It's Friday and no one likes to dig into anything heavy on Friday. So here's a little tid-bit that could help you influence behavior in your organization.
If you've read that headline you're probably having a bit of trouble keeping that cuddly white bear out of your thoughts. It is something called the "paradox of mental suppression." This article on Brain Blogger talks about a 1994 book on psychology called "White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts." The book discusses an experiment designed to see if suppressing a thought had any effect on our ability to actually - suppress the thought.
Interestingly, it did – but only a little. In other words, trying to suppress the thought had very little effect on our ability to actually keep it out of our minds.
But the more interesting part of the experiment was when they allowed folks to think about the white bear after they were told to suppress it. Their focus on the white bear increased significantly. In other words, they exhibited a "rebound" effect.
How Does This Affect Performance
Here's what went through my mind when I read about this experiment…
It's a tough economy. Employees are probably talking about the business – negatively. Management probably tells their people – "don't think about it. Just keep your head down and do your job."
However, the conversation at the water cooler continues to increase so Management decides that they need to clear the air. They hold a meeting where they "allow" the staff to talk about the business and how the economy is affecting it – negatively, most probably.
Will this then create the same rebound effect? Will employees increase the amount of time they are thinking negatively about the business and the economy? Did clearing the air actually increase the focus on the bad economy and the bad business. How will this affect their performance?
I don't know.
The author of the book however suggests that we indulge in "focused distraction" – finding something else to think about. Duh…
But, from a performance standpoint I'd probably do this…
Thoughts? Nothing too heavy – remember it's Friday.
Originally posted on on Incentive Intelligence