Nothing succeeds like success

Winning breeds winning

I admit it, I like to win. There is something about success that just makes me feel good. Maybe it’s just the endorphins talking, but sometimes that win or success seems to feed into the next. It turns out I’m not the only one. “The winner effect” describes a biochemical change that occurs after someone “gets a win.” This is explored in Ian H. Robertson’s “The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure where he states, “Success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident, and more aggressive.” I’m not sure that I’ve gotten smarter, but I do know that I’ve gotten on the types of rolls he describes in the book where I’ve been able to do the right thing at the right time and it seems like the sky is the limit. This effect is real and worth paying attention to as you set goals and develop milestones for yourself and your organization.

I was often told as a kid to be careful about setting my sights too low because by aiming too low, I might miss my ultimate potential. I’m not sure now how helpful this was in helping me build towards success. I’m all for having a grand vision, but I try to separate aspirational states for myself and organizational transformations from near term goals and milestones. In fact, this is one of the reasons in “The Path to Value” that I am so focused on near term goals. I believe that attaining these has a spillover effect that enables the larger success of the effort over time.

I certainly don’t have the same credentials that Dr. Robertson does with regard to neuroscience but I think the winner effect is broader than just each person’s individual experience. When project teams are hitting milestones and succeeding, there is a perception of success that I believe makes others in the organization more willing to help, buy in, and engage. This in turn helps the project become more successful in its own right. In essence, you can help build the overall success of your project by setting and meeting milestones; as well as ensuring that those outside the project see the value of those successes.

Have you experienced the winner’s effect? Have you ever run a project that seemed to snowball on the basis of early success? Do you try to set attainable goals early in order to build confidence to make stretch goals later?

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