Achieving Goals with a StickK
happy new year
That’s how my friend greeted me. Not with an all caps and exclamation points attitude to which I had become accustomed, but a soft-spoken and almost unenthusiastic “happy new year”. I got worried, so I inquired further. Good news – everything is okay. This excitable young man, jubilant wife and boisterous children have resolved to tone-it-down-and-stop-yelling in an effort to have a quiet and more peaceful household in 2015. Well, good luck with that.
Chances are good that I’ll have my old friend back very soon.
Based on a survey conducted by John Norcross of the University of Scranton, roughly half of us regularly make New Year’s resolutions. Most often, our commitments are about losing weight, getting organized and saving money. Unfortunately, over 70% of us fail to keep our promises.
Luckily, some smart folks at Yale University have developed a tool called stickK to improve our success rate. StickK is a website where you can specify your goal, sign a commitment contract, enlist others to hold you accountable, and set up consequences if you fail. StickK even suggests “anti -charities” as a helpful incentive. For example, a stanch Republican might choose to donate a personalized, commemorative brick paver to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, or a committed Democrat might contribute funds to a Jeb Bush presidential run in 2016.
In an analysis of over 125,000 commitment contracts, stickK reports that 29% of those who sign a contract actually succeed in achieving their goals. However, that number rises to 74% if goal-setters enlist the help of friends to hold them accountable, report progress on social networks, and define a consequence for failing.
While all of this seems helpful for keeping New Year’s resolutions, I believe there is a larger lesson for our corporate goal setting. For those of you embarking on new strategic initiatives in 2015, we suggest adopting these lessons to improve your success rate and achieve positive business results.
- Clearly Communicate the Goal (and the real effort required): StickK representatives note that it is not simply the public proclamation of the goal that leads to success, but also the detailed Commitment Contract which requires people to clearly state the daily steps required to succeed.
- Ensure Accountability: Require frequent public updates on the status of each phase of the project, and assign specific people responsible for each deliverable. If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.
- Clarify the Consequences: A cognitive bias called “loss aversion” shows that people are more motivated to avoid losing something they enjoy than gaining something they have never experienced. Frame change initiatives in such a way as to clarify what current benefits will be lost if the change is not successful.
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