Book Review: Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem


Beyond IQ book coverWhen I received my review copy of Beyond IQ: Scientific Tools for Training Problem Solving, Intuition, Emotional Intelligence, Creativity, and More by Garth Sundem, I was immediately struck by one thought.

“… Yeah, right” (spoken with mild sarcasm)

 The title alone claims quite a few things, especially if you know a little about trying to use these skills or encourage their use in others.  

I skimmed the book in a random fashion, flipping idly through the pages, and was immediately aware that this book has a lot of lists, pictures, graphics, and symbols sprinkled liberally throughout, along with the prerequisite word content.

I was reminded of puzzle books that one can purchase at any book store, grocery store, or probably at any fast gas and cheap food place these days.   This set up my expectation that this was a light-weight book which would provide some diversion and enjoyment similar to my crossword puzzle books … and that would be the end of its usefulness to me.

… Was I ever wrong and I could not be happier to be so!

Garth Sundem has done his homework nicely, collecting the latest thinking around a wide range of topics related to neuroscience and how our brains help and hinder us.. I normally do not list chapters of books, since the titles are sometimes oblique without the accompanying content and sometimes because listing titles can be boring and provide no extra value. I am breaking my own rules with the following list of chapters, because they show in clear detail just what this book covers:

Insight, Practical Intelligence, Problem-Solving, Creativity, Intuition, Your Brain on Technology, Expertise, Working Memory, Keeping Intelligence, Wisdom, Performance Under Pressure, Emotional Intelligence, Willpower, Multitasking, Heuristics and Biases.

These short and compactly written sections are liberally endowed with short exercises to highlight the main points being discussed.  

An Example From Beyond IQ:

For example, I especially enjoyed the section on Problem-Solving, since this particular skill lines up with several of the other topics (insight, creativity, practical intelligence, wisdom, and so on) and is a topic which I try to nurture in others.

Sundem starts by describing the troubles encountered by Metropolitan State College of Denver as it sought to change its name to something more reflective of its academic stature (in other words, “college” to “university”). The story goes through several twists and turns to reinforce the idea that problem-solving has to include thinking beyond a narrow scope and considering many possibilities.

He then introduces Richard Mayer, a noted researcher from the University of California at Santa Barbara, who offers some solid learning on what makes successful problem-solvers different from the rest of us: “… the time they spend studying the initial state and the constraints – the extra time they spend clarifying the problem.” (p. 36)

According to Mayer, we solve problems in four primary ways: Random, Depth-First, Breadth-First, and Means-Ends Analysis Search. Mayer then teachs us about solving problems by using the everyday maze.     I had never considered the variety in our problem-solving approaches, until I had the opportunity to solve the same or similar mazes using each of these approachs.

After several more short examples and exercises, Sundem has some fun with a section on “Faulty Assumptions”, in the form of a list of brain-teasers designed to show us how the assumptions we make hinder us from effectively being able to solve problems.

One example from the list:

CAR TROUBLE

It’s a dark and stormy night and you’re driving down the street when you notice three people at a bus stop: an old woman who needs a doctor ASAP, your best friend, and the date of your dreams. You can only fit one other person in your car. What should you do?

I’ll let you chew on this before I share the answer.  (Bragging point: I got it within 10 seconds, but then I AM a professional.)

Sundem ends this chapter with a discussion on how to solve those aggravating little sliding tile puzzles … quite a trick when you consider that a simple 4×4 puzzles contains approximately 653 billion possible states.

However, the knowledge you pick up in this chapter and in others is not just for parlor games or to impress lesser mortals.

What did I Really Like?

I enjoyed the non-academic, but precise writing style which conveyed some fairly sophisticated concepts in accessible language and with good organization.

This is a great review of current neuroscience and decision-making knowledge.

The ability to actually do exercises that other books just talk about may be the single most valuable part of this book

Tying Up Loose Ends:  About that dark and stormy bus stop …

Sundem’s solutionmay seem obvious as we read:

Assumption: You must be the driver.  

Instead, give the keys to your best friend, who takes the old lady to the hospital while you wait for the bus with your dream date (who is now duly impressed).

Without intentional strengthening of our ability to creatively problem-solving and move past erroneous assumptions, many of us struggle to figure how to choose who to put in the car with us.

Bottom Line: Who Will Benefit From This Book?

Anyone who wants or needs to know how our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral selves come together will benefit from reading this book, whether you choose chapters of specific interest or read from the first page to the last.

If you are a leadership, business, or life coach, a teacher, a manager, or someone else who seeks to understand and help others understand how to make more effective decisions, this book has much to offer in terms of current knowledge and engaging exercises.

Enjoying imagining how much more effective my teaching and coaching will be when I use this book as a resource in the Heartland ….

John

 

Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem was published in 2014 by Three Rivers Press. 220 pages.  As noted above, I received a review copy of this title, which did not influence the comments above.  I was and am genuinely delighted by the value and learning I have found in this book.

 

I Don’t Believe It … Part 5


MYTH #5:  YOU CAN HIRE AN OUTSIDE EXPERT TO BE THE CHANGE AGENT

Well, this one hurts a little:) … As someone who styles themselves as an external “wise guy” who can help facilitate change, part of me wants to shout “Except me!   Hire me!“.

However, a small amount of reflection tells me this myth is alive and well.  I have experienced first-hand the emotions and conflict around bringing in outside experts who turn out to have only a well-honed presentation style and sales pitch, but who ultimately do not help the organization change.   Well, they do influence change, but not for the better.

Actually, the best external consultants have one specific focus:  Making the team or organization healthy and effective enough to fire them.

When someone has invested significant effort to making themselves appear very necessary to an organization, changing that earlier perception is hard to do … unless the outside expert is very good at their work and really understands the role of the facilitator.

The best summation of the argument against this myth presented in the book is this statement:

“The best position to lead teams out of resistance is the position that has the authority to hold the team accountable and support the team in overcoming resistance.”

This deceptively straight-forward statement has several inferences which I firmly believe about leadership, teams, and change.

 

AUTHORITY MATTERS …

We can talk all day about leading from wherever you are in the organizational structure, but being in a position with authority facilitates doing so ~ if the person with the position uses it for positive growth.

One very damaging tacit assumption in this myth is that we cannot handle change ourselves, but must turn to some outside source, who will magically do what we poor mortals were unable to do.

An outside expert can offer tools and perspective.  They can skillfully lead groups to discover what they already know and help them make their goals become accomplishments.  They are contributors, but not necessarily leaders.

 ACCOUNTABILITY MATTERS …

We are often good at stating what should happen and why, but we also sometimes forget to add what will happen as a result

Accountability is not established by statements like “Violations of this policy will result in significant disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”  That’s no accountability, that’s legalese in HR clothing.

Accountability is when both the negative and positive possible outcomes are clearly delineated, along with the full range of specific responses.

Of course, then you have to actually follow through by making what you say will happen … well, happen:)

SUPPORT MATTERS …

As noted above, accountability includes not just clearly stating and enforcing standards and expectations, but also has to do with identifying what and who is working, reward that behavior, and nurture more of it.  

This implies an ongoing role for those who lead and manage in an organization to support and nurture the momentum of positive change.

After all, these are the people who have the institutional knowledge and engagement to be the change agents … they just need the right tools.

If I had unlimited space and you had unlimited attention, we could discuss the essential role of organizational culture in all this, but that’s a topic for another day.

Looking inside for strength and wisdom in the Heartland ….

John

 

BACKGROUND:

Reut Schwartz-Hebron of the Key Change Institute discusses five myths in her recently published book  “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. 
 
This post is number 5 in a short series based on this great new resource for those of us who work with people and change.  Click on the titles to read:
Part 1 – Personalities are fixed
Part 2 – Belief that more information and better logic will change people
 Part 3 – For people to change, they first have to trust the change agent
Part 4 – It’s best to avoid resistance unless it’s actively blocking progress

I Don’t Believe It … Part 3


MYTH #3:  For People To Change, They First Need to Trust the Change Agent

Well, this one is interesting …

How often have we heard that trust is at the very core of business relationships, social relationships, and a good marriage?  If your experience is anything like mine has been, the answer is “A whole lot”.


“Trust will come if the right strategies are put in place and if the experience of getting people to acquire those strategies justifies trust”

An interesting corollary to this is the idea that we do not have to first win the hearts and minds of people to have change, we just have to get them to change.  In other words

“You can achieve desired outcomes without initial trust, even if you force change.”

Of course, the word “initial” is very key here.  People can be made to do things because you have authority to make them do those things, you can either reward or punish them in the process, and because they may not feel like they have any choice in the matter.

You have to establish trust ~ the variable here is when trust-building occurs.

As people build skills, they become more confident.  They trust themselves to handle the dynamics of change.  

See, it’s not about trusting YOU,

it’s about trusting THEMSELVES:)

Deciding who and how I trust in the Heartland….

John

BACKGROUND:
Reut Schwartz-Hebron of the Key Change Institute discusses five myths in her recently published book  “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. 
 
This post is number 3 in a short series based on this great new resource for those of us who work with people and change.  Click on the titles to read Part 1 and Part 2.
 

I Don’t Believe It … Part 2


MYTH #2 ~ THE BELIEF THAT MORE INFORMATION AND BETTER LOGIC WILL CHANGE PEOPLE

I am so down with this myth, after years of engaging in heaping massive amounts of content at people and existing in a state of constant frustration because they now know better, but do not do better.

One quick example:

Smoking cessation classes in the 1990’s.  Most of the participants were fully aware of the addictive nature of tobacco, the very real health risks of smoking,  the financial and social costs, and even knew that society was becoming increasingly unwilling to support this particular behavior.

Yet most of them continued to smoke and those who tried to stop experienced great difficulty doing so.

We know that proper nutrition, ample sleep, avoiding tobacco, moderate use of alcohol, and regular exercise are all essential for good health … so what are our most ignored health practices?:)

Reut talks about the differences between the Knowledge Based System (KBS) and the Experience Based System (EBS) in our brains – KBS stores knowledge and EBS stores experience of that knowledge.  The two are not the same.

“Only about 2-10% of people can, for reasons we don’t fully understand, apply needed adjustments in a lasting way as a result of new knowledge.”

Well, this is unsettling.  In other words, most of us do not use what we learn to behave differently.    Just knowing is not enough. Continue reading

I Don’t Believe It … Part 1


FIVE MYTHS about resistance to change … Only Five?

Well, Reut Schwartz-Hebron, the guiding light of the Key Change Institute only lists five myths in her recently published and awfully helpful book  “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. 

However, Reut has created a Very Good List of Five …

This week, I’ll be taking a look at each one.  I’ll blend Reut’s messages with some of my own thoughts and experiences.

Myth #One:  Personalities Are Fixed

Personality is often thought of as composed of “enduring” characteristics.  In other words, how those who know us longest describe us.   As the thinking goes, a sensitive child grows into a sensitive adult.

We are the way we are … like it or lump it:) 

We experience other’s personalities as fixed for several reasons:

1)       We’ve been taught that personality is established before we can speak and stays the same throughout our life.  As good students, we learned this lesson well, looked for evidence that reinforces it, and repeat it so often, that we think it’s true.

 Sometimes saying makes it so … or so we think.

 2)      We mistake resistance for inability to change.  When people do not want to change, they resist and will do so ferociously and sometimes without reason.  Even when the change is good in the long-term, they resist now.   Resistance can be a very strong attribute of a person’s work environment, especially when leaders and managers do not approach change from a thoughtful and proactive stance.

Resistance is a temporary condition, not a permanent attribute.

 3)      We give too much power to habit.  Habit can be strong, as we tend to reinforce what we already do or know neurologically.  We strengthen synaptic messages by repetition, so what is familiar grows stronger over time.  Think about how easily we do many of our daily tasks.  Now think about work tasks we have done repeatedly for years or decades.  Habit is strong.

We know what we have always done or thought.

 4)      We do not know about or appreciate the current concept of plasticity, which simply means the brain is capable of rewiring itself throughout life.  Plasticity is like other characteristics in that the more we use this ability, the easier this ability is to use. 

Reinforcement is the key – choose to reinforce new and different concepts and attitudes and extinguish old ones.

Reut’s solution for this myth:  Create new “Key Strategies” tailored to the changes that people need to make.

 More on how to identify and implement key strategies later, … but you  start with the belief that people’s personalities can and do change, at least enough to make organizational change possible.

 Another myth tomorrow.

Considering how I’ve changed and what still needs work in the Heartland ….

John