Science / Psychology Books: my top 5 for 2009

Inspired by a tweet from Coert Visser, which mentioned “great books published in 2009″, here is my top 5 list of books that I read in 2009 and that I most enjoyed.

  1. Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit MD
    Very well researched, a treat for lovers of science, engrossing like a thriller – essential resource for debunking the anti-vaccine movement

  2. Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive by Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.
    Good introduction to the concept of the Positivity Ratio and some useful guidelines for a well-balanced life from one of the pioneers of the field of positive psychology.

  3. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
    Classic. A simple yet powerful idea. My thoughts on it in a previous post.

  4. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widesprad Misconceptions about Human Behavior by Scott A. Lillienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein
    Yes, I am for evidence-based practices. This book was sheer pleasure and a breath of fresh air: in 50 easy-to-read short chapters, the authors use science to debunk popular myths about how we behave – myths like “most people use only 10% of their brain power” or “playing Mozart music to infants boosts their intelligence”. All in one volume.

  5. What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith E. Stanovich, Ph.D.
    I am still reading this one, and so far it is great: finally a framework to make sense of recent research regarding IQ & genetics, the Adaptive Unconscious and biases in human rationality.
In a stand-alone category, here is a little gem of a book for SF coaching practitioners:
  1. Coaching Plain & Simple: Solution-focused Brief Coaching Essentials by Kirsten Dierolf, Daniel Meier, Peter Szabo
    In the spirit of “less is more”, this book embodies the idea that “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
    -truly the essence of SF coaching
Not making the top 5, but still great books to read:
In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May
- How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer; my take on it in a previous post.
Again, Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


WIshing you all a great, productive, happy 2010, filled with joy, peace and love.

As a New Year gift, I am sharing with you my recently published peer-reviewed paper:
In this paper I argue that Solution-Focused interviewing protocols are evolutionary algorithms deployed in conversations.
My paper is an attempt to put Solution-Focus firmly within the context of mainstream science.

My central claim is that just like Evolution is a theory in the sense that it provides a “recipe” for the emergence of life forms and their adaptations, so SF is a theory in the sense that it provides a “recipe” for the emergence of solutions and useful adaptations within the context of a conversation.
Evolution and SF are both algorithms rather than theoretical constructs.

I hope this paper will generate some debate within and without the SF community.

I am open to any feedback you guys might have.
Anything that could bring us closer to the goal of establishing a comprehensive science-based coaching discipline.

Again, Happy New Year and… enjoy!

Misconceptions about Executive Coaching

Compass on map

When I meet prospective clients, I can see there are still many misconceptions in the business world about what coaching is and what coaching can do for you.

Some of these misconceptions are due to lack of information, or information that is not correct: for example, the incorrect idea that the coach is a therapist, or the incorrect assumption that the coach is the expert in the clients’ field who is there to tell them what to do.

Some of these misconceptions have a cultural flavor: for example, here in Italy there is still  an underlying machismo which permeates the business community. The high-powered executive is supposed to do everything on his own, with no help or support from – invariably this is how they call us executive coaches – “a shrink”. Any sort of professional help is seen as a sign of weakness.

Some of these misconceptions have their roots in human nature. For example, it is very common to see prospective clients falling into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking, more specifically bouncing along the ominipotence – impotence continuum: the clients can either do everything and anything on their own, or they can do nothing at all on their own; the coach is either the one who knows everything and can make their life perfect or he / she is somebody who can not understand a thing about how the world (or the company, or real life, or business) works and therefore he / she is useless.

I would like to address a variant of this all-or-nothing thinking.

More specifically: you did a good job as a coach NOT when clients have solved ALL their problems and feel they have NO problems to solve, but when clients feel ready, willing and capable to tackle the issues they are paid to deal with, and feel they are making progress in handling them day in and day out.

This distinction was brought home to me recently by a client of mine, MS.

He is the Head of Personnel and of Administration of a large import-export company. He also sits in the Board of Directors, since it is a family business and he is a member of the family.

It is amazing the ground he covered within a few coaching sessions.

When we started our coaching relationship, his complaints where the concerns a typical middle manager would voice – how can I deal with employee X? how can I organize my activity by projects? How can I avoid spending too much time micro-managing basic operational problems like proper invoice registration? How can I shift from doing things myself to actually managing my department?
There was no thought, no space for issues like: strategically leading his company; re-organizing his department to better support the company’s key strategic objectives; organizing operations in a European country where they recently established a presence; leading his department (vs. managing).
After four coaching sessions, the items listed above were exactly what MS was starting to focus on.

At the end of our coaching relationship, as we were wrapping it up, he made a comment to this effect: “problems never end; but at least now I am dealing with the right set of problems, problems that have a wide organizational and strategic impact for the company. Now I feel I am in the position of making a difference. Now I feel willing and able to make a difference!”

Congratulations, MS!

* note: some details have been changed to protect the privacy of my client; even so, I have permission from the client to share the outline of his story.

Solution-Focused Interviewing Protocols as Evolutionary Algorithms


The November issue of InterAction Journal, the Journal of the Association for the Quality Development of Solution-Focused Consulting and Training, is finally out!

In it you can find my newest peer reviewed paper: Solution-Focused Interviewing Protocols as Evolutionary Algorithms.

Here is the abstract:

Darwin’s algorithm has been shown to be Nature’s way of exploring the “solution space” for problems related to survival and reproduction. This paper shows how  SF conversations (as used in therapy and brief coaching) can be framed as a Darwinian algorithm to explore the “solution space” for the problems clients bring to the session.

Here you can find some ideas from which the paper originated.

Hoping to put Solution-Focused practice on more solid epistemological grounding, within mainstream science!