconsequential than being perfect. [They bring ways] to force the world to push back and make them better.

The good news is that you’re an Authority. You have to decide how you’ll grow and cultivate your skills and experience…

Link to read this article in full

Our own top tip for optimising the authority you can bring to your communications is to become obsessively interested in your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they know already, what position they are likely to be hearing you from, what problems, threats and difficulties they are wrestling with, and anything and everything else you can think of to wonder about them.  And then go into the communication ready to learn and notice as much as you possibly can during every stage of your encounter.

Another technique that helps to raise the level of authority you will be perceived to have is to surprise your listeners.  If people think they know what you are going to say, and you seem to start on track with these expectations, they are not likely to really listen openly to what you actually do say.

Here are some more ideas from  about increasing your powers of persuasion with more extravert, people-oriented people:

Keys To Persuading Expressing Personalities

…how best to persuade someone who is an expressive or influencer personality? When I think of an expressive, Oprah Winfrey immediately comes to mind because she’s someone who is more relationship-focused than task-oriented. Like the Trump, Oprah also likes to control situations and others.

The following describes this personality type:

Expressives like being part of social groups; enjoy attending events with lots of people; are more in tune with relating to people than working on tasks; are imaginative and creative; can usually win others over to their way of thinking; like things that are new and different; have no problem expressing themselves…

Some persuasion advice when dealing with an expressive-type person:

Definitely spend time engaging the liking principle with them, because they want to like the people they interact with. Oprah certainly cares about closing the deal but she also cares about you and your story so look for ways to connect with her. If she likes you it’s a good bet she’ll go out of her way to help you.

Expressive personalities responded more to reciprocity than any other personality type so look for ways to genuinely help them and they’ll respond in kind much more than pragmatics or thinkers will.

As was the case with pragmatics, in a business setting overcoming uncertainty is key for expressives.

Sharing trends and what others are doing – the principle of consensus – can be quite effective with expressives. Oprah types want to move the masses and they know it’s easier to swim with a wave rather than against it so share what many others are already doing.

Sharing hard data or using the advice of perceived experts is the most effective route with this group.  However, while authority was the #1 principle chosen by expressives, it wasn’t as effective as it was with the other personalities. Show Oprah the numbers or share insight from experts and it will give her pause to consider your request.

When it came to using consistency – what someone has said or done in the past – this was the #3 choice for expressives. For this group it’s not as much about being right as it is being true to themselves and what they believe. Look for ways to tie your request to his or her beliefs or values and the chance you’ll year “Yes” will increase significantly.

Scarcity was no more effective for this group than the others. Definitely don’t force the issue unless something is truly rare or diminishing. Oprah Winfrey and her expressive friends don’t like to miss out on opportunities but just know you won’t be as effective with the scarcity strategy as you might be with Donald Trump and his pragmatic buddies.

Link to read the unedited version of this article

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Here is some excellent advice from Steve Roesler about the power and potency of using silence in our communications:

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings.”Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what’s coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological: When you pause to create a “curious” state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what’s happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good “Stand-Up” leader and speaker?

Perhaps this is connected to intelligence coming from a new study into our inhibitory brain neurones and the role they play in selecting, shutting down and filtering out the information coming at us:

Researchers discover how inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning

We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Now neuroscientists are beginning to explain the science behind the adage.

For years, neuroscientists have struggled to understand how the microcircuitry of the brain makes learning easier for the young, and more difficult for the old. New findings published in the journal Nature by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine show how one component of the brain’s circuitry — inhibitory neurons — behave during critical periods of learning…

The brain is made up of two types of cells — inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Networks of these two kinds of neurons are responsible for processing sensory information like images, sounds and smells, and for cognitive functioning. About 80 percent of neurons are excitatory. Traditional scientific tools only allowed scientists to study the excitatory neurons…

…The prevailing theory on inhibitory neurons was that, as they mature, they reach an increased level of activity that fosters optimal periods of learning. But as the brain ages into adulthood and the inhibitory neurons continue to mature, they become even stronger to the point where they impede learning.

[But this new study] found that, during heightened periods of learning, the inhibitory neurons didn’t fire more as had been expected. They fired much less frequently — up to half as often.

“When you’re young you haven’t experienced much, so your brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information. It seems that the brain turns off the inhibitory cells in order to allow this to happen,” Kuhlman said. “As adults we’ve already learned a great number of things, so our brains don’t necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently.”

Link to read the unedited version of this report

And for more ideas and knowledge about the fine art of persuading people, see:

42 Tips for Masterful Presentations

Posted by: Arnold Sanow

8 Must-Read Books on Influence and Persuasion

by JENNIFER MILLER

and in the week that we commemorate 50 years since one of the greatest speeches ever made, see:

15 Things You Might Not Know About the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By 

 

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

 

The Poetry of Childhood

BY RICHARD LEWIS

…The ability of children to easily enter into the life of something other than themselves—to exchange their own mind for the mind of another—grows not only out of their innate playfulness, but out of a fluidity and plasticity of thought that is, in many ways, an inborn poetic gift. It is, perhaps, a way of seeing in which the seer does not distinguish between herself and the nature outside of her, an imaginative grasping of the whole of life before it becomes separated into subject matters and academic disciplines. One might think of it as a wilderness of thought that encompasses a multitude of growing worlds, each connected and dependent on the other—a truly ecological means of thinking and perceiving…

…the mind of the child and an event or object from outside of the child are subtly and gently brought together. This means of expressing and interpreting the world is not something that was taught, but a spontaneous way of explaining that what is of me is also what is happening around me.

Certainly this is true of Marilyn from New Zealand, who wrote lyrically and suggestively, when she was seven years old, of this shared mind between an insect and herself:

Nothing is better than the song the cricket sings. The sound of the cricket brightens my feelings and makes me sing too. My mind is the cricket’s mind and I wish I was a cricket. Hop, hop the black cricket. The cricket pokes out his feelers and I can hold them and the song of the cricket is my mind.

…So much of this childhood ease with both the visible and invisible, what we know and don’t know—the pure sense of expectation and delight in the mystery of what is happening and about to happen—is not only a function of our mind’s ability to balance opposites through the equipoise that is our imagination, but also a way of experiencing the world poetically. I don’t mean a poetry of verse and poems, but a poetic understanding that allows us to stand, for instance, in the middle of a stream and say nothing, and yet to feel, if only fleetingly, a sense of how we and the flowing water are of one being. Or to walk down a city street and accidentally walk through the shadow of a tree that seems to move with us, to want to follow us—an expectation, an incandescent moment of which we are suddenly made aware. Each is only an instant, but an instant that carries with it a form of knowledge accessible to children and adults alike, one we rarely include in our current estimates of intelligence or achievement. This awareness should not be seen as a lack of development or a passing innocence, but as a container of thought that we carry with us over a lifetime. Within it, we, the stream, the tree, and the tree’s shadow share the same language.

To Be Alive

It was there
Something—happened
What was it
A bird
A fish
A lizard
Was it the girl
Listen.
I hear it again
It is the wind
Wind.
It created me
I am its friend
The wind lives
in a secret garden
far away from me
It comes and I sleep
Sleep and the wind and I
drift to air.

by David, aged 10

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

Design Thinking: Creating A Better Understanding Of Today To Get To A Better Tomorrow

Kevin Bennett, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” co-authored by U.Va. Darden ProfessorJeanne Liedtka, writes about the importance of getting inside the thinking and perspective of other people to better solve our own problems and realise our own ambitions in these fundamentals of creativity:

…The value of design thinking is in allowing us to see “A” more clearly.  For it is in focusing on “A” that we truly understand ourselves, each other and our world.

Design thinking guides us through an archeological dig to better understand “A” with a sense of openness to exploration and discovery. In this archeological dig, design thinking takes up ethnographic research tools to help us truly understand customers and other stakeholders. “Journey mapping” enables us to map other people’s personal experiences by walking in their shoes. “Mind mapping” allows us to understand the values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of individuals, to see the world through their eyes as they walk through their journeys.

Design thinking also helps us to see the world differently by looking to areas and organizations with seemingly nothing in common with our own. Throwing ourselves into another culture, industry or company can often shake up our own thinking. For example, in France, a group of banks and insurance companies said that design thinking “equipped us bankers and insurers with a new pair of glasses through which to see the world, our society, our clients and our jobs differently.”

In exploring “A” we open ourselves up to thinking differently, to innovations and solutions not previously contemplated. Many of the resulting insights and ideas will appear rough and not fully formed, but our research shows that there will be diamonds among them. And in finding these gems, we can not only better achieve our goals, we can test the very goals we set out to achieve.

Thus in focusing on “A” we can not only better achieve our goals in our businesses, organizations and lives, we can also better ensure we are picking the right ones in the first place.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Stress Does Not Fuel Creativity

Never Eat Alone co-author Tahl Raz interviewed author, speaker and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields for the Social Capitalist about his recent book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. During the interview, Jonathan discussed how stress actually reduces your creativity.

Research shows the higher your anxiety levels ratchet up, the lower your creativity goes. Also, one of the key things for creativity in business is a type of problem solving called “insight-based problem solving.” So to solve problems, you can come up with innovative ideas in two ways, either insight-based or analytically based.

Now analytical would be, “Ok, I have a big idea,” and if somebody said, “How did you get to that idea?” you could explain the steps, you could reverse them and back out and tell them how you got to it.

The insight-based solution is the one where you have this tremendous idea, but if someone said, “How did you get there?” you would have no idea. It’s the thing that just comes to you. What we know and what the research actually shows is that creativity plummets as anxiety goes up.

But even more specifically, insight-based problem solving, which is the highest level of problem solving because it introduces new paradigms, also plummets as anxiety goes up.

To read the full transcript of Jonathan’s interview, click here.

For more ideas about being more creative see also:

Six Ways to Expand Your Perspective

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

Wait, What’s That? The Science Behind Why Your Mind Keeps Wandering

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AN ATTENTION DEFICIT, YOU’RE FAR FROM ALONE.

BY: 

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)

BELLE BETH COOPER

How Meditation Affects You

Better Focus…

Less Anxiety…

More Creativity…

More Compassion…

Better Memory…

Less Stress…

More Grey Matter…More grey matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

Stifling Ourselves With The Need To Be Right

John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise, … provides some thoughtful – not to mention wry – perspectives on the importance of keep alive our sense of not knowing, giving compelling reasons for why it is that an acute sense of what we don’t know may be much more critical to our vitality and future possibility, than our certainties:

“What most people and societies become when they believe they know everything: incurious, self-satisfied, flabby, and prone to wearing tunics and lounging on grassy lawns…

“While there may be legitimate, eternal mysteries out there that are beyond our comprehension, history, in fact, shows us that if we do ask questions, we are likely to find answers eventually – which is perhaps more frightening than ignorance…. Being curious is the bravest human act, aside from skydiving.”

We shut ourselves off and limit our potential when we are certain we know what we really don’t, or maybe even can’t, know with certainty. We even make things up to make sense of life, and we confabulate, and [maybe unconsciously] “fill in gaps in memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.”

Link to read more of this article

Schein on Dialogue

From the blog Theatrical Smoke, some reflections from Edgar Schein’s “On Dialogue, Culture, and Organizational Learning”:

…dialogue, for Schein…starts from a change in mental approach–the use of a somewhat unnatural “suspension”–instead of reacting when we hear discomfiting information that triggers us, we pause for a moment, and evaluate what we’re thinking. “Is this feeling I have true? Or is it based on a mistaken perception?” we ask ourselves, and wait a bit for additional information before we decide how to act. Dialogue means bringing a kind of mindfulness, or cognitive self-awareness as we talk–”knowing one’s thought as one is having it,” says Schein.  Thinking about a thought rather than being the thought. Leaving the animal-like, mechanical push-and-pull of a conversation, and watching, as it were, partially from above…

…if we’re using dialogue, we’re watching ourselves thinking as we simultaneously listen to what people are saying, we’re seeing and assessing our built-in assumptions as they pop up, we’re thinking about what language means, we’re holding multiple possibilities in mind simultaneously. … we create a psychologically safe space where we can efficiently develop new languages and new models…

…without dialogue, says Schein – and this is the kicker – you can’t do much at all. Dialogue is “at the root of all effective group action,” it allows groups to “achieve levels of creative thought that no one would have initially imagined,” and, finally, without it, you can’t learn, you can’t change, and you can’t adapt:

“Learning across cultural boundaries cannot be created or sustained without initial and periodic dialogue. Dialogue in some form is therefore necessary to any organizational learning that involves going beyond the cultural status quo.”

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

Prompts That Get Us To Analyse, Reflect, Relate and Question

This technique is offered by  in Teaching Professor Blog as a teaching aid to help students learn, but we think it has excellent potential as a tool for us all to keep our own experiential learning continuous with our day-to-day activities:

This particular technique involves a four-question set that gets students actively responding to the material they are studying. They analyze, reflect, relate, and question via these four prompts:

  • “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea … that you learned while completing this activity.”

  • “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea … is important?”

  • “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”

  • “What question(s) has the activity raised for you?  What are you still wondering about?”  [You might need to prohibit the answer “nothing”.]

Link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative

 offers these really helpful techniques:

Think left

…researchers have found that information in your left visual field is more likely to help you solve a problem creatively than information perceived by your right visual field – which means placing inspirational information or items on your left is one way to help promote more creative thinking…

Cut out distractions

When an idea starts rolling around inside your brain, part of your visual cortex shuts down … to allow the ‘germ’ of an idea to bubble up to the surface and into awareness.  New research shows that cutting off the distractions of the outside world, even for a short time, seems to help the brain have more insights.

Break patterns

…Activities that ‘open your mind’ by breaking established cognitive patterns enable new and original associations to occur. Scientists suggest trying something different, changing routines, reading or watching things that demonstrate creative thinking, or doing puzzles that require creative thinking.

Take it easy

…The trick is to immerse yourself in a mindless, easy task like arranging Lego blocks into colours, mowing the lawn, walking, doing the housework or meditating. Activities like these enable the frontal lobes to relax, allowing thoughts to flow more freely and subconscious ideas to percolate into conscious ideas more readily…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

Learning how to live

Why do we find free time so terrifying? Why is a dedication to work, no matter how physically destructive and ultimately pointless, considered a virtue? Jenny Diski urges you to down tools while you can.

BY JENNY DISKI

…What if you answered the question “What do you do all day?” with “Nothing”? It isn’t as if that could possibly be true. If you spent all day in bed watching television, or staring at the clouds, you wouldn’t be doing nothing. Children are always being told to stop doing “nothing” when they’re reading or daydreaming. It is lifelong training for the idea that activity is considered essential to mental health, whether it is meaningful or not. Behind the “nothing” is in part a terror of boredom, as if most of the work most people do for most of their lives isn’t boring. The longing people express to be doing “creative” work suggests that they think it less boring than other kinds of work. Many people say that writing isn’t “proper work”. Often they tell me they are saving up writing a book for their “retirement”. Creative work sits uneasily in the fantasy life between dread leisure and the slog of the virtuous, hardworking life. It’s seen as a method of doing something while doing nothing, one that stops you flying away in terror…

…Leisure, not doing, is so terrifying in our culture that we cut it up into small, manageable chunks throughout our working year in case an excess of it will drive us mad, and leave the greatest amount of it to the very end, in the half-conscious hope that we might be saved from its horrors by an early death…

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #61

You will find all of these articles – and more – with ideas and practical tips related to these themes of learning, making strong relationships and learning to be happier and more creative in this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, as well as stories about happiness at work, leadership and resilience and wellbeing.

We hope you find things to enjoy and use.

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