There is something very appealing about dealing with optimists — especially those in customer facing roles. And there is evidence to show that optimists are essentially more successful people. Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky said, “People who are optimistic are more committed to their goals, are more successful in achieving their goals, are more satisfied with their lives, and have better mental and physical health when compared to more pessimistic people”.
A consequence of all this is that it can’t be long, surely, before every business cottons on to the idea that those with a sunny outlook are better for business.
Brands — and Virgin’s current Uptimism campaign is a good current example, know that there is something magnetic about a positive can-do attitude. BP’s logo (all sunny, fresh, organic and positive) has also been shown, in research conducted by my old mob, Arnold & Bolingbroke in London, as evoking the sort of optimism that is attractive to many.
It doesn’t take much imagination to predict that organisations will increasingly positively discriminate when recruiting staff — favouring those demonstrating a positive, optimistic, personality and outlook over less rosy candidates.
And what will happen to those from the glass half empty school? Folk for whom nature and nurture has rendered them more cautious, more sceptical? Will they be sidelined, perceived to be of little value?
If this scenario plays out, I think we do so at our peril.
Daniel Kahneman wrote “Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be. We also tend to exaggerate our ability to forecast the future, which fosters overconfidence.”
This would suggest that the sceptic is a potent Ying to the optimist’s Yang. We need a balance of personality and perspective to make better decision making. By all means keep the optimists at front of house, but appreciate the unique perspectives, the checks and balances that sceptics can bring to business.