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July 2012
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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Three Steps to Overcoming Your Negativity Bias

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

We’re often asked at Capp how we can help managers to focus more on the positive and overcome the inherent negativity bias that exists in all of us. Indeed, this came in as a specific request following my post “Helping Managers Focus on the Positive“, so I’m pleased to take this opportunity now to share three simple things that we can all do to help us overcome our negativity bias:

 

1. Catch yourself being negative: The first and foremost trick in overcoming negativity bias is to recognise that it exists in the first place. When we appreciate this, we can start to do something about it. So learn to pause and ask yourself “Is this just my negativity bias at work again?” when you find yourself being critical about something. Recognise if there are particular activities, situations, or people that bring out this negativity bias more than others. When you catch yourself noticing this, you’ve taken the first step to being able to do something about it.

 

2. Think volume control, not on/off switch: Controlling your negativity bias isn’t about simply switching it off – after all, the negativity bias evolved in all of us because it serves an important purpose in survival. Instead of thinking about switching it off, think instead of your negativity bias as being on a volume control. You can turn it up, or you can turn it down. It will always be there for you, but maybe you don’t need to let it be there so much, or so much of the time.

 

3. Be mindful of your body state: Being mindful of your physiology will also play a surprisingly important role in how you can manage your negativity bias. If you are tired, stressed, or even just glucose-depleted, you have less willpower to be able to control your thoughts and decisions, so your negativity bias will gain the upper hand. Counter this by being mindful of how you feel in your body, and taking steps to stay in balance and in tune. When you recognise that you are tired, or stressed, or in need of increasing your blood sugar, recognise that your decisions won’t be optimal, so you will need to work even harder to make the right ones (and ideally to address the core causes of this imbalance in the first place – rest, recuperation, and glucose boosts!).

 

By following these three steps, you’ll find that you are able to gain much more control over what you think and why you think it. These steps won’t help you switch your negativity bias off (and hopefully you don’t want to!), but they will help you to use it in the right way, at the right time, and to the right amount.

 

Let us know how you get on with using these steps in practice, by sharing your Comments on The Capp Blog as below.

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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – March 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

Continuing our updates of our work through The Strengths Project with the Women’s Sewing Co-operative that we established in Shiriti slum, Kolkata, India, Avirupa is pleased to share the news from March this year:

 

“March is the time for “Holi” or “Dol” in Bengali. It’s the festival of colour celebrating the colours of nature in springtime. The weather is generally pleasant, but can get quite scorching for days culminating in “kalbaishakhi” (norwesters) thunderstorm accompanied by spells of showera.  Although people welcome “kalbaishakhi” for bringing temporary relief, in Shiriti it is anticipated with apprehension, as it results in uprooting trees, disrupting roofs and more often than not, long hours of power-cuts, as illegally hooked electric wires get tangled and rip. We had to cancel two meetings in the beginning of March due to the “kalbaishakhi” that followed “Dol”.

 

In the second week when we assembled, Shyama had already made a survey of sorts in the local market for the price of steel chest. A medium sized chest was estimated to cost between Rs.400 to Rs.500. Subsequently Arpita volunteered to take the responsibility to buy it, but she wanted at least one other member to accompany her. It was decided that we will be ready with the chest by end of March.

 

But we had a different problem at hand now. With the change in political party in the state, the local club committee has also revised, making the older lot, with whom we were acquainted with, being replaced by a new group of people owing their allegiance to the new ruling party. The women said that the boys now were not careful about our machines kept in the club, and indeed we saw that the four machines were dusty, some small parts missing.

 

We figured the best way to ensure that we maintain cordial relationship with the boys and make sure that they do not mess with our machines would be to offer them a token gift. The women decided to make a cover for the carom board which is kept in the club, by stitching scrap left over fabrics.

 

Next week we were almost ready with the carom board cover, but none of the club members were available to receive the gift. I asked the women to inform the men in advance, so that we can hand over the gift next day. The chest buying project however received a setback because of lack of coordination between the women. We decided to keep the target for the end of March as final. So dialogues were initiated between the women to find out the best solution. We talked about how united in our mission we were to buy the chest in the interest of our group. Each of them then narrated to what extent they can adjust time with the other women, so that they can go and buy the chest together.  Finally Sharmila agreed to take responsibility to see through the process with Arpita and Mousumi as companions. We were happy.

 

In the last meeting of the month we gave the carom board cover to the boys, unfortunately the men of the club committee were busy in their workplace. The boys were delighted with the gift and promised to take care of the machines henceforth. However we felt something more was needed to protect our precious machines. Mousumi, Shyama, Sharmila and I came upon the idea of manufacturing little plywood box covers for the machines. Tushi gave a clever suggestion to add hatch bolt with a lock and key to make safety a certainty.  We were enthused at the idea and the women said they will ask for price quotes from their neighboring carpenters.

 

Thus in April we had two projects: i) to finally buy the chest, and transfer all our products to it, before we organize a sale and ii) to scout for the cheapest quote for making safety boxes for the machines. With these dual agenda, we march onto April.”

 

Further updates from The Strengths Project will follow shortly. Watch this space!

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Journal of Positive Psychology – Free Access

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Readers of The Capp Blog may be interested to know that the Journal of Positive Psychology is currently offering 7 days free access to all issues.

 

Follow the weblink above and sign in / register as appropriate, click the link on the mid-right hand side, “Enjoy 7 Days Free Access” and then you’re good to go.

 

Happy reading!

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Measuring Britain’s Happiness – The First Results

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

The sun is shining and temperatures across the UK are soaring. It’s an auspicious day, then, for the Office for National Statistics to release some of the early findings from their first Subjective Well-being Annual Population Survey.

 

The data don’t really contain any surprises from what has been established in the happiness literature to date. For example, most people are happy, with average scores around 7 on the 10-point scale. People are happier if they are married, have a job, and own their own home.

 

Looking at the geographical distribution of happiness – always a favourite with the media – the top-ranked areas are Orkney & Shetland, and Rutland (which I fully support – it was where I married my wife!), while the lowest ranked were North Ayrshire and Blaenau Gwent.

 

So, as well as telling us about our GDP, the ONS has now made a start on telling us about our GNH (Gross National Happiness). But while the ONS can tell us about how happy we were, more open questions remain about how government in general – and our own actions as individuals in particular – may help or hinder our own happiness.

 

A major goal of positive psychology has been to increase the mean levels of happiness in the world. To this end, working with one of our major organisational clients, we will shortly be launching a research project to explore simple actions that people might take to increase their own happiness. It’s one contribution to seeing if we can increase the mean happiness of the British people.

 

Perhaps next year the ONS will be able to shed some light on whether or not we have succeeeded ;-)

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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – February 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

We’re pleased to bring you another update as we catch up with what has been happening with The Strengths Project in Kolkata, India. This update is from earlier this year – February to be precise – and over the coming weeks we will catch up with updates to the current day. Here is what Avirupa has to report from February:

 

“It’s springtime in Calcutta. Though winters are quite pleasant in this part of the world, yet Bengalis are forever hostile towards any reading of the mercury below 23 degree Celsius. So once “Poush Shankranti” marks the official beginning of spring, the mood is of relief and joy. According to the Bengali calendar poush is the last month of winter, and shonkranti i.e. the last day of the month is auspicious.

 

Traditionally the day is celebrated by “nabanna” festival, to observe thankfulness for the harvest of new crop (chiefly rice). Delectable rice based special deserts of the season called “pithe” are made in every home, quality and quantity varies depending on economic condition of the family. So when I showed up in Shiriti on 16th February, the day after “Poush Shankranti” for our Thursday meeting, I was treated with a bowl of puli pithe, prepared by Mousumi.

 

On that sweet note we started our assembly, with the agenda to itemize, catalogue and decide on the price of all the items of clothing produced by the group till date. The clothes were in possession of different people, some of whom have left the group since, so the first task was to collate all the items. We looked up our register to identify the people and every member took it upon herself to get the materials from each one of the absent people.

 

The next week we had almost all the items in hand. But the condition of the lot was deplorable. Most were dirty,  some were moth eaten, and stained, due to lack of proper storage facility. So Mousumi, Sharmila and Shyama divided the lot among them and took home for washing and ironing. In the light of this problem, we decided to buy a trunk, and packs of cheap insecticide to keep all the materials together. The money for the trunk was to be provided by our group fund. 

 

In subsequent meetings we then made the following list:

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs.

 

While we were making the list, a few local women dropped by, and offered to buy items. The demand for petticoat seems to be quite high, followed by baby clothes. Many of our members also were keen to buy our own products, esp. petticoats.

 

When we sat down to decide on the price, a couple of issues came up. The women were frank about the poor quality of cut and fit of their product, as they were made when they were students. The fabrics were donated by CAPP and Robert, so cost of production is very low. Based on that logic, we decided to keep the price of individual items lower than the market value of similar products. Another bright idea suggested by Tushi, was to offer a discount on the less popular items, to attract consumer. Thus price was fixed at:

 

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs @ Rs. 50/ pc. Less discount 20% Final price: Rs. 40 per pc.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs. @ Rs. 40/ pc. Less discount 25% Final price: Rs. 30 per pc.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs. @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 30% Final price: Rs. 70 per pc.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs @ Rs. 30/ pc.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 10% (only for stained pieces) Final price: Rs. 90/ pc.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc.

 

A surprise awaited us on the last meeting of the month of February. On that Thursday, Mou, our one time active member joined us again. She is now married, and pregnant, and had come to visit her mother. We had a fun time with her, the other women joked and teased her, and she was chirpy and lively like before. She brought with her the clothes that were in her possession.

 

She said as soon as she heard that we were collecting the items, she on her own came to submit the stuff which she couldn’t return due to her hasty marriage. She rued the fact that she cannot attend our Thursday meetings as her “in-laws” house is at a different part of town. However she promised to drop by as and when she visits her mother. Once she departed, the group planned to gift one of the baby clothes for her child.

 

Thus we ended February with hopeful plans for March.”

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Here are (some of) the Women in Tech!

Posted by: Alex Linley & Nicky Garcea

 

Could the tide for female entrepreneurs be turning? We think so.

 

As yet another indication of how women are making waves and standing up as role models to inspire other women, I’m delighted to support the celebration of (some of) the female entrepreneurs leading in technology entrepreneurship.

 

Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of the Dublin Web Summit, 17 & 18 October 2012, was inspired by the suggestion of his wonderful fiance, Faye, to dedicate his first speaker announcement to 10 of the leading female speakers at the Dublin Web Summit. They are:

 

Jen O’Neal, Tripping

Cindy Gallop, If We Ran the World

Deborah Berebichez, The Science of Everyday Life

Yulia Mitrovich, Svyaznoy Group

Shauna Mei, AHAlife.com

Eva Ho, Factual

Silje Vallestad, Bipper

Soraya Dorabi, Foodspotting

Alexandra Chong, Luluvise

Alexia Tsotsis, TechCrunch

 

And that’s not all. If you know a great (female) speaker in technology and entrepreneurship, you can recommend a speaker for consideration for the few remaining speaking slots at the Dublin Web Summit.

 

Here’s to many more female technology entrepreneurs getting the recognition they deserve.

 

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Catching up with The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

In this blog, we bring you another update from the end of 2011 of our work in the Shiriti Kolabahan slum in Kolkata, India, from Avirupa Bhaduri, our Strengths Consultant who leads this work. It’s evident that the impact of strengthspotting and strengths-based approaches are working just as well in community development as they do in our work with organisations around the world:

 

“The CAPP initiative of The Strengths Project based in Shiriti, Kolabagan slum, Kolkata has completed its 3rd year. As we conclude our meeting in the last week of December 2011, we try to look back at what significant difference has been made in the last year. We also have a discussion on hopes for future and what activities we can undertake to look ahead.  

 

The prevalent thought was of wonder at how fast we have travelled together for 3 years already! Most agreed that the best part of TSP was the flexibility. The women were very happy about how they can now utilize the spare time in a positive productive way, without hampering their daily duties and responsibilities of family. When I asked about what was the best part about being associated with TSP the responses were varied. Some insisted that they felt empowered after learning a new skill (sewing) while for others our weekly meeting meant an opportunity to interact with other women and be part of a group with a purpose. Another common motivating factor was the appreciation from international community.

 

The difference that TSP has made is felt in the way they now think. The group initially was loosely formed and was not really cohesive. The women, although from the same neighborhood, hardly knew each other, also, due to cultural and intra community politics were apprehensive about each other. The feeling of distrust has gradually subsided over time. The most significant outcome of our open communication and strength spotting exercise is that they have become more sensitive and appreciative of each other. In fact they are now keener to point out each others talent and offer constructive criticism than pass the blame to solve problems.

 

A recent example: While doing the bed spread for Reena, we missed several deadlines. Sharmila usually takes most initiative, but she was busy with personal commitment in that month, so she could not manage to co-ordinate properly. In one of our final meetings when we were brainstorming about how to successfully complete the task on time, Sharmila kept on apologizing and blaming herself for the delay. But the rest of the group promptly came to her defense by pointing out all the good work that she had consistently done for the group, even admonishing her for self defeatist attitude and encouraged her to partner with Mousumi, who is also competent and has more time to spare to take up additional responsibility. Mousumi in turn declared that she will benefit by learning from Sharmila’s leadership qualities.

 

The activity that we are currently in the process of finalizing is itemizing, cataloging and deciding on the price of all the items of clothing produced by the group till date. Also in the agenda is to then formally organize the exhibition that we have been planning for ages now. We have to furthermore reach a consensus on what to do with the money obtained from the exhibition, and settle the share of each member.

 

One of the chief challenge faced by us is the trend of getting the girls married off at very early age and at very short notice. This is mainly due to the fact that the families are anxious not to let the daughters marry an unsuitable boy. Most girls tend to elope with local boys, who end up as unemployed, drunk and abusive partners. We have lost two of our active members namely Mou and Puja due to this phenomenon. Fortunately we have retained Tushi, who, even after getting married to a boy from different locality usually tries to attend our weekly meetings. She also is very responsible and seeks out tasks and completes them on time. I believe that speaks a lot about our journey so far and we are pleased to look forward to a rewarding voyage that awaits us.”

 

Further updates will follow in coming weeks from The Strengths Project and our work with the Women’s Sewing Co-operative we established in Shiriti slum.

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Future Spotting – Wired’s 7 Rules for What’s Coming Next

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

A large part of my role at Capp is about trying to identify the trends of the future, and then ensuring we are best positioned to make the most of them.

 

To that end, I was intrigued to read Wired’s 7 rules for spotting the future in the June edition, courtesy of Thomas Goetz, executive editor of US Wired.

 

As a reader of The Capp Blog, I thought you might appreciate them too, so here’s a summary:

 

1. Look for cross-pollinators: It’s well-known from the psychology of creativity that a major source of creativity can come through taking ideas from one discipline and applying them in another. This, it turns out, is also a great way to identify trends for the future. Look for something in one domain that could have applications in another, and you’re one step closer to predicting it happening.

 

2. Surf the exponentials: What are the major trends re-shaping the world around us? If you can spot these and work out where they will lead and what the implications will be, you’ll find yourself ahead of the game and closer to the future than otherwise.

 

3. Demand deep design: Steve Jobs taught us that deep design is about beauty, simplicity and intuitiveness. When something is perfect in its conception, easy to use, and obvious in its practice, it’s going to be here to stay – and it will re-define the benchmark for what follows.

 

4. Give points for audacity: The people who go out on a limb and risk taking a chance – the true entrepreneurs of the world – are those who shape what will be from the possibilities of what might have been. Pay attention to the risk-takers and the people with belief, since often they will be right and the rest of the world will follow.

 

5. Bank on openness: The internet has revolutionised what we think about intellectual property, ideas and even products themselves. So much, now, is free, and new industries are being built on the power of open-source. This democratization of everything is here to stay, and it’s leading to a very different future than we might otherwise have anticipated.

 

6. Favour the liberators: Some of the biggest opportunities that will shape the trends of the future rest on putting existing infrastructure to work in different ways. What great reservoirs of untapped resource lie dormant, just waiting for a liberator to see the world differently and release them? Innovation is the central tool of those who see things differently and will create a different future as a result.

 

7. Spend time with time-wasters: Who are the people doing different things just for the love of it? The people whose passion has taken them far beyond the day-to-day? It’s from this immersion at the edges of what is known, driven by an innate desire to explore, to invent, to push the boundaries, that the new dimensions of the future emerge.

 

What do you think? Do these 7 rules chime with your own experience of what you pay attention to  in order to know what’s coming next, or do you see things differently?
Let us know by sharing your Comments on The Capp Blog.

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The Strengths Project in Shiriti Slum, Kolkata, India

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

As regular readers of The Capp Blog may remember, for a number of years Capp has been supporting strengths-based community development through a Women’s Sewing Co-operative in the Shiriti slum in Kolkata, India.

 

Avirupa Bhaduri is our Strengths Consultant, based in Kolkata, who leads this work, and who will bring us regular updates on how the project is progressing.

 

In this post, Avirupa explains what happened when we first visited Shiriti and how we came to decide to work with Shiriti slum in particular:

 

“We reached Shiriti at about mid morning. Though I have visited quite a few slums in the course of my work, I found Shiriti to be remarkably well organised. To start with Shiriti is a registered slum, has somewhat permanent structures, electricity is available in most houses, however admittedly, some connections were not quite legally obtained. The slum has a community square, even a govt. aided primary school can be found in the premise.

 

Shiriti is home for about 300 families comprising 5 members each on an average. We were greeted by a group of kids, cheering loudly. Their parents and community elders held back, hesitantly. We then decided to split into two groups to understand, communicate and connect better with the neighbourhood.

 

At the end of the day we met to share and discuss about our respective experience. Among the diverse people that we met, one factor was common, the residents of Shiriti had a sense of pride about their community, and a surprising bond of fellow feeling. For e.g. when Alex asked a middle aged man about his ideal dream, he answered that he would like to take his whole neighbourhood to a better and cleaner more posh place.

 

This got Alex to reflect if we can explore the possibilities of community strengths, and the idea for our work with strengths-based community development in Shiriti was born.”

 

In future posts, we will tell you more about the story of how our work with Shiriti evolves, and also give you updates on the issues, challenges and opportunities faced by the people living in this remarkable community.

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When Money Looms Large: The Mindset of Financial Leadership

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Much has been and will continue to be written about the factors that contributed to the financial crisis that started in 2007 – and with merit, since there is still much to be learned. The fallout from the financial crisis only continues, with Bob Diamond’s resignation today as CEO of Barclays following the LIBOR-fixing scandal.

 

With banks once again in the spotlight, I was reminded of an intriguing article in Consulting Psychology Journal, in which Byron Woollen examined the mind of the financial leader as it relates to investment risk.

 

In summary, Woollen argues that the complexity of managing huge investment risk creates psychological stress and tension. No surprise there, as any one of us knows from trying to balance our books at home as we juggle mortgage, credit cards, utility bills and childcare costs.

 

But Woollen takes this further, suggesting that the massive complexity and huge implications of the decisions that financial leaders face, cause this psychological tension to be impossible to bear. As a result, he goes on to say, with the wealth of the organisation that a financial leader controls, there is a belief that the resources the organisation already has will protect it from financial risk – perhaps the roots of the “too big to fail” assumption.

 

The problem comes when this belief – that the organisation is “too big to fail” and that the organisation has the wealth and resources to get out of whatever trouble might arise – causes financial leaders to develop unrealistic beliefs about the need for oversight, monitoring, checks and balances. From this false assumption, the control functions of financial leaders and their organisations are depleted, and the risks can multiply because they are not being appropriately identified, measured, managed or controlled.

 

The solution, Woollen suggests, is to ensure that financial leaders, and the Boards of which they are part, are properly equipped to pay attention to the conflicting forces at play in their work, to ensure that sufficient attention is given to the balance of control and risk against investment and return, and to ensure that people with the knowledge are entitled to speak “truth to power” right across the organisation.

 

With a government or judicial inquiry into banking culture now likely, it’s clear that these topics have a long way left to run.

 

Reference:

Woollen, B. (2011). Investment risk and the mind of the financial leader. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63, 254-271.

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