The Surprising Secret to Selling Yourself — Harvard Business Review
There is no shortage of advice out there on how to make a good impression — an impression good enough to land you a new job, score a promotion, or bring in that lucrative sales lead. Practice your pitch. Speak confidently, but not too quickly. Make eye contact. And for the love of Pete, don’t be modest — highlight your accomplishments. After all, a person’s track record of success (or a company’s, for that matter) is the single most important factor in determining whether or not they get hired. Or is it?
As it happens, it isn’t. Because when we are deciding who to hire, promote, or do business with, it turns out that we don’t like the Big Thing nearly as much as we like the Next Big Thing. We have a bias — one that operates below our conscious awareness — leading us to prefer the potential for greatness over someone who has already achieved it.
A set of ingenious studies conducted by Stanford’s Zakary Tormala and Jayson Jia, and Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton paint a very clear picture of our unconscious preference for potential over actual success.
Everyone seems to be interested in innovation these days, yet very few people seem to get it right. Here are a few reasons why:
- Innovation is irrelevant.
- Useful innovation is not about products and services.
- Innovation everywhere is never going to happen on a regular basis because you appoint innovation teams.
According to Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, we humans are very poor decision makers when it comes to our own happiness. The problem begins with language. We use the word happiness, Kahneman says, to refer to two very different and often mutually contradictory phenomena: the mood of the moment and our overall life-satisfaction. The former is an evanescent and notoriously unreliable gauge of the latter. Example: the joy of buying a new car vs. the subsequent, ongoing annoyance of paying the monthly bills.
Kahneman’s decades of cognitive research, much of it done in collaboration with longtime colleague Amos Tversky, has shown that humans are subject to what he calls a “focusing illusion.” We focus on the moment, overestimating the importance of certain factors in determining our future happiness and ignoring the factors that really matter.
For this reason, people commonly assume that moving to a warmer climate will make them significantly happier. This is not the case at all, as a 1998 large-sample study of Kahneman’s showed; overall life satisfaction in the Midwest and California, the regions sampled, was nearly identical.