Promoting Performance
July-August 2010

Expert-Based Intuition

A recent review of research clearly indicated that intuition has value for organizations. Intuition plays a major role in the decisions people make. Intuition is a real phenomenon and contributes to effectiveness, especially in situations where it counts (e.g., time-pressured complex decision making in the real world).  Although there is compelling research on how intuition works, the conditions under which it works best, and how to improve intuitive expert decision making, there is much work to be done. Although the label intuition is frequently ascribed some transcendental quality, the phenomenon is real. It is important to organizational effectiveness and the management sciences to contribute to the practice through more and rigorous research into the nature and development of intuitive decision-making skills. Intuition is how people rapidly detect coherent patterns in complex environments. It is how they generate solutions that work (cf. mythically optimal solutions) without the luxury of limitless time. In addition, expert (or knowledge-based) intuition can be acquired through experience. All of these factors indicate that the management sciences should pay more attention to the broader range of cognitive processing happening in organizational contexts.  Source: Salas, E., et al., (2010).  Expertise-based intuition and decision making in organizations.  Journal of Management, 36(4), 941-973.

The Bigger Picture

In describing the elements of decision making by effective executives, Peter Drucker identified the first question the expert decision maker asks: “Is this a generic situation or an exception?”  In other words, is the cause of the situation something that underlies a great many occurrences, or is the cause unique to this particular event?  Only in ‘seeing the bigger picture’ can we know if the situation is caused by a long-term problem or a blip in the process.  If the situation is long-term and part of the bigger picture, then the decision must be one in which a principle is identified and applied.  When principles guide our decisions, the long term health and welfare of the organization is in better position because a series of temporary and convenient decisions is akin to putting your finger in a crumbling dyke.  Source:  Schempp, P.  (2008).  5 Steps to Expert.  Davies-Black, Publishers.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

Though evening people do have some advantages–other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor, and are more outgoing–they’re out of sync with the typical corporate schedule. When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. Early  research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, a survey showed. They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages. The fascinating thing about these findings is that duration of sleep has nothing to do with the increased proactivity and morning alertness that we see among morning people. But while the number of hours of sleep doesn’t matter, the timing of sleep does. So you could try shifting your daily cycle by going to bed earlier. Another thing you could do is go outside into the daylight early in the morning. The daylight resets your circadian clock and helps shift you toward morningness. If you go outside only in the evening, you tend to shift toward eveningness. Source: Randler, C. (2010).  The Early Bird Really Does Get the Worm. Harvard Business Review, 88 (7/8), 30-31.

Psychological Skill

A team of researchers from the University of North Texas explored the influence of golf expertise on mental skills utilization, as well as the use of mental skills and anxiety on performance at a major national golf competition. Participants, who had played golf for an average of 23 years, ranged in age and in skill level, included 1151 male and 173 female amateur golfers competing in the Dupont World Amateur Golf Championship in Myrtle Beach, SC. Measures targeted mental skills utilization, golf-specific skills, and competitive trait anxiety. The use of these skills was analyzed over all three competitive rounds of the tournament. Not surprisingly, consistent differences in the use of psychological skills across skill level were found, favoring more skilled players. The most salient predictors of better tournament performance (lower gross scores) were automaticity, commitment to golf, and disruptions in concentration, whereas positive self-talk predicted higher scores. These findings reinforce the role of automaticity in fostering the experience of peak performance in a competitive sport context. Source: Hayslip, B.  (2010) The Influences of Skill Level, Anxiety, and Psychological Skills Use on Amateur Golfers’ Performances.  Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(2), 123-133.

4 Elements

According to Richard Norris, head of global development for Lifestyle Architecture, to achieve maximum results from personnel development programs, four elements must be present:

The big picture. Raise the importance of having a role-specific big

picture and how it is applied in terms of individual, team, and company development.

Peak performance. Identify what peak performance looks like, thinks

like, feels like, and behaves like. Establish the competence, commitment,

and ability to communicate that is required, and indicate how that is orchestrated by what and how we think.

The path to peak performance. Establish where your organization is on your path. Determine what is holding you back and what needs to be done to overcome those hindrances. Only then can the peak performance concept be fully applied.

The four phases of role-specific development. Establish an awareness of the phases you develop through, where you are as an organization right now, and how you need to develop your people to enhance performance and attract and achieve growth and results.

Source:  Norris, R. (2009).  Four concepts to develop your people.  T+D, 63(12), 14.

Anxiety and Performance

Nineteen elite male sport climbers (average 25 years of age) completed the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule before an international rock climbing competition. Climbing performances were video-recorded to calculate movement fluency (entropy) and obtain ascent times. Official route scores were also obtained. Successful climbers reported higher pre-performance levels of physical anxiety and climbed the most difficult part of the route more slowly than their unsuccessful counterparts. The psychological states preceding elite climbing competition appeared to be an important factor in determining success, even when differences in baseline ability were taken into account. Source:  Sanchez, X., et al., (2010).  Pre-performance psychological states and performance in an elite climbing competition.  Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 (2), pp. 356-363.

A Leader’s Learning

In an article in Leader to Leader, Robert J. Thomas, the executive directive of the Accenture Institute for Higher Performance Business, argues that there are three aspects of a personal learning strategy that are critical to the effective learning of eminent performers, senior executives and successful professionals.  First, the strategy must include a method for extracting insight from experience.  This allows a leader to gain from the challenges life continually dishes up, including the crucible experiences that define them as leaders. Second, a leader’s learning strategy must be driven by a powerful aspiration that encourages growth and adaptation.  Third, the learning strategy must be built around a concept and a regimen of deliberate practice that connects learning and performance.  Source: Thomas, R. (2008).  What leaders can learn from expert performers. Leader to Leader, 2008 (50), p28-33.

Winning is Not a Sometime Thing

“Winning is not a sometime thing. It’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while. You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second-place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.”Source: Vincent Lombardi, (1968) Coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, pregame speech, Super Bowl II, Miami, FL.