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Why do winners keep winning, and losers keep losing?

Rosabeth M. Kanter, one of the fifty most powerful women in the world according to the New York Times, explains why winning streaks and losing streaks are self-sustaining - and how to break the cycle * impressions from a lecture she gave this week at the Technion

Playing in front of a stadium full of fans. Photo from Wikipedia
Playing in front of a stadium full of fans. Photo from Wikipedia

When we look at the online news sites, it is hard to get rid of the heavy feeling that many people are not satisfied with the way the State of Israel is run. It doesn't matter if you are secular, orthodox or religious, Muslim or Christian, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi or Ethiopian - the main thing that unites everyone is the hard feeling that somewhere you are deprived.

What is the automatic response to such a situation, where we all feel that we are losing all the time? Does such a situation preserve itself? And how can you get out of it?

Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor of business administration at Harvard and one of the "fifty most powerful women in the world", according to the New York Times, tried to answer this question. Kanter has been known for many years as a talented social and economic thinker, who gives lectures around the world. She advises governments, private companies and even mega-corporations such as IBM. Last Tuesday she came to give a lecture at the Technion and explain why people who start winning, keep winning - while those who start losing, keep losing.

“…Obviously, when things are successful, people begin to believe that they will always be successful. The mood is in the sky, the investments are good and this makes the success continue because everyone is ready to invest. The people are more generous and there is more philanthropy. People are more willing to help others and everyone believes that our leaders are great." Kanter says, but adds that, "When you lose, people believe that we will always lose. They invest less, are less generous to their peers and communities because they feel they need to keep their possessions. And those leaders, who in the good cycle were wonderful - in the bad cycle look like idlers. And regardless, most of them really are like that."

Kanter stressed that cycles of wins and losses always exist. Her research group focused on sports teams and examined the salient features of teams that experienced particularly long winning streaks, compared to teams that experienced particularly long losing streaks. Kanter focused on sports mainly because in games it is very easy to determine who won and who lost, especially compared to the progress of companies and organizations in the market. From the studies, she produced a number of important conclusions, which she explained during the lecture.

Kanter's first conclusion was quite simple: winning is much better than losing. Although this conclusion seems trivial at first glance, it is important to understand that the very act of winning puts people in a mood of success. The winning teams have a better mood, and a feeling that "we can do anything". People have more energy and will take fewer sick days. They will want to communicate more, because people who experience success want to talk about it much more than those who experience failure. According to Kanter, three-quarters of the surveys she sent were filled out by people who had experienced success in their companies and groups.

Kanter emphasizes that when a group or company makes a mistake, it is necessary to hold a discussion and understand what the problem was. But when people are not ready to talk about their mistakes, as is often the case in a team that has experienced a losing streak, there is also no ability to improve. When surrounded by success, it is easier to talk about the mistakes made and know that next time you will do better. And simply - success improves our ability to correct the mistakes we made.

No less difficult than the inability to self-correct is the fact that losers are under constant surveillance. Banks that start losing money are under severe and unceasing criticism. In schools where student grades are deteriorating, teachers have to go through investigation procedures that take up valuable time, which they could have used to understand for themselves what the problem is and improve it. Winners, on the other hand, win opportunities almost without realizing it. They are invited to prestigious parties where they will make new and profitable connections, are invited to the World Economic Forum and receive many benefits that help them continue to win and receive deals at a much lower price than the losers receive.

If the victory finances itself, how and when do the zodiac signs reverse? When do the cycles change, and a team that has experienced a streak of victories begins to lose and lose itself to know?

Kanter's main conclusion about the changing of the zodiac signs was that winning is boring. Victory is the result of hard work. It is not based on luck or brilliance of genius, but on hard, long and boring work. Companies that win over time do more work. A winning streak ends because of arrogance and laziness. Individuals - and sometimes the whole group - begin to believe that just because they have won in the past, they are going to win in the future as well without putting in the hard work necessary to do so. This is why leaders should always maintain a mindset in the group where the people are interested and responsible for their actions. This is also why good leaders don't tell their people that the team is on a winning streak. They say that the team wins thanks to the hard work of each member, and that you must not stop trying. Good leaders insist on the personal responsibility of each member of the group for their duties, and provide themselves with plenty of personal examples of this.

During the research she conducted, Kanter covered a team that experienced an especially long losing streak. Over the course of nine years, that team lost ninety games, one after the other, without exception. When the team finally won their first game in nine years, the immediate feeling on the field was one of euphoria. One of the players shouted that, "The streak is over!" Another answered him that the losing streak is over - but the winning streak is just beginning. Soon the cry went up that, "Now we will win the championship!"

That team did not win the championship that year. In fact, chaos broke out on the field, many of the players got drunk and the team was almost not allowed to play the next game, in which they lost the worst. The players abandoned the personal responsibility they had for their actions, and the result was a continuation of the sequence of failures.

Kanter's third conclusion regarding sequences of success refutes what is currently accepted in the labor market, where employers are looking for only the best. Those employers sometimes forget that it is not individual success that determines, but group success. Similarly, it is not the individual talent that determines - but the talent produced within the group.

Rosabet Canter
Rosabet Canter

"We forget that people can perform above or below their potential, depending on the organizations they are in. In my studies I saw that people moved from one organization to another and their performance changed." Kanter says, adding that, "even losing teams have stars, but sometimes, the stars on losing teams do nothing for the team. The truly winning team is the one where the most talented are committed to sharing their wisdom with the less talented and improving overall performance. "

Towards the end of the lecture, Kanter returned to the beginning, and emphasized that one of the most important advantages of winning is the ability to learn from the loss. "Winners learn more from their losses. In every game there is always the moment when you make a mistake or get confused, and it can be seen as a loss. During every progression towards victory, there are moments that seem like losses, especially if you've never done it before. This is where a culture of victory makes the difference."

Especially when losing, you need the self-discipline, the good mood, the leaders who believe you are going to succeed. If you have all of these, and if you continue to understand that small actions one-by-one will make a difference, then you will also win.

The leaders of society, therefore, should be imbued not only with self-confidence, but above all with confidence in other people. They should have faith that other people will succeed, if only given the chance. And from such confidence in other people, the self-confidence of the entire society is also built.

What is the way to restore Israeli society? Perhaps the best way begins with the understanding that Israeli society is still based on strong and solid foundations of brotherhood and brotherhood. We all - secular, religious, Muslim and Christian - live in the same country. Although we all have disagreements about the way it should be conducted, we must remember that we are part of a large group and that each of us must contribute to the group and maintain its cohesion - otherwise we will all fall together.

For now, you can find Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter's book in English only - "Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End"

14 תגובות

  1. In my opinion - the very fact that it contributes to victory shows that it is not an illusion.

  2. So those who believe in determinism (which, as mentioned, removes personal responsibility) will enter a series of losses.
    This could explain from an evolutionary point of view why there are few people who believe in determinism, probably a question that is no longer with us. Which means it's evolutionarily better to believe in the illusion of free will, it's an illusion that helps forever.

  3. fresh:
    But not everyone always feels disadvantaged.
    The reference to the issue of deprivation is only the way in which the research relates to our situation here in Israel, but the research itself - to remind you - discusses sequences of successes versus sequences of failures and it would not be possible if there were not sequences of successes.
    The partners of the success streak do not feel deprived.
    In Israel we have - as Roy pointed out - a special problem that has already been described in the joke that says that where there are two Jews there are three opinions.
    This problem causes - so it is claimed - a feeling of deprivation (failure) which, beyond its objective reasons, also - according to the research - preserves itself.

  4. If everyone feels disadvantaged, it means that it was evolutionarily beneficial to feel that way until now, and probably in the future as well.

  5. Steven Levitt in "Freakonomics" believes that losing streaks are simply a statistical result - he shows in the American Football League that losses are simply the edge of the expected binomial/normal distribution. In short - the above is bullshit.

  6. Roy Shalom, yesterday I came across a very interesting series of articles you wrote for YNet (I'm almost sure I saw your name there) something with the title "The 10 questions that science…… something…." , but the link is lost and I can't get there again in any way, the YNet company hid the articles so well that it's simply impossible to find them, maybe you have an idea how to get there again? I searched in the science section and did not find any mention or link to the above articles.

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