Monday, September 11, 2006

Choosing Excellence

Many of us have been reminded about PMA - Positive Mental Attitude. We have a vague sense that this is probably good advice, but nevertheless want to ridicule it. Now, Malcolm Gladwell's new book Blink provides some examples that back up the value of PMA.

In Blink, Gladwell describes the psychological concept of "priming." The idea is that people can be greatly influenced subconsciously by exposing them to concepts like success or failure prior to undertaking a task. One example he gives is an experiment where students were divided into two groups prior to taking a test. The first group was told to think for five minutes about what it would mean to be a professor; the second, about soccer hooligans. The professor-group did 13% better on the test than the soccer hooligan-group. This is a shockingly large difference.

Blink got me thinking about the possibility of self-priming. I've always thought that, to a large extent, a person could choose their emotional state. Further, it seems clear that a leader can help set the tone of their group. I never considered just how big an effect this might be.

Are you having a bad day: Prime yourself to have a good one by thinking about all the good things in your life. That is, choose to have a good day. Is your team in need of success: Prime them to be successful by talking about how great success will be. It certainly isn't all you need to succeed, but what a difference it might make.

Finally, here's the part that feels too wonderful not to try. Do you personally want to succeed: Prime yourself for success by taking time to visualize success, or think about successful role models. Use this idea next time you have a speech to give, or a big meeting with the board. Why think small; how about five minutes of positive thinking at the start of each day.

Suddenly, I feel an urge to mock such cheeriness.


Larry Poyner said...

Good stuff! Glad I found you blog.

Larry Hendrick said...

Ken, thanks for this mini review of Gladwell's Blink. Now I have to run to the library and get a copy. I've always preached PMA, but, as you indicate, many make fun of it. Great stuff!

Ken Flowers said...

Glad to see you enjoyed it. Welcome.