Saturday, October 22, 2016

What is optimal for engineer/entrepreneur/intrapreneur, be optimist or pessimist?

Since many years, I have noticed a disturbing appearance patterns, my network (engineer/entrepreneurs) project a more pessimist image than my wife network (sales/managers) who project a more optimist one.

I did start researching on the subject and found reassuring studies. Basically sales people are more likely to perform if they are optimist and engineer/entrepreneurs more likely to success if they are defensive optimist. The 2 groups need to use opposite strategy to better perform. An optimist should relax and pessimist should focus on his weakness to better perform. 

Concerning entrepreneur and life in general, I think the optimal configuration is the combination of both: optimist in appearance but pessimist under the hood. For sales, knowing that appearance is critical, I think people should show more the optimists part but need to work hard under the hood (pessimist to keep improving). For entrepreneur/engineer its the same but need to remove the optimist mask more often to work.  
Image result for duck pedaling image

Now, I better understand why natural selection didn't eradicate pessimist or our monkey brain

The best article I found on the subject is "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking" from Adam Grant. 

Here are the article highlights sections:

Although evidence shows that happiness often makes us more successful by fostering energy and creativity, it can backfire for defensive pessimists. When strategic optimists and defensive pessimists threw darts, they did equally well overall, but were most effective under opposite conditions.
If you want to achieve a major goal, conventional wisdom says to think positive. Picture yourself delivering the perfect presentation, and absorb the energy of the audience. Envision the ideal job interview, and imagine yourself on cloud nine when you get the offer. Although these strategies sound compelling, it turns out that they often backfire. Many of us are more successful when we focus on the reasons that we’re likely to fail.
Strategic optimists and defensive pessimists succeed under different circumstances. If you’re a defensive pessimist, or you’re attempting to motivate one, the strategies that prove effective are often the reverse of what you expect.
“Before long, I began to realize that they were doing so well because of their pessimism… negative thinking transformed anxiety into action.” By imagining the worst-case scenario, defensive pessimists motivate themselves to prepare more and try harder.
If you’re the kind of person who’s always telling other people to look on the bright side, you might want to reconsider. Whether people succeed is not a matter of thinking positively or negatively, but rather whether they choose the strategies that match their thinking styles. As psychologists Heidi Grant Halvorson and Tory Higgins write in Focus, “It’s the fit that counts.”
And if you’re a defensive pessimist, when preparing for a performance that really matters, you might want to list your weaknesses instead of your strengths, and drink a glass of anxiety rather than a shot of confidence.

Ultimately, both styles are deadly at their extremes. Pessimism becomes fatalistic, and optimism becomes toxic. The key is to find the sweet spot, the more moderate ranges that combine the benefits of both approaches. In the words of Richard Pine, “The best chief executives—and that includes presidents—know that too much optimism is a dangerous thing, that wise and productive leadership means striking a balance between optimists’ blue sky view of the world and pessimists’ more clear-eyed assessment of any given situation. Take one part salesman, one part inventor, one part lawyer, one part safety engineer, stir gently and you’ve got a great chief executive.”

Optimists tend to thrive in jobs that require resilience and perseverance. For example, in insurance sales jobs with high rejection rates, optimists sold 37% more than pessimists over a 2-year period.

At the same time, we need pessimists to anticipate the worst and prepare us all for it. On average, research indicates that people who never worry have lower job performance than those who worry from time to time. Studies also show that when entrepreneurs are highly optimistic, their new ventures bring in less revenue and grow more slowly, and when CEOs are highly optimistic, they take on more risky debt and swing for the fences more often, putting their companies in jeopardy. (This may be why there are fewer optimistic CFOs than CEOs.)

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