Monday, June 29, 2009

Stanford Study Confirms "Ordinary Greatness" Principle

The Stanford Graduate School of Business ( recently conducted a study to determine if performance really matters when it comes to who we talk about and how often we talk about them.

The researchers asked participants to discuss baseball players, and gave them two lists: well-known players who were having mediocre seasons and less-known players who were having All-Star caliber seasons. They told the participants to discuss the players with one another, and more participants selected well-known players (66 percent) than lesser-known, higher-performing players (34 percent) to discuss with their conversation partners.

There are many reasons for this, but the main one seems to be that the participants selected the safer, well-known choice for a conversation topic as a way to seek "common ground." So when asked to select a player to discuss with a partner, performance seemed to matter less than how well the participant felt their partner would know the player.

In "Ordinary Greatness," we talk about blinders that inhibit our ability to see greatness, and this is an example of the blinders of compartmentalization and personal bias. We simply have a hard time spotting greatness if it doesn't fit into our preconceived notions of what greatness is or who can be great. In most companies there are employees who are doing great things who are less noticed because they may be quiet or are just not in a position to be noticed.

If you'd like to take a free assessment to see if there are any blinders you should be aware of in your own leadership, click here for that part of the Ordinary Greatness website:

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