FF Daily #439: Visualizing a gold

August 2, 2021: Michael Johnson’s golden shoes; Managing the hybrid workplace; Incentives vs. Imitation; How to make excuses

Founding Fuel

[Photo by User:rrafson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Good morning,

In It Takes What It Takes, Andy Staples and Trevor Moawad talk about the power of visualization that might just resonate during this season. For, they use the example of how Michael Johnson trained for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Johnson won two gold medals for 200m and 400m. He trained hard, but what was happening inside his head is also equally important. Staples and Moawad narrate a fascinating story about his shoes. 

They write: “Michael’s plan required visualizing every aspect of the races that would lead to gold medals. That meant every aspect—from his head to his feet. Michael left himself no choice for the 1996 Olympics after a meeting with his team at Nike. About a year before the Olympics, Nike designer Tobie Hatfield showed Michael and his coach a prototype of the shoe Michael would wear. ‘It was never about the colour of the shoes,’ Michael said. ‘The idea was to make the most technologically advanced, lightest track spike ever.’ The prototype wasn’t gold. It had a mirrored finish. Michael told Hatfield not to change a thing. Michael’s coach disagreed. ‘With 100,000 people sitting in the stands, it’s going to look like a regular silver shoe,’ he said. Reflexively, Michael asked, ‘Tobie, can you make that in gold?’

“‘His jaw just dropped,’ Michael said. ‘Like, ‘Are you seriously considering gold shoes?’’ Michael swears he never thought about how awkward it would look if he won bronze in gold shoes. ‘But that was my mindset,’ Michael said. ‘I wasn’t going there for anything else. I wasn’t training for anything else.’ By the time he was on the track in Atlanta, Michael knew what would happen.”

He finished the race in 19.32 seconds, setting a new world record.

In this issue

  • Managing the hybrid workplace
  • Incentives vs. Imitation
  • How to make excuses

Have a good day.

Managing the hybrid workplace

All evidence suggests that hybrid workplaces will be a mainstay of the post-pandemic world. That is why a short essay on hybrid workplaces published by McKinsey & Co had our attention. The authors pointed to three risks that must be managed.

  • “Almost 30% of employees say they are likely to switch jobs if made to fully return to on-site work, highlighting that employee well-being and preference need to be considered before deciding on a return to the office.” 
  • “[I]mprovement came at the cost of a blurred work-life boundary and increased symptoms of grief, anxiety, and burnout.”
  • “The real challenge of the hybrid model is how to manage people and processes to support workers who may now be in person or remote on any given day.”

This is a theme we are deeply interested in, and following closely. 

Dig deeper

Incentives vs. Imitation

Albert Bandura, one of the most influential psychologists, died last week. He is best known for his insights on aggression and violence—which is as relevant today as it was when he first published his works decades ago. In its obituary, The New York Times has a good description of his famous Bobo doll experiments. 

“Dr. Bandura was most widely recognized for a series of laboratory studies—collectively known as the Bobo doll experiment—that he carried out with two colleagues at Stanford in the early 1960s.

“In the first study, nursery school children watched an adult heaping verbal and physical abuse on an inflatable Bobo the clown doll, punching it in the nose, kicking it, hitting it on the head with a mallet and throwing it around the room. When the children were then given a chance to interact with a similar doll, they copied the adult’s abusive behaviour and produced additional forms of abuse that they thought up on their own.

“In contrast, children who watched an adult interacting peacefully with the doll, or who were not shown a model at all, were significantly less aggressive, Dr. Bandura and his colleagues found.

“The Bobo doll findings challenged a basic tenet of classical behaviourism: that if a behaviour is rewarded, it will persist and sometimes increase; and that if it is punished, it will diminish and eventually cease. In contrast, the Bobo doll studies demonstrated what any parent or school teacher knew: that children also learn from observing other people’s behaviour.”

Dig deeper

How to make excuses

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And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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