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The East African : December 23rd 2013
The EastAfrican 42 BUSINESS DECEMBER 21-27,2013 MANAG E R Success comes f≥om a ≥ight f≥ame of mind at the ≥ight time groups — that is, how they gain respect and influence in the eyes of others. We know, for example, that demographics matter: People of the historically dominant race and gender and a respected age (white men over 40 in the Western corporate world) are typically afforded higher status than everyone else. Appearance also plays a role (the tall and the good-looking are favoured over those less genetically blessed), as do personality (confident extroverts win out) and formal rank (the boss is the boss). Thankfully, we also use more S legitimate measures to size up new teammates. These include expertise, competence and commitment. But although educational and professional credentials may testify to these assets, they can be difficult to assess immediately. All these findings suggest that the influence you’ll have on a group is largely predetermined by factors beyond your control. However, through a series of experiments, we have shown that anyone can achieve higher status on a team by temporarily shifting his or her mindset before a first meeting. First impressions matter more than ever, and you can improve the ones you make with a simple five-minute exercise. Proactivity Because you can’t change your demographic characteristics, personality or rank to get ready for a big meeting, our focus is on mindset and behavior. Research tells us there are certain “competence cues,” such as speaking up, taking initiative and expressing confidence, that suggest leadership potential. These proactive behaviours can be good indications that a person has useful expertise, or they might simply reflect deep-seated personality traits such as extroversion and dominance. However, there’s increasing evidence that people can propel themselves into proactivity by temporarily shifting their psychological frame of mind. The avoidance or inhibition system, pushes us to steer clear of threats and adverse outcomes. The approach system, concentrates our attention on achieving positive outcomes, and it’s this latter system that can spark the behaviour that leads to higher status. We studied the effects of trig- gering three approach-based psychological states: promotion focus (defined as a focus on aspirations and goals), happiness and a feeling of power. Previous work by others has shown that all three activate the same left frontal re- ocial scientists have spent decades studying how individuals achieve status within organisational Investment in big data is not key to pe≥fo≥mance COMPANIES ARE investing in data scientists, data warehouses and data analytics software. But many of them don’t have much to show for their efforts. It’s possible they never will. The biggest reason that investments in big data fail to pay off is that most companies don’t do a good job with the information they already have. They don’t know how to manage it, analyse it in ways that enhance their understanding and then make changes in response to new insights. Companies don’t magically develop those competencies just because they’ve invested in high-end analytics tools. They first need to learn how to use the data already embedded in their core operating systems. Over the past three years, we’ve conducted seven case studies and interviewed executives at 51 companies to understand how companies generate business value from data. Those that consistently use data Promotion focussed people behave more proactively in a team. Picture: File COMMENTARY ADAM D. GALINSKY AND GAVIN J. KILDUFF “The temporary mindset that you bring to an initial group meeting can have a lasting impact on your status.” gions of the brain, reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase optimism and confidence. And these neurological effects lead to behavioural changes: For example, people primed to focus on promotion and happiness offer more ideas in brainstorming and guessing tasks. In our studies, we wanted to know whether these mindsets would make people more proactive in face-to-face group interactions. The effects were clear. People made to feel promotionfocused, powerful or happy before the group task behaved more proactively and achieved significantly higher status than those in other states. For example, in one experiment, 60 per cent of those primed with an approach orientation were described by at least one teammate as the “leader of the group”. Our conclusion: It’s pretty easy to push yourself into the kind of proactivity that marks you appear as a person worthy of respect. An enduring effect We know from previous research that the behavioural changes stemming from a primed mind are fleeting: Duration estimates range from a few minutes to an hour. But our experiments offered evi- dence that the effects can last longer in the context of a newly formed group. This is because team hierarchies not only arise quickly but also produce reinforcing patterns that lock them in. Workers who are initially perceived as valuable and afforded high status on a team continue to be seen that way, even when their contributions are equal to those of others. And the way they are treated leads them to perform at a higher level and protects their elevated position. We confirmed our finding by having participants in two of our studies return 48 hours after their original group interaction and rejoin the same teams to complete two more tasks. They spent 20 minutes together generating an idea for an environmental organisation and five minutes estimating statistics. Once the job was done, participants completed the same proactivity and status rankings as before, and the results were again clear. The people who had been made to feel powerful or happy two days earlier continued to wield more influence over their teammates. Our conclusion: The tempo- rary mindset that you bring to an initial group meeting can have a lasting impact on your status and influence with your teammates. Putting it to work Before you embark on your next group project or have your first interaction with colleagues you don’t know well, try these priming tasks. We’ve found consistent results across all approach orientations — regardless of whether people thought about their aspirations and ambitions, their experiences with power or times they were happy. So pick the mindset that feels most authentic for you. Conventional wisdom says that success comes from having the right attributes, or from being in the right place at the right time. Our research suggests that it is also a matter of being in the right frame of mind at the right time. Adam D. Galinsky is a profes- sor of business at Columbia Business School. Gavin J. Kilduff is an assistant professor of management and organizations at New York University’s Stern School of Business. to guide their decision-making are few and far between. The companies that have what we call a culture of evidence-based decision-making, have all seen improvements in their business performance. Most companies can significantly improve their business performance by focusing on how operating data can inform day-to-day decision-making. Adopting evidencebased decision-making is a difficult cultural shift: Work processes must be redefined, data must be scrubbed and business rules must be established to guide people. The exemplary 51 Number of companies interviewed on generation of business value from data organisations we’ve studied insist on using performance data from just one authorised source. When Ron Williams became the head of operations at Aetna, in 2001, he found that all the divisional heads could show him a spreadsheet with performance data indicating that their divisions had been profitable the previous year — even though Aetna as a whole had recorded a loss of almost $300 million! One of his first initiatives was to mandate a single information system that defined the data everyone would use to measure performance. As IT and business leaders cleaned up the data, management gained a better understanding of costs and profitability. Soon executives were creating new health plans with moretargeted pricing and working their way back to profitability. In 2005 Aetna recorded profits of $1.6 billion. Universal acceptance of one source of truth is the first step in adopting a culture of evidence-based decisionmaking. It’s okay if the data is initially flawed; it takes time for people to learn how to use a single source. But over time companies will want to initiate processes for improving data capture. Jeanne W. Ross is the director of and a principal research scientist at the Centre for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. Cynthia M. Beath is a professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin.
December 16th 2013
December 30th 2013