The psychological breakthrough of the noughties
One of the most surprising yet little understood results of psychological research this decade has been the Losada ratio. Simply, you will get depressed if you experience more than 1 minor negative event to every 3 moderate positive events.
How do we remain sane on trains and tubes and cramped uncomfortable workplaces, I wonder. Well we don’t. We languish. We become inflexible. Our creativity drops. And all our energy goes into managing the negativitiy.
Of course, we should become resilient. Some even say we should become ‘hard’. But we aren’t saying we should extinguish all negative results. When negative stuff falls below 8%, we get manic. The flip side of the 3:1 ratio is 11:1. We need to be somewhere in between.
We will take 17% of nonsense
The optimal rate is 5 moderate positive to 1 mild negative events. Let’s spell that out. People will take a mildly negative comment in the company of 5 moderately positive comments. You can be mildly unpleasant 17% of the time without demolishing the creativity productivity and creativity of your team. Surely that is sufficient quota for you!!
A simple model of 3 factors
The amazing thing about this research result is the positivity/negativity ratio is believed to interact with two other ratios. In addition to being positive, it is also healthy to ask slightly more questions about facts, figures and other people’s views than to put on the table what we already know. Moreover, it is healthy to be slightly more concerned with life outside the group than with internal processes.
Groups that interact in these ratios have moments when they are positive, questioning and externally-oriented and moments when they are negative, internally-oriented and pushing their own point of view. They also have all manner of combination in between the two extremes. If we assume they are one-or-the other, they have 2x2x2, that is 8 states they can be in.
Understanding whether a group is healthy
How can we tell whether a group that is presently negative, internally-oriented and pushy is permanently in that state, or in a natural swoop of mood?
Simply we cannot tell, until they change. Life isn’t a spectator sport. If we want to know what kind of group we are in, we have to hang about long enough to find out.
Funnily enough, if we are curious enough to stay, if we are willing to put our eggs in their basket, then they are more likely to swing into a more positive state. We should remember though that emotion is contagious. If they are in a very bad mood, take care to give yourself space to stay positive. And don’t preach. Ask! Or as Ben Zander says, apologize and invite. Preaching to preachers doesn’t get them to listen!
Understanding whether a group will stay positive
Also remember, that joining a positive team that seems on top of the world is no guarantee that they will stay there. Indeed, if they are healthy, they will not stay there. They will swoop downwards and they are probably about to begin a downward sweep. So be sure you are happy to join them on the ride. Be happy that you will join them . . .
That’s the way to judge a project. Are you welcome and do you trust this group enough to put up with the bad times? In sickness and in health?
The question for New Year’s Eve
Remember life isn’t a spectator sport. Who exactly are you loyal too? That is the question for New Year’s Eve. That’s the reason for New Year’s Eve. To remember those to whom are we deeply committed in the year ahead.