Four Ways to Promote Curiosity and Learning

CuriosityWhat are you curious about?  Do you have a hobby or avocation that captures your interest?  Is there an activity where you willingly devote many hours of your time without any kind of extrinsic reward or compensation?  Most of us can think of something that meets one of these criteria.

We know from experience that we find it easier to learn when the topic is something about which we have a curiosity. Avid hunters can go into great detail about their firearms, ammunition, and strategies for tracking game.  Imagine if we sent one of these hunters to a seminar to learn the latest information about these topics – and then quizzed them on what they learned.  We would be astonished at what they remembered.

Likewise, we could do the same thing with a baseball enthusiast. This person would relish the opportunity to further their understanding of the game at a convention where like-minded fans are gathered.  Their retention of new baseball-related knowledge would be equally impressive.

But what if we sent the hunter to the baseball convention and the baseball fan(atic) to an outdoor show?  We could predict that their respective recalls of any new information would be significantly less.  Why?  In this case, neither individual is intrinsically motivated to learn. (They are not excited to learn just for the sake of learning). Continue Reading


Are you good at multitasking? Think again!

Multitasking“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.

When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air.  Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.”  We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).

Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking.  His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist.  In fact, he calls it a myth.

If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so.  What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”

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Should you invest in growth potential or talent?

 

“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

– Pablo Picasso

potential, mindsetAs the engineering manager of a large manufacturing facility, Rick had a knack for identifying talent.  Whether he was recruiting on campus or interviewing candidates with some experience, Rick had a set of criteria that guided his decision-making.  It started with GPA and class rank, but also included other accomplishments such as patent applications, publications, research grant awards, and other recognition.  Everyone agreed that Rick attracted the best and brightest professionals to join his staff.  Rick recruited for exceptional talent.

At the same facility, Karen provided leadership for a process control group.  She would accompany Rick on many of the campus recruiting visits.  Karen and Rick pursued their respective candidates from essentially the same pool. However, Karen had a different perspective.  She wanted to learn about each candidate’s work and social background.  She was keen to learn about how they overcame obstacles, struggled to succeed, and learned from their mistakes.  The candidates who received offers to join Karen’s group were often (on paper) “second-tier” talent. Each person had solid grades and had the skills needed for the job, but they were not exceptional.  Karen recruited for growth potential.

What happened when these employees joined the company?  It is a tale of two divergent philosophies.

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Is arguing ever productive?

“You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

– Dale Carnegie

arguingObserving two people who are arguing can be fascinating.  I’m not talking about a discussion or a debate – but a genuine argument.  If both persons hold widely different perspectives and the conversation devolves into arguing, reason and common sense become secondary.  Emotions take over.  Most times, the result is a stalemate.  Neither person leaves with any sense of satisfaction – and the issue remains unresolved.

One technique that improves the chances for a more positive outcome from a disagreement is the Ransberger Pivot. It is a communication principle that is used to find common ground with an opponent. It is defined as a debate technique (first described and utilized by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz in 1982) in which a person attempts to find common ground with another person they are trying to persuade.  The proposed method deploys three stages:

  1. Listen to the other person’s objections and try to understand what they are really concerned about.
  2. Understand the other person’s objections and validate how they feel about the issue.
  3. Find a common goal in the other person’s objections and convince them your way is a viable solution to the agreed problem. Use facts and share your view on a solution to what you agree is the problem.

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Why do some leaders lack influence?

influenceMany people assume that all leaders have the ability to influence others by virtue of their position. This is not always true.

You can be in a leadership role, yet lack influencing skills. Conversely, you can greatly influence others without being a formal leader.

VitalSmarts includes information on their website that outlines the top reasons why leaders lack influence. This post will recap the main points for each of these five reasons.  I will add my own thoughts to those of the authors.

(Note: These concepts are based on the best-selling book Influencer. I have found the model that the authors propose around the six sources of influence to be practical – as well as easy to understand and apply).

 

Reasons Why Leaders Lack Influence

1. Leaders think it’s not their job.

Most leaders spend very little time consciously influencing others. They believe that their primary job is to come up with big ideas and then to implement them.

The key thought here is having a conscious effort to influence others.  Whether they intend to do it or not, the actions of those in leadership positions have the potential to influence others.  What rarely happens is for the leader to develop a strategic action plan for how to influence their employees on the vital behaviors that they desire. The assumption by many leaders is that if we give people a direction and the resources they need, then good things will happen.

I used to work for a manager who clearly had this mindset.  He became frustrated when much of his organization repeatedly performed work in ways that were counter to his preferred approach.  Yet, he never asked himself how he might influence some of the employees so that they would become more aligned and working on the right things.

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How leaders use symbolism to drive action

Symbolism can be a powerful method to align an organization to a new way of thinking.  Transformational leaders know that everyone will be looking at what they say and do.  One of the basic tenets of effecting culture change is to create experiences that will reinforce the beliefs that you want people to hold.  These experiences can be small words of support, a well-written sincere note, or a key policy decision.  But they can also be bold acts that create a lasting impression and become the basis for stories and legends.  Consider the following symbolic acts – one in world politics and one in business.

  • At the 1995 World Cup rugby final, Nelson Mandela put on a jersey of the South African Springboks, which under apartheid had been the exclusively white national rugby team.  Mandela purposely chose to wear the uniform of the sport that black South Africans had always seen as that of the oppressor.  The symbolism was unmistakable.  It was an overt statement to millions of South Africans that he sincerely believed in reconciliation in the new democratic South Africa.symbolism
  • Gordon Bethune, CEO of Continental Airlines, was trying to send a message to all his employees that the old rigid rules were history.  He wanted everyone to make whatever decision they thought was right for the company and the customer.  To make this clear, he staged a book burning, where the previous “rules manual” was ceremoniously set afire in a 55-gallon drum in the parking lot.  This story soon spread among the employees.  Message received.

The use of symbolism is not only within the purview of world political leaders or company executives. Creating experiences is only limited to your imagination and the thoughtful consideration of the message you want to send.

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