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November 2013
« Oct   Dec »

Success is a Science

Posted by: Vernon Bryce, Director, Capp


“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success
if they are dedicated and passionate about what they do”

(Nelson Mandela)


A student scanned her university’s psychology reference library shelves. They were full of outstanding studies in delinquency, depression, drug addiction, divorce, debt; many important yet curiously incomplete pictures of human behaviour. Where were the triumphs, joys, adventures, the peaks of human endeavour and success she wondered?


In another place and time, a first class coach in sporting team performance, unusually at the time, recorded the winning plays in his team’s games. He then replayed them to his team. Impressively, the team improved its winning performances as never before and, as they observed and learned from their winning plays, their success was sustained.


Both had something in common; belief that success and failure, though important, are opposite to each other only in a dictionary. Behaviourally they are not opposite. Focussing on one, in the absence of the other, is neither enlightening nor productive. In business, we are getting better at understanding this difference, the difference between failure and success in terms of turning the master keys to improving performance.


Consider this. Some Sales, Leadership, L&D, Grad and Recruitment specialists each ask for £10,000 from their CFO’s discretionary ‘value creation’ fund. Some teams ask for the fund to spend the money on reducing costs, some ask for spend to study failure rates. One team, rather hopefully they thought, ask the CFO for £20 000, asking her to invest in Success. To the amazement of the other teams, the ‘success study’ team won.


Here’s what the CFO had to say. “I have often puzzled on why in business we spend an inordinate slice of our precious time investigating why things go wrong and not investing why things go right. We can learn a lot from why customers buy from us, more than why they do not. We learn more from why our successful people stay than why they may leave. In my view it’s the successful people we have now that will make us great in future. So I had no hesitation in investing in Success’’.


Opportunity is there for the taking; opportunity to create sharper workforces. Let’s study success, let’s get data on its strengths, nuances, capabilities; then find how to measure success robustly, accurately and reliably. Let’s draw and develop success models. Let’s study the many positive role models out there; also their best plays, in leaders, engineers, art, teaching, healthcare research and front line professions, sales, service, retail, projects, science, technology and design.


Some say the “War for Talent is over; Talent won’’. Soon, people will say the “Strengths revolution is over, and Success won’’. Strengths and Success are the new kids on our block; they are more than siblings, they are twins in our quest for talent.


“Success is a science. If you have the conditions you get the results”

(Oscar Wilde)



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