The Center for Leadership Research & Development, located within the School of Psychology Family and Community, is closely affiliated with the Department of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University, and affixed with the community of people and organizations committed to developing the leadership potential in a generation.www.spu.edu/orgpsych
Hacking the World of Work
In March of 2010, I read an article in an airport about the all-hands hacking parties that Facebook does with all its employees with the intention of making Facebook better and better. Almost two years later, we launched a new class that all 70 to 80 graduate students in the Department of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University would take and all 4 professors would teach. Last night was the start. It was amazing. Many of our alumni even came back to come to this event. I have to admit that after 17 years as a professor, something profound happened for me. I saw the power of letting go of my own desire to control how learning happens, and seeing the possibilities that emerge when you release the beast that is the leader and learner within each of us. It may have been the best classroom experience of my life, and all we did was create the “swimming pool” within which to swim, and then we jumped in. Our intention is to tackle the most interesting, challenging, and very real questions facing work, employers, employees, and real people in the coming years. We said we would measure our success by a few things:
Here is just a small taste of the questions we addressed at the start…..
What is the psychology of the consumer of the future?
Is Social Networking changing everything?
What do we do when 80% of the workforce are contract employees?
What happens when China and India are the biggest world economies?
What does the world look like if 75% of all employees are overqualified and over-educated for the jobs they have?
Which is more important—character or competence?
What if doing the right thing doesn’t increase your ROI?
Should work be fun?
Can you speed up how fast a person learns?
What do faith, hope, and love have to do with ROI?
What does online gaming have to do with how I behavior at work?
How can I be effective when work is more complex than I can ever understand
What are you willing to sacrifice to make your organization succeed?
Been there, never done this. How does I/O Psychology make a difference in 2015?
Where will we go next? Come and join us and check it out. We will all learn something. You can decide if you fall into the 2/3 or 1/3J
Rob McKenna, Ph.D.
Chair, Dept. Of Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Seattle Pacific University
Book Review by Dana Kendall, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology
The Art of Choosing, 2010 by Sheena Iyengar, Ph.D. (http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/)
This blog entry is the first of a series of installments, reviewing this book.
The Art of Choosing is not about how to make better decisions. Quite the contrary, it presents evidence suggesting that decision making is much more complicated than it appears at first blush. This should not be surprising because in the realm of social psychology (i.e., the study of human cognition and behavior in social contexts), nothing is ever simple. I was attracted to the book because of my own partiality to the field of social psychology—which comprises the foundation of I/O Psychology.
About the Author
Although the Dr. Iyengar has studied under some famous social psychologists like Martin Seligman, Mark Lepper, and Dan Gilbert, she has a scholarly track record that demonstrates her competency as a researcher in her own right—currently a professor at Columbia University. She was born to Sikh parents who immigrated to the U.S. before she was born. Early in life, she was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that left her blind by the time she was a teenager.
Why Does Choice Matter?
Dr. Iyengar opens the book with a claim that choice is an integral part of what makes us human. Uh, but wait a second…..even animals like to have choice! At this point in the narrative, the author describes the perfect hotel that is specifically designed to meet your every need. It has endless varieties of every activity you can imagine and hotel staff ready to wait on you 24/7. For hypothetical purposes, the reader is asked to assume that every single conceivable need s/he could possibly have will be ultimately satisfied.
So, what’s the catch? What could possibly taint this perfect picture? Who wouldn’t automatically snatch up the opportunity to live this beautiful life?
Well…..what if you knew that once you checked into this fabulous hotel, you could never….ever …..check out? You must stay…..and never leave….until your last day. Most individuals would not even consider this grand existence worth the price of parting with their freedom of choice.
Interestingly, this perfect hotel situation mirrors the life that many zoo animals are forced to experience. Every one of their needs is met and great care is taken to ensure they are comfortable and well-fed. In many zoos, they will even be able to enjoy the company of others of their same species as they reproduce and raise young together. Despite these favorable amenities, many animals demonstrate indications of stress in captivity. Often they engage in repetitive behaviors, a sign of “zoochosis” (For more info on this zoo animal malady, see: http://www.usask.ca/wcvm/herdmed/applied-ethology/behaviourproblems/zooanim.html).
In a classic study by Rodin and Langer (1977), the benefits of choice were explored in a population of nursing home residents. The first group of residents was given the choice to watch a weekly movie and asked if they would like a plant in their room to care for. The second group was told that they would get to watch the weekly movie, and they would have a plant in their rooms that the nurse would care for. Over time, the residents in the choice group remained healthier than the individuals in the non-choice group. Since then, study after study conducted in the U.S. and other western countries have turned up similar results—human and animal mental health states are positively influenced when they are able to exert control and experience freedom.
Rodin J. & Langer E.J. (1977) Long-term effects of a control-relevant intervention with the institutionalized aged. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 897-902.
Psychology has spent the better part of a century focused on what’s broken and needs to be fixed, with considerable less attention on how we can live fulfilling and abundant lives.  In many ways, it parallels the world of medicine where we think of the doctor as someone we visit when we are sick. Only now are we beginning to think about how doctors promote our health and wellbeing. We still have a ways to go. After all, we still call it preventive medicine, never a healthy living visit.
So, what does promote health and wellbeing? Five year after the initial call for more research in positive psychology, Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues wrote another article highlighting progress that had been made in the intervening years. He also shared some of his recent research exploring the actions that people can take that will lead to sustainable increases in people’s happiness. In this research, he looked at a control group of people who were asked to reflect on early memories in their lives. Then, he compared them to groups of people who took on one of five activities:
The researchers then measured people’s happiness at regular intervals in the following six months. The results showed that the first two activities – gratitude and reflecting on the good things in life – had a powerful effect. The letter of gratitude led to a sharp increase in happiness one month later. Even more powerful, people who reflected on three blessings every day lead to a significant increase in happening that was apparent six months later! Their happiness levels were significantly higher than the happiness levels of the people randomly assigned to the control group. Other studies have consistently found similar results. Gratitude appears to be a powerful predictor of happiness. No wonder it is a central tenant in most world religions. As important, gratitude is contagious. It is a powerful experience for the person expressing the gratitude and a positive and reinforcing experience for the person being thanked! Gratitude has a pay-it-forward effect. We can all recall people in our lives that have invested in us, given of themselves, and left us with an abundance of love we can’t help but share with others. Gratitude creates a positive feedback loop. People who are kind tend to be more happy and happy people tend to be more kind. All this suggests that gratitude isn’t only good for you; it’s good for the people around you and ultimately the community where you live.
So, what are some ways you can begin experiencing more gratitude in your life?
Count your blessings. Every day for one month write down three good things that you have experienced during the day. For each blessing, reflect on what you did to help it occur.
Write a thank you letter. Write a letter to someone who has been particularly kind to you or others. Send it in the mail or deliver it by hand so you can thank them personally.
Practice saying thank you for a day. Set aside a day this week to focus on saying thank you to the people in your life. Consider what you just take for granted at work and at home. To your remind yourself throughout the day, put three coins in your right pocket in the morning. For each thank you, move one coin to your left pocket until all three are there. Use this exercise as an opportunity to thank the people in your life for the big and the little but significant things they do every day.
Think kindness. Spending time each day thinking about the kindness you feel towards others can make a difference in how you see and experience the world. For the next week, set aside fifteen minutes when you will focus on others and the kindness would like them to experience. Begin by thinking about someone you care about. It may be in the form of a prayer or simply thinking about them, focusing on the care and love you feel toward them. Then extend this same kindness to yourself, expand it to a wider group of friends and coworkers, and finally to people who you even don’t know. Then, wait and see what happens.
 Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.
 Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N. & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 310-421.
 The other activity that had an equally powerful effect six months later was
 Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389.
Mcullough, M. E., Kimeldorf, M. B., & Cohen, A. D. (2008). An adaptation for altruism? The social causes, social effects, and social evolution of gratitude. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 281-285.
 Fredickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J. & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045-1063.
Congratulations to 2005 doctoral cohort member Tanya Nicole Boyd, who successfully defended her dissertation today! The title of her dissertation is “The surprising impact of purpose: The effects of calling on the relationship between job demands and burnout.” The Chair of her dissertation committee is Rob McKenna, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology. Other committee members are Paul Yost, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology, and Margaret Diddams, Ph. D., Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology. After teaching in the School of Business and Economics here at SPU for the last two years, Tanya and her family are moving to Lawrence Kansas where she will take the position of Project Manager for Organizational Development at Collective Brands, the parent company for Payless Shoes.
SPU’s Response Magazine featured an article by Dr. Margaret Diddams and Richard Kobayashi, and an article about Dr. Rob McKenna, Dr. Paul Yost and the formation of the Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program at Seattle Pacific University.
The article by Dr. Diddams and doctoral student Richard Kobayashi, Lessons From a Prodigal Father; Transforming Self to Transform Others, discuses Luke 15 and the experiences that lead to transformation. Included in the article is a link to a video of Dr. Diddams at the Day of Common Learning.
The article: Tools for Leadership; SPU program teaches leadership with character, features interesting facts about how Dr. McKenna and Dr. Yost met, quotes alumni from the program, the Dean of the School of Psychology, Family, and Community, and the President of SPU. Read it to learn more about the impact our faculty and students are making in the world of work. You can view the article online:
Recently published books Dying to Lead; Sacrificial Leadership in a Self Centered World by Dr. Rob McKenna, and Real Time Leadership Development by Dr. Paul Yost were highlighted in the response:
What happens when you put together a humanitarian organization that serves the needs of the children of the world, a dynamic advertising agency, and a leadership development consulting firm? You get the trip I am on right now. I’m in the Dominican Republic with a team from the Seattle based ad agency… known as HL2 to serve with Children of Nations. This is one of the coolest things I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in as it’s a team effort between HL2, Children of Nations, and RTDS. We are here to respond to the need in the DR and Haiti, and in the process, help this team be intentional about learning from the experience. The members of my research team have been involved from the start, devising a strategy for understanding how an experience like this impacts a team of businesspeople from the US. In the process, it has taught me so much.
For more information, read on.
If you haven’t been following the events on facebook, here’s the link.
So far the lessons for me are many, but here’s a sampling.
Lessons about myself.
More later. I will see you all soon. Lead on. I apologize for the typos….