Love 2.0 and the interactional view

In her latest book, Love 2.0, the renowned Positive Psychology author Barbara Fredrickson introduced an interactional view of love.

According to the latest research she presents in her book, love is not so much a noun but rather a verb. It is something that emerges in micro-moments of interactions between living beings, when they share a positive emotion, resonate with it in synchrony and build on it to deeply care about each other.

In other words, love is in-between.

This view mirrors the stance of Solution-Focused practitioners when we say that solutions and change and the future all emerge in-between, in the space of dialogue and interaction, rather than being determined by inner drives or outer social pressures.

Seeing how SF and current Positive Psychology thought are somehow converging on this interactional view was quite interesting to behold.

SOL World 2012

Our dining hall at Keble College, Oxford. I was expecting Harry Potter to walk in any minute, and an owl to drop a message next to my plate :-)

Back from the SOL World Conference held at Keble College in Oxford, England.

I am happy to see the community of Solution-Focused practitioners is doing well:

– some are developing new concepts within a Solution-Focused framework. For example, Mark McKergow building on the intriguing idea of “Leader as Host“.  I think this metaphor is extremely powerful and it deserves to get a lot of traction in the wider leadership development community.

– some are enriching other disciplines by bringing a SF approach to them. Anything from management tools (e.g. see Jeff Matthews on performance management) to constellation work (e.g. see Marianne Guerts & Yvonne Pluk).

– some are working to advance a deeper understanding of the theoretical framework of Solution-Focus practice. I personally did not see much of that at the conference, but I know of the efforts of a few (e.g. again Mark McKergow and Gale Miller in the paper “From Wittgenstein, Complexity, and Narrative Emergence: Discourse and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy“).

– some are expressing SF in its purest form, articulating all the richness hidden in its apparent simplicity. I am thinking of Peter Szabo and Chris Iveson. The Zen of Coaching.

– some others are creating new ways to make SF practice fun & useful. I am thinking of the SF-inspired team building exercises created by Monica Rotner & Brenda Zalter-Minden.

Anything else?

Well, I think it would be lovely to see  more of an interaction with other sciences in order to evolve the standard Solution-Focused protocols / questions.

It is my belief that, in its essence, SF is a Darwinian Algorithm (see here). As such, it can itself evolve. But is it?

I think the best way for it to evolve, i.e. coming up with new questions or modifying established ones, is to cross- fertilize with social psychology or positive psychology.

Here is an example of what I have in mind.

Minjung Koo & Ayelet Fishbach recently published a paper about the “Small Area” hypothesis regarding goal adherence.

Basically, the hypothesis states that at the beginning of goal pursuit it is better to focus on accumulated progress, what has been done so far; and when we get closer to achieving the goal, it is best to focus on remaining progress, what needs to be done.

As SF practitioners we have been using the scaling question for decades now, and we should have a lot of experience about this. Do we? Does this result match our experience? Yes or no? Moreover, how would this result affect our practice? How should we change our questions to accomodate this result?

I believe new exciting developments are possible in SF if we engage in a constructive dialogue with other disciplines to incorporate new insights into our practice, making it even better.

Well, I guess I found a topic for SOL 2013, haven’t I? :-)

*** Update: the conference was about much more than just the Solution-Focused community of practitioners. Case in point: the CEO panel talking about using Solution-Focus in organizations. HERE is a link to an article in the Guardian which summarizes the discussion.

Solution-Focus, simplicity is thy name!


What is so special about Solution-Focused approaches to therapy, coaching and consulting?

As Mark McKergow pointed out in a recent posting in the SOL listserv:

SF is a lot SIMPLER than other practices

Interesting questions then follow; according to Mark:

*  How is it that this works as well as all the other things?
*  Why, then, are people still learning the other (more complicated) things?
*  What is going on here that we can extend and experiment with?

And here is Mark’s punchline:

1) The special things in SF are basically present in other things too.

2) The other things have lots of extra things that make no difference, or even make things worse.

I totally agree with Mark.
The beauty of Solution-Focused practice is its simplicity and elegance.

As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.

Priceless: the cost of change in a few quotes

A traditional approach to coaching and change (and “it’s common knowledge in the business world that change is very difficult. Managing change is hard work, creating change takes lots of effort, top management support is vital and yet elusive, and great care has to be taken to make sure it all doesn’t go horribly wrong” in the words of Mark McKergow)
a Brief Coaching, Solution-Focused approach to change (“it’s fast, effective, energizing, engaging, flexible, low cost…and somewhat counter-intuitive”, quoting Mark Mc Kergow again).

“Coaching relationships should be allowed to run their course regardless of how long this may take” – in Coaching That Counts, by Dianna Anderson and Merrill Anderson, p.252
“Successful coaching does not imperatively need to be arranged over a long period of time… In all three cases, only a single coaching session took place… As a Brief Coach, I see my contribution in enabling executives a usable start in the desired direction within a conversation… So coaching can be designed in a way to make further coaching superfluous“, Peter Szabó, Brief Coaching of Executives

“Finding 1: The Perceived Effectiveness of Coaching Increased with the Length of the Coaching Relationship. Those who were coached the longest (e.g., 18 or more hours) rated coaching the highest: 81% rated coaching as very effective, 17% as somewhat effective, and only 2% as not effective. On the other hand, those who were coached the shortest amount of time (e.g., up to 6 hours) rated coaching as less effective: 46% rated coaching as very effective, 40% as somewhat effective, and 14% rated coaching as not effective.” – in Coaching That Counts, by Dianna Anderson and Merrill Anderson, p.252
This resulted in the development of solution-focused brief counseling, a simple procedure which leads to
the rapid identification of sustainable and effective solutions. In concrete terms, this means that, by systematically refraining from counseling activities that are of little use, the time investment can be
reduced to an average of three meetings, each lasting 50 minutes.
This form of counseling has
proved to be sustainable and effective, with a success rate of 86%, as shown by studies carried out
after 6 and 18 months. – Peter Szabó, in Introduction to Solution-Focused Brief Coaching.

I am not questioning the skills of coaches who use “traditional” coaching models.

They are doing an excellent job.

However, it takes them longer to get to the results that clients want, simply because they are using coaching protocols that require steps that are not essential to help clients change.
It is as if they were running a race with a heavy backpack: the weight of unproven assumptions about change weighting heavily on their backs, held back by the sheer amount of time required to engage in “change” activities (analysis, problem definition, finding weaknesses…) that are not necessary to help clients.
Solution-Focused Brief Coaching, on the other hand, is the art of asking only the few questions that can help make a difference for clients, and nothing else.

It is coaching in its purest form: brief, simple and effective.

And given the times, wouldn’t you want to get the results you seek in a singe one-hour session rather than in multiple sessions adding up to 18+ hours?

In the end, a few stats of my own for 2008:
– average number of sessions per client: 3
– percentage of coachees who say they are “very satisfied” one month after the last session: over 80%
having effective coaching support at a fraction of the cost of traditional programs: in this economy, priceless!