Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

Standard Bearers

November 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration.  Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards?  Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?

When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards?  It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.

Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.

It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals.  And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality.  Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:

We weren’t born to follow

Come on and get up off your knees

When life is a bitter pill to swallow

You gotta hold on to what you believe

Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you.  ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need.  Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.

Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise?  Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards.  Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly.  We weren’t born to follow in this way.

Beneath And Beyond Feeling

November 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting.  More accurately, ‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting of a painting.  To be fully truthful, it’s a painting of a painting of a painting.  No, that’s not quite right; it’s a painting of a painting of a painting of a painting.  Still not there, but it’s time to change direction otherwise we’d continue to follow the paintings of paintings deeper and deeper.

And, as you explore ever deeper, you realise that this is just like experiential learning and behavioural change; whatever way you look at it, you should always try to look beneath and beyond the immediate.  The ‘painting’ may be nice but what can be found beneath and beyond the immediate ‘painting’ represents true value and perhaps your true values.

Beneath and beyond don’t just shape what you do, they can also shape how you feel about it.  According to some recent research, beneath and beyond feelings can reach the surface without you being aware of what lies beneath and beyond.  When ‘tis nobler stresses the core principle:

What you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are,

it is important to remember that there are situations beneath and beyond the immediate situation being observed.  Why are you doing that?  Why are you feeling like that?  Answers to these questions may be partly anchored in the immediate but they are also always likely to reflect goals, attitudes and values beneath and beyond the immediate.

Beneath and beyond are measures of depth and distance that indicate where valid and enduring answers may be found.  Where will you find your whys?  Will you always find it in the obvious and immediate or will you explore beneath and beyond?

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘One or more’ changes many things.  Or one or more changes change many things.

When things change from one to more than one, things can get messy.  Then again, when things change from one to more than one, things can get highly focused, more efficient and very effective.  Was it the opening line to that less-known novel, The Tale of Two Entities’, that stated ‘’twas the best of outcomes, ‘twas the worst of outcomes’?

When you strive for the greatest good – Summum Bonum – ‘one or more’ changes many things, not least of which is perspective.  What do you do differently if you are learning or changing by yourself compared to doing the same things with others?  Is your answer ‘many things’?

Game theory demonstrates that individuals need to shift their focus away personal gain if their outcomes move from independent of others to interdependent.  They need to shift their focus from competition to cooperation for, if everyone tries to win, ultimately everyone loses.  Cooperation makes even more sense when you take into account how much worse people perceive losses relative to gains.

If you are not ‘flying solo’, you optimise your returns when you cooperate for win/win outcomes become possible.  Compete with yourself and cooperate with others.  ‘Flying solo’ allows you to be selfish – just concerned with yourself – while ‘flying in formation’ requires you to become less selfish.

Some recent research has suggested that this shift can go even further in certain conditions.  Rather than just being less selfish, individuals can behave selflessly to ensure group aims are achieved.  They sacrifice more of their personal entitlement when their group is competing with others – a classic example of putting the team before themselves – and trying to achieve the very best results.  With all (competing) groups trying to achieve the very best result possible, everybody wins and wins more than they otherwise would!

Within your groups, it can be a case of ‘war’ or it can be a case of ‘no more trouble’:

How you do decide between selfish, less selfish and selfless?  Depending on the circumstances, each of these can produce positive returns.  Applied inappropriately, however, everybody might lose.

You cannot win all the time.  You shouldn’t try to win all the time.  And sometimes you shouldn’t try to win at all.  Being your best is always available (and need not involve ‘winning’) while, for most of us, trying to be the best is the best way to fail.

Appearing Random

October 19th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t).  Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways.  Let’s start with a few questions.

Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic?  Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic?  Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic?  Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?

Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated?  Exaggerated?  EXAGGERATED??  That doesn’t fit the pattern!

The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic.  Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point.  And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.

Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware.  Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.

The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!

Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’.  Is this just ‘bad luck’?  Was it unavoidable?  Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Was there anything you could have done differently?  In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.

How would you answer these same questions?

Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic).  Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time.  You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road.  Welcome to the stochastic world!

Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others.  An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it.  It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable.  If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?

Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time.  You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction.  The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it.  Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.

Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with.  But there’s another side that is exciting:

“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….” 

Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control.  Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.

It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world.  Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.


Zero Addition

October 14th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

That’s right – zero addition.  If ‘tis nobler stopped writing right now, what would your reaction be?  If there’s nothing to add, that might be a minor concern.  What if ‘tis nobler put things in reverse – add to nothing instead of nothing to add?

‘Add to nothing’ can have much more serious implications for learning and change.  For when things add to nothing, it’s a zero-sum game.

A zero-sum game is one in which the gains and losses cancel each other out – for you to win a little bit, somebody else has to lose a little bit (check out the Prisoner’s Dilemma).  When everything is added up, they sum to nothing, a sum that is something even though it is nothing.  By definition, these are conflict games.

In your experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, it might be helpful to think of yourself as being in a competition and not a contest.  You are a competitor and not a contestant who, by definition, contests things.  If this distinction is too fine, it becomes clearer when you recognise that you are only competing with yourself.  There is no competition with others.

What does competing with yourself, rather than contesting issues with others, mean?  You might conclude that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it …… and that’s a great example:

Compete with yourself, co-operate with others.  The advantages are clear, so clear in fact that reaching this conclusion is a ‘no contest’.  Be positive, operate beyond zero.

“Operate beyond zero’ has been a theme of this week; “operate beyond zero” is never a theme of the weak!

Zero Separation

October 10th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Last week, there was nothing and this week it is all about nothing.  Nothing changes, and therein can be found a key dimension of experiential learning and behavioural change.  It’s not that nothing changes for nothing does change – if you see what ‘tis nobler means.

Neither is it that nothing changes into something, for nothing has been something all along.  If some think that nothing is nothing, ‘tis nobler wonders whether this is why some also hold the view that nothing changes.  And they hold this view even when nothing changes! T here is much ado about nothing; not for nothing is nothing this week’s theme.

Zero separation suggests absolute proximity or the closest of close contact.  You might hear people say that you can’t tell two things apart or that they can’t split them.  Zero separation indicates equivalence and difficulty.  But, for experiential learners and behavioural changers, zero separation is often the first and always the easiest thing to do.

Unfortunately, being first and easiest can create problems, and this is the downside of zero separation.

It is easy to identify things that reside completely beyond your learning and change challenges – those things that have zero probability of occurring.  Separating these things from things that have a chance of occurring is straightforward for you only need to concentrate on the most extreme of events – your diet being threatened by winning a lifetime supply of donuts or crashing your car after swerving to avoid space junk that had just fallen from the sky.  The simplicity of removing the impossible may however spill over into a biased view of the possible – a sort of ‘simple is as simple isn’t’!

Separating the possible from the ‘impossible’ adds little value to your learning/change journey and neither does separating the possible from the ‘certain’.  All of the value can be found in how well you distinguish the probable from the less probable, realising at the same time that these probabilities change continually.

Once you leave zero behind, all you have to do is zero in – as much as possible – on the possible for it is in the way you cope with the richness of experience between zero and not zero that will define you.  The value of effort and experience is clearly demonstrated in the knowledge that beyond zero is everything:

It’s certainly possible to manage the probable but everything depends on you.

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things will always go wrong.  Error is a constant companion as you learn and try to change your behaviour.  There is no place for the apostrophe and the space (but there is always time for a rhyme):

I’m perfect never applies; imperfect is one of your defining qualities.

Trial and error learning is based on maximising the trials, learning from the errors and then minimising the mistakes.  However, learning from your errors is easier said than done.  Regardless of the ‘lessons’ contained within the experience that didn’t go to plan, you also have to learn how to cope with these experiences.  After all, getting things wrong can be dispiriting and distressing.  And remember, error is just one cause of negative experiences in your learning and behavioural change journey.  What should you do in order to cope when things do go awry?

Thankfully, research findings do present a view on this question and the answer is that it depends on your view of the situation and/or the situation that you are viewing, assuming these aren’t similar.  The Mynabirds must have been aware of this as their song ‘Ways of Looking’ has these lyrics:

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

You said “You can move mountains with your point of view”

Doesn’t have to be so hard

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You may not be able to move mountains but your point of view can be a useful coping mechanism when negative experiences happen.  Coping strategies must change in relation to the perceived severity of the ‘problem’ that has occurred.  When severity is lower, you are encouraged to be more positive in your assessment – you cannot and should not take everything to heart.  Minor bumps in your journey may provide additional learning value but it might be best to move on quickly for getting stuck (or, even worse, going backwards or giving up) is a much worse outcome.  Don’t over-analyse these minor bumps; giving them more attention than they deserve can paralyse.  Be positive, see them in the right perspective, push them aside and keep going.

When severity is higher, however, being overly positive is negative.  In these situations, it is important to review the ‘problem’ as honestly as you can, while seeking feedback from others if this helps you.  The additional learning value in these situations is much greater – they represent the real ‘errors’ in trial and error learning – and dismissing them with a positive attitude is counterproductive.

You have to decide whether situations are bumps or BUMPS and whether, as a consequence, you should be overly positive or objectively analytical.  In trial and error learning, trials will always have errors but there is no reason why these errors need be a trial.

You Raise Me Up

August 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When describing the labyrinthine nature of experiential learning and behavioural change, ‘tis nobler mentioned Daedalus and his son Icarus.  Daedalus was the designer of the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur.

Icarus is an excellent example for today’s topic – being raised up – which is about the ways and attendant dangers in which your performance and adherence to self management can be elevated by what you know about others.  It all depends on where you start.

Icarus was ‘raised up’ by the joy of flight and the escape from imprisonment that his father had enabled by the making of artificial wings.  As a result of over-exuberance, Icarus flew too close to the sun, something his father had warned him explicitly to avoid, and the wax holding his wings together melted.  He crashed into the sea and was killed.

And this is where the extra research ‘tis nobler undertook (without hacking into Daedalus’ voicemail) shows the connection with some recent research.  It seems that Icarus was initially doubtful of his father’s plan but seeing Daedalus take to the skies removed these doubts.  If you have doubts or anxieties, knowing that others can perform translates into a belief that you can also perform, another example of priming, this time priming with competency.  Don’t forget that ‘tis nobler has already explored another way to combat doubt and that is to doubt your doubts.

Replacing doubts with self belief is great; however, priming with competency in the absence of doubts can lead to overconfidence.  In the first instance, priming calibrates you by raising you up to where you actually belong whereas in the second instance, priming can miscalibrate you by raising you up beyond your capabilities.  As noted, it all depends on where you start.

That’s why, in this song, there needs to be a small change to the lyrics – You raise me up to more than I (thought I) can be:

When assailed by doubts or anxieties, prepare yourself to perform by making reasonable relative comparisons.  These have been shown to raise you up to where you can be.  If these comparisons are unreasonable or unnecessary (for you already are where you should be), they may raise you up beyond where you should be.

And we all know what happened to Icarus!

No Strings Attached

August 8th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Should I turn left or right?  Should I just keep going?  Does it make sense to backtrack for a while?  What does that mean anyway?  Where should I head next?  How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction?  Isn’t there a path I can follow?  Everything looks the same, nothing makes any sense, progress is very difficult to detect and I’m starting to wish I’d never set out.

Welcome to the labyrinthine world of experiential learning and behavioural change:

Despite many and ongoing attempts to present the learning and behavioural change ‘world’ as simple, straightforward and structured, the reality is that it’s messy.  But this doesn’t mean that it’s a mess for it is always possible to find your way and find it in a way that becomes increasingly effective and efficient.

Perhaps the most famous, yet mythical, labyrinth was that constructed by Daedalus – no bull!  Actually, there was a bull (well, that’s half right) but that’s another story.  You might like to ponder what implications Daedalus’ son’s behaviour also has for learning – his son was called Icarus – but that’s also another story.  The story to be told today concerns the way that Theseus found his way in the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur, the half man, half bull.  He used a simple ball of yarn; he overcame the labyrinth because of (his) strings attached.

Regardless of the complexity, the seeming impenetrability of Daedalus’ design, there was a simple solution.  And this is diametrically opposed to experiential learning and behavioural change, for there are no simple solutions.  ‘tis nobler suggests that acceptance of two guiding principles will ensure that you will always find your own way through each and every learning and change labyrinth:

There is no one right answer, but there can be many right answers.

Conversely, history tells us that there have been many wrong answers, but there is no reason why any particular answer should be wrong.

The only truly right answer is the one you provide to yourself through your effort and engagement; looking for others to supply it will ensure that you’ll remain lost in the labyrinth.  At any point in your journey, being ‘lost’ or confused is never an indication that you’re going the wrong way – change of direction is much, much less important than maintenance of momentum.

Just keep going and, while you never escape the learning labyrinth, many of the internal walls do disappear. Navigate the labyrinth your way, no strings attached.


Experience, A Placebo?

August 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It seems that medicine need not be medicinal for benefits to accrue – welcome to the placebo effect.  Placebos are traditionally denoted as inert substances that have the appearance but not the mechanism for a therapeutic role.  Give one group a white pill containing an active agent and a second group apparently the same white pill without the active agent; it could just be a sugar pill.  It stands to reason that the difference between the groups will be due to the active agent.  It’s reasonable but often incorrect.

The more we investigate the role of placebos, the more interesting their role seems to become.  There is evidence that placebos are becoming more effective and, more recently, some initial evidence that positive effects are produced even when people know they are receiving a placebo (usually, deception has been thought of as a pre-condition for the placebo effect).

In psychology, the Hawthorne Effect (and a range of other ‘effects) could represent types of placebo effects whereby the process of being studied is an active agent in its own right.  Sometimes, perhaps all the time, just being there (or even being nearby) can effect change.  In experiential learning, can experience itself operate sometimes as a placebo?

‘tis nobler suggests that the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.  Fundamentally, the issue is not whether experience offers learning value, for it always does; the issue concerns the efficiency with which this learning value is extracted from the experience.  Participating in any experience, directly, indirectly or vicariously, offers learning opportunities even when you think these experiences are nothing more than ‘sugar pills’.  Despite just going through the motions, learning is still taking place, albeit more slowly, more half-heartedly and much more inefficiently:

‘tis nobler was reminded of ‘experience as placebo’ when reading about some recent happiness research.  The conclusion was very telling – ‘We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention’ (emphasis added).

Experience can be a placebo but it can and should be more than just a placebo.  If you know about, endorse and commit to experiential learning, learning outcomes will be more effective and much more efficient.  ‘Spectators’ learn but participants learn more quickly and more deeply.

Going through the motions is a form of self-deception. How do you deceive yourself when exposed to each and every experience that adds learning value?  Find your own way to enable your experiences to be more than placebos.

Outside Assignment

June 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler will wait while you read the previous post.  It’s about waiting, which is a nothing act pretending to be a something action.  Believing in ‘nothing to do but wait’ can be the same as failing to realise that ‘waiting is doing nothing’.  No buts!

You can’t delegate your waiting but waiting does involve delegation.  Waiting is a form of outside assignment as you are waiting for others to do something that you can, at least in part, do yourself.  It’s a mindset that says ‘If things are meant to be, if it’s your destiny or fate, then they will come to pass’:

This form of delegation is generally regarded as a negative factor in experiential learning and behavioural change, replacing self management with external control. Performance of open-loop skills, usually in complex, dynamic environments, is a continual challenge and, when things (occasionally) don’t go to plan, it is tempting to seek and supply explanations for these failures beyond ourselves.  ‘It wasn’t my fault’, ‘look at what they just did’, ‘this thing doesn’t work’, ‘this is a silly way to conduct business’: these represent examples of attributional bias.  As you seem to be doing what you’ve always done (importantly this assessment is always from your own perspective) when an error occurs, it must be their fault, not yours.  Attributing blame to external factors is another form of delegation and another way in which you can shirk the responsibility for your own learning journey.   Even though they lead nowhere, ‘outs’ are always easy to find.

However, external control does have a positive side.  A study investigated whether external control assisted the grieving process and found that those who assigned cause to external factors – it was their time, that’s life etc – coped with the loss better (as measured by life satisfaction scores).  ‘tis nobler is wondering whether the protective benefits of external control in the grieving process extend to error or task failure.  Could something that dilutes or damages learning also offset the costs of making mistakes?

External control may be mainly a drag on learning and change but it might, just might, help you cope with the inevitable but infrequent serious failures.  Is it possible to exclude ‘fate’ from learning and include ‘fate’ in coping?  Providing a personal, durable answer to this question is not an outside assignment.

Looking Elsewhere

June 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Apparently, there are over 300 species of (domesticated) goats.  As far as ‘tis nobler knows, none of these types of goat have much to do with experiential learning or behavioural change.

There is, however, another type of goat that features regularly in learning and change activities.

And this type of goat can always be relied upon to perform poorly.  You won’t necessarily find poor performance in its own eyes but you will always find it reflected in the eyes of others.  It’s a handy type of goat to have around even though you prefer to talk about it rather than to it.

It’s a scapegoat.

It’s standard practice in sporting organisations to hold coaches responsible for team performance, with the sacking of coaches being a regular occurrence.  A very extensive and detailed investigation of this activity within the German soccer league found no evidence to support sacking a coach as a way to improve team performance.  Any apparent improvement can be explained as a return to average levels of performance that are largely independent of coaching influence.

Scapegoating is yet another ‘out’, another excuse for all of the leaks in your learning and behavioural change efforts.  It’s easy to play the ‘blame game’ even when you don’t fully understand what is going on:

As a ‘solution’, scapegoating is one example of the potential for convenience to take precedence over validity.  As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Where do you end up when you take the easy way out?

Metaphorically Speaking

May 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is feeling descriptive today:

Police are looking for a male described as being between 18 and 29 years of age, approximately 180cms tall, with a slight build and last seen wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and runners. He is known to be as cunning as a fox, with the demeanour of someone who has found 20 cents after losing $20.  He should not be approached unless you are backed into a corner and have nowhere to go but up.

Some descriptions are close to useless, some use comparisons that add depth and colour while the reviews for others are mixed, speaking metaphorically:

It is easy to describe skilled performance for the obvious elements are known and you just need to list them.  You can describe the way Federer serves, the way Vettel drives or the way Clapton plays the guitar.  Describing is easy, so, so much easier than doing and yet describing and doing are often seen as the same thing.  If you can describe, does this mean that you can also do?

Descriptions sit on the surface of the ‘What World’, outlining what is done at a very general level.  Being readily available but superficial, descriptions don’t detail everything that is performed for you need to explore the ‘How World’ and the ‘Why World’ to get this information.  All of these things come together to form understanding and, combined with direct, effortful experience, produce competence and expertise.

Descriptions may be a starting point but they never take you very far.  But their influence is not necessarily limited as the way you describe something (or the way others describe it to you) can guide your entire effort (or lack thereof).  For (doing) better or for (doing) worse, metaphors are a double-edged sword that could tip the balance either way!

Is learning to drive like falling off a log?  Is umpiring a football game like stealing candy from a baby?  Conversely, is learning to drive like trying to nail jelly to the wall?  Is umpiring a football game like trying to herd cats?

Metaphors are pervasive and influential, yet another example of the framing process.  How do you behave under the influence of descriptions?  Can you learn something through metaphors or do metaphors just affect your learning?

‘Dressed’ For Success

May 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, how do you ‘dress’ for success?  The first clue ‘tis nobler can provide is that the answer to this question has nothing to do with clothes.

The second clue can be found in these Sinead O’Connor lyrics (and the title of the song):

Everyone can see what’s going on

They laugh because they know they’re untouchable

Not because what I said was wrong

Whatever it might bring

I will live with my own policies

I will sleep with a clear conscience

I will sleep in peace

The third clue can be found in some recent research that demonstrates a link between perception and perceptions or how, rightly or wrongly, assessments of ability are affected by appearance.  In assessments of identical (and thus ‘mimed’) performances, musicians who were dressed less appropriately were judged more harshly than their more appropriately attired counterparts – there was a link between apparel and perceived ability.

The fourth clue relates to the catchcry for this site.  It is ‘Effort is essential’ rather than ‘Apparel activates ability’.

In many experiential learning and behavioural change contexts, appearance appears to take precedence over substance.  It is as though looking the part is more important than playing the part, perhaps because playing the part takes more sustained effort than the purchase of the costume.  Appearances can be bought but substance must be earned.

And, if you combine these clues, you realise that you can never ‘dress’ for success; you can, however. ‘dress’ to pretend you’re successful.  Isn’t it better to be tired after effortful practice than be attired as a means of avoiding the effort?


Too Busy?

May 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has too many things on the go.  ‘tis nobler will try to get around to it but ‘tis nobler can’t give any promises.  There aren’t enough hours in the day.   Busy, busy, busy.  Sorry, ‘tis nobler hasn’t started on that either yet.  ‘tis nobler has been meaning to do that for a while but, well, you know how things are.

Things are busy.  And things don’t get done, which is understandable given how busy things are.  Has ‘tis nobler mentioned how busy things are?  Yes?  ‘tis nobler must have been too busy to notice mentioning how busy things are.

Is there a better excuse for not doing things than ‘being busy’?  Everybody understands it, everybody experiences it, everybody usually accepts it.  Not doing things because you are too busy seems reasonable, except that the evidence suggests that you should be unable to use ‘being busy’ as a reason.  And thus it reduces to just another excuse, one of many avoidance strategies.

While the evidence comes from school settings, it indicated that those who started assignments earlier performed better than those who delayed.  More interestingly, it suggested that those who were busier started earlier.  Perhaps, most of the time, ‘too busy’ is a convenient misrepresentation.  In ‘Many the miles’, Sara Bareilles sings that there are ‘too many things I haven’t done yet … can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down ….”:

Excuses can’t be abolished, only minimised; forgiving and moving on is much better than festering and staying stuck.  In ‘Forgiving’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Putting a missed opportunity behind you by forgiving yourself for missing it and focussing fully on acting on the next opportunity is a way to both overcome procrastination and improve subsequent performance through better preparation.  Alexander Pope wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Respectfully, ‘tis nobler writes:

To err while learning is human and to procrastinate is commonplace, to practise and to forgive yourself for not practising reduces both error and procrastination and that’s divine.

Regardless of what you do, you’ll have your reasons, even if these reasons are nothing more than excuses.  Except for the times when you really are too busy, you are never too busy.  Can you recognise the difference between too busy and ‘too busy’, between reasons and excuses?  You’re not too busy to start thinking this through right now!

For Others

April 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We’ve all had the experience of being completely and utterly bewildered.  Then along comes someone who, in the blink of an eye, sorts things out.  To compound our ‘misery’, they proceed to explain what they did in language we can barely understand – ‘the problem was that the hotchclocker wasn’t interfacing sequentially with the floudleflap, so I’ve reglunted the squizzlepepple to offset the gain in the off-centre centrifudge.  Got it?’

Absolutely, with both hands.  Clear as a bell.  We just weren’t familiar with it.  Does this sound familiar?

If you search for ‘Familiarity’ on Wikipedia, you are automatically re-directed to the entry on ‘Intimate Relationship’.  ‘tis nobler will not enquire whether you are familiar with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; if you are, how do you find the time?  But this post is about another aspect of familiarity – its breeding capacity.

Familiarity breeds contempt, a shorthand way of describing the expertise bias.  When I am able to do something, I find it difficult to understand why you, as a berginner, can’t do it.  I compare your ‘now performance’ with the ‘now me’ rather than compare it to the ‘beginner me’.  I can’t imagine how the ‘beginner you’ can be so hopeless.  After all, I have done this many, many times and it is so easy to do.  What is wrong with you?

In ‘Overpowering’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

In learning situations, you shouldn’t necessarily attribute the behaviour of others to their character but rather to the way they are dealing with their circumstances.  Context trumps character, specific, short-term needs override general, longer-term orientations.  It is possible for situations to turn saints into sinners and sinners into saints; between these extremes is the fuzziness of life.  To learn about situations, place more emphasis on understanding the action rather than passing judgement on the actors.

But the expertise bias operates the other way – I’ll explain your behaviour on the basis of who you are simply because what you do is, for me, so easy that your performance can’t hold the explanation.  I find it so easy to walk in a straight line that I can’t imagine you being unable to do so.  Yet, when your inexperience imposes a ‘blindfold’, look what happens:

Unfortunately, familiarity can breed contempt, contempt for others.  Effort will remove the ‘blindfolds’ that are inescapable for novice performers; squashing this effort through unfair criticism or inadequate explanation is inexcusable.  Everybody begins at the beginning!

How Green?

April 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is not really a fact but, through extensive use, has become folklore.  And folklore can morph into apparent fact when it remains unquestioned:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

But aren’t proverbs like this built on a foundation of fact?  Doesn’t our everyday experience of our own lives reinforce the view that others, whether friends or strangers, are having – must be having – easier, more fulfilling, happier lives?  Wouldn’t we be like them if we could only get to the other side, the side that they are on?  Isn’t it always greener on the other side?

Research findings paint a different picture.  We have a tendency to underestimate the ‘problems’ on the other side; we estimate that those on the other side have many less negative experiences and emotions and slightly more positive experiences and emotions than ourselves.  It might be expected that we’d be more accurate when friends rather than peers are the subjects of our scrutiny but closeness doesn’t seem to exert much influence on our accuracy.  Others, all others, face fewer problems and have better lives because they live ‘where the grass is greener’.

In addition to the ‘greener’ effect, our estimation issues also reflect the ability of others to hide their ‘less green’ experiences and emotions.  Even though this is what we ourselves do, we appear unable to recognise when others erect similar shields.  And so we persist in believing that we struggle relative to others.  We answer ‘OK’ when asked how things are, even though things might be (much) less than OK, yet we accept ‘OK’ from others as an accurate summary of their situation.

There is a range of ways in which the ‘greener’ fallacy affects our learning journey and our efforts at behavioural change.  Think through what these might be.

Experiential learning has a substantial solo component and yet you are never alone, your experiences are rarely unique and your difficulties are seldom unshared.  Believing that things are ‘less green’ for you than they are for others is untrue.

It’s always as green on the other side!

Not A Bother But …

April 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Not a bother but will it help?

Finding your own way need not and should not be a solitary exercise.  The social side of experiential learning is very important in many ways; it only becomes a problem when you delegate responsibility for your own learning to others.  In fact, this is a problem for all forms of learning.  Being passive may be polite in some circumstances but it is to be avoided in all learning situations.

The distinction to keep in mind is that others can supply useful information but you must make your own sense from it.  If you don’t actively process it, don’t reflect on the outcomes of your analyses and don’t personalise it, then your learning becomes a pale facsimile of somebody else’s learning.  And, given that you (rightly) accept contributions from many others, you run the risk of becoming a mish-mash of others rather than an authentic (and only) version of yourself.

Asking for help, though, remains a challenge because, in part, this act is grounded in an acknowledgement of your own shortcomings.  There is evidence that people place more emphasis on the ‘inconvenience’ being imposed on others by your request.  There is also evidence that people underestimate the willingness of others to provide help.

But the biggest challenge of all is to overcome the gap in perspective between the person asking for help and the person being asked.  ‘tis nobler would ask you for help because ‘tis nobler believes you are in a position to provide it – you are more experienced and more capable.  However, you will provide help from this very position, and ‘tis nobler may be a long way away from it:

“I just don’t seem able to do this.  I’m sorry to bother you (inconvenience) but can you give me some help?”

“Sure (willingness)!  It’s easy (perspective gap – it is easy for you but not for me!), just concentrate (that’s easy for you to say but it makes no practical sense to me).

Inconvenience, willingness, perspective gap and irrelevance all wrapped up in one simple exchange.  A simple request for help, should you overcome your reluctance to make it at all, can vary greatly in helpfulness.  It is always easier and more productive if you ‘speak the same language’ for then help is invariably helpful:

It is difficult to remember what it was like as a learner, it is uncomfortable to put yourself in their (inexperienced) shoes.  Without these adjustments, though, you must always attempt to reverse engineer this help to make it suitable for your own situation.

And always remember to say ‘Thanks’.

Don’t Pay Twice

April 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In Up, In and Towards, ‘tis nobler introduced the concept of counterfactual thinking:

The actual content of the past may be fixed but its meaning and consequences can always be altered when you think about it.  And thinking about it is exactly the point.  It is appealing to re-write your past in your head, generating despair for what happened or relief that things, while sometimes bad, weren’t worse.  You think over and over – think counterfactually – that things might have turned out better or worse and this can lead to regret for the things you did or did not do, for the things said or left unsaid. If you remain stuck in the past, constantly re-writing what might have been but wasn’t, the past becomes a millstone.  As a millstone, your present and your future will always be less than they otherwise could be.  If you use the past positively, affirming that things will be different and better, the past becomes a springboard.  As a springboard, your present and your future will always be more than they otherwise would be.

Some recent research has uncovered another aspect of counterfactual thinking, this constant internal re-writing of the past.  And the key to understanding this aspect can be found in the word ‘constant’, for the same inability to ‘alter course’ that keeps people mired in regret is the same inability that produces poorer multi-tasking.  As a millstone, this inability actually improves performance on single tasks (after all, ‘regretters’ usually do regret very well) but experiential learning and skilled performance always requires multi-tasking.  And this millstone makes you a prisoner of the past:

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Counterfactual thinking has a direct cost but it also has an opportunity cost.  An inability to shift – whether it’s from regret to optimism, re-writing the past to writing the present or from one task to another – is, regrettably, more commonly associated with regret.

In experiential learning and behavioural, nothing comes for free.  But there are ways to avoid paying twice for past mistakes.

Strings Attached

March 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Pretending is not neutral for it is explicitly designed to achieve something that is unwarranted.  The previous post was about one negative aspect of pretending – trying to gain ‘eligibility’ without making the effort.  This is the first, the most obvious, side of pretending.

But there is a second side, one that you may not realise.  Think of pretending as a balloon.  As much as it is possible to inflate your own balloon, it is equally possible to deflate the balloons of others.  And research has shown that these two processes seem to work in parallel.

If I am ‘inflating’ myself by pretending that I am something I’m not, am able to do something that I can’t or know something that I have not yet learnt then, at the same time, I will ‘deflate’ you.  You will be less appealing, less able or less knowing.  As I pump myself up, I’ll be dragging you down.  And it appears this ‘deflating’ process is triggered by our own ‘inflating’ process.  Inflation produces deflation.  Can you imagine the consequences and biases this introduces into experiential learning and behavioural change?

In just a few minutes, this powerful video covers pretending, impressions, inflation, deflation, interpersonal relations and consequences, and it features an apparently sentient yellow balloon!

Gone Goodbye – A short film from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

Inflating yourself while deflating others – there are always strings attached.  In this particular case, the string ties your own pretending to your concurrent downgrading of those you’re seeking to impress.

As the voiceover said, “ string attached, but there are always strings attached.”  What are the strings in your learning and change?  Are they connecting you to things of value or tethering you to the ground and preventing you from making progress?

Perhaps the worst thing is to pretend there are no strings.