Human Psychology

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How to Compensate For Overoptimistic Project Leaders

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Would you know if a project was heading off the rails? Too often, members of project teams are crossing their fingers and providing only the most hopeful updates. After reviewing 14 studies into the ways in which individuals report (and misreport) the status of information technology or software projects, the authors identified five specific areas for leaders to look out for to avoid being blindsided.

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Would You Wear Red Sneakers to Work? Should You?

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Being a little quirky in clothing choices leads to positive inferences of status, confidence and competence — when observers think the choices are made with deliberateness. From a psychological standpoint, intentional deviance can signal that one has the autonomy to act according to one’s own inclinations, write the authors, who are all affiliated with Harvard Business School. On the other hand, nonconformists do risk not having a comfort zone and “the benefits of following the crowd.”

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The Pitfalls of Project Status Reporting

Accepting five inconvenient truths about project status reporting can greatly reduce the chance of being blindsided by unpleasant surprises. For instance, many employees tend to put a positive spin on anything they report to senior management. And when employees do report bad news, senior executives often ignore it. Overconfidence is an occupational hazard in the executive suite, and executives need to examine their own assumptions and beliefs about project status reporting.

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Combining Purpose With Profits

It’s an old idea: If you want to build a company that truly motivates its employees, it has to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose that transcends making money can motivate employees. But to sustain both a sense of purpose and a solid level of profitability over time, companies need to pay attention to several fundamental organizing principles, including the need for support systems that reinforce goals.

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How to Build More Personal Power

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Executives who find themselves experiencing a power deficit have two strategies for overcoming it: they can either play the existing game more effectively or they can change the game. “Career counselors often advise people to shore up weaknesses, but the secret to becoming indispensable is consolidating strengths,” write Jean-Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet.

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Is It Really Lonely at the Top?

There’s a business relationship that’s often overlooked: the relationships in between friends and allies — in other words, business relationships with people you enjoy being with. This article defines these people as chums and asserts that their importance too often goes unnoticed. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People is a practical classic on the art of cultivating chums — of inviting business allies into your courtyard while keeping them out of your kitchen.

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The Key to Social Media Success Within Organizations

Though the use of social media can be a valuable way to enrich a company’s culture and enhance its productivity, it isn’t a sure thing. The main reason some social media initiatives fail to bring benefits to companies is because the initiatives don’t create emotional capital — that is, a strong emotional connection between stakeholders and the company. That’s the main finding of a survey of 1,060 executives about their experience with social media, along with a number of in-depth case studies.

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In Defense of Delay

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A new book, “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay,” argues that while snap decisions can be important in times of danger, our brains need time to assess other factors and resist what economists call “present bias.”

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Clay Christensen Asks: How Will You Measure Your Life?

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In May, 2012, the New Yorker published an 11-page profile of Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor. The article details his fascination with low-end disruptive products (articulated in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma), his Mormon faith, and how good people, like good companies, can lose their way in life. That last topic is the subject of Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? and his TED talk of the same name.

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How to Build Your Creative Confidence

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It’s a false construct to divide the world into the creatives and the non-creatives, says IDEO founder David Kelley. He helps business people “turn fear into familiarity, and they surprise themselves. That transformation is amazing.”

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“Let Me Come Right Out and Say It: You Cheat”

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”As long as we cheat by only a little bit, we can benefit from cheating and still view ourselves as marvelous human beings,” writes behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his new book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone — Especially Ourselves.”

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What It Takes to Be a Serial Innovator

It’s not easy to develop a breakthrough innovation in an established company and bring it to market successfully — and even more challenging to do so more than once. In their new book, Serial Innovators: How Individuals Create and Deliver Breakthrough Innovations in Mature Firms, authors Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price and Bruce A. Vojak describe several years of research they have conducted about a type of employee who can do just that.

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The Curse of Your Qualities

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Smart leaders know that what can save you can also kill you — that traits that are good in many ways can boomerang back if you take them too far. The authors of “How to Become a Better Leader” explore how leaders can recognize and manage their psychological inclinations.

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What You Wear Can Influence How You Perform

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New research suggests that clothing can have an effect on our behavior if that clothing has a symbolic meaning and if we have the physical experience of wearing the clothes. Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University call this “enclothed cognition.”

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