Monthly Archives: January 2014

When it comes to teaching lessons in crisis communication, scholars usually refer to the standard works in the field. One might, for example quote Timothy Coombs, one of the world’s most distinguished researcher in the field and NEMO visiting professor at Lund University (see NEMO Blog for more:, who would suggest that a quick response, consistency and openness might be of high importance when facing a critical situation. Well, it is true. Works like Coomb’s Ongoing Crisis Communication are undoubtedly valuable – for scholars and practioners. And there is much to learn by reading such books. But sometimes, reality shows that there are situations, where the best insights on communication crises are, however, of not much help. The following story is one of those examples.

The incident itself was rather unspectacular. The account of what happened can be packed into two sentences, as an article in the Guardian shows: “On the evening of 19 September last year, Andrew Mitchell, the Tory chief whip at the time, wanted to push his bike through the gates between Downing Street and Whitehall. The policemen at the gate said he couldn’t, and a short altercation ensued, with Mitchell saying ‘I thought you guys were fucking meant to help us.’”

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Been reading a lot by Jean Twenge recently. How to cope with ‘Millennials’ etc. Not 100 percent sure what to think of her research; not an expert here (or anywhere else). But she doesn’t only write popular books like “Generation Me” and “Narcissism Epidemic”. Her research does appear in serious, peer-reviewed journals. And she’s at San Diego State.

What struck me as most surprising is that ‘Generation Me’ has apparently attained such high levels of self-esteem, according to Professor Twenge, that over-confidence begins to be in the way. Here are some quotes from an article, “Teaching Generation Me”:

“… by 2006, two- thirds of students were predicting that they would perform in the top 20% of the population in their adult jobs.” (…)

Ooops?!? It’s first and foremost valid for the U.S., sure, but it’s food for thought nevertheless. Can you recognize yourself in THIS? (my bold print)

“The number of students who expected to work in a ‘professional’ job (including those of teacher, lawyer, doctor or nurse practitioner) also increased, with 75% of high school seniors expecting to work in such a job by the age of 30 years, although only about 20% are likely to do so. The researchers concluded that recent generations had become ‘too ambitious’ and that many of them were setting goals that might not be right for them.”

Okay, let’s not forget what we learned about American college and university professors (Cross 1977): that 94% of them believe themselves to be above average (some must be wrong, to say the least). In the same paper, Twenge goes on (my bold print):

“It is tempting to believe that this is a positive development. American culture teaches that one must be self-confident to be successful. However, self-esteem does not predict success. In fact, being overconfident – a fair description of a group in which two in three people expect to perform in the top 20% – actually leads to greater failure, perhaps because overconfident people do not recognise when they are doing badly and need to improve. One study showed that overconfidence – measured using a narcissism scale – was highest among those who failed a course and lowest among those who earned A-grades.

In another, newer paper (available here), Jean Twenge writes (my bold print):

“However, most studies on self-esteem show no direct link to success (for a review, see Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003). For example, most of the correlation between self-esteem and academic achievement disappears when outside variables such as family background are controlled. Any relation that is left is explained by achievement causing self-esteem, not by self-esteem causing achievement. Asian American children, for example, have the lowest self-esteem of any ethnic group in the United States (Twenge & Crocker, 2002), yet have the best academic achievement.”

Now that drags my confidence down. Thank you, Jean.

Cross, P. (1977) Not can but will college teaching be improved. New Directions for
Higher Education 17:1–15.

University-staff now receives training on how to deal with the current generation of students, code-named: the ‘millennials’. I received 480,5 hours of training in two days, for example. Must say: found it extremely helpful. Want to share some of the videos we watched (now out on VHS):

Ah, yes. Apparently, these so-called ‘millennials’ have used their social media skills to produce a counter-video that ridicules our staff training. Haha, very funny.

BTW, The guy is never a real millennial, he must be at least 30, don’t ya think?!?

No, honestly. I wonder how many careers have suffered from inter-generational misunderstanding. Certainly mine. I never seem to get students to do what I want them to do. But then: I’m not a Baby Boomer, I’m Generation X. (How do I know? Simple test: To be Generation X, you need to have seen this video on television – and without historical interest. Ach, poor Whitney. RIP)

Here’s a good article: “Teaching Generation Me” by Jean Twenge who has written about a million pieces on the subject. Here’s the cliffhanger: Confidence does not predict success. More about this later.