Decision-Making Styles– Pollyanna Principle, Murphy Law, Eeyoreism, Blue Sky: Art of Possibility Vs. Blind Optimism…

The Pollyanna Principle or Pollyannaism is tendency for people to become excessive, illogical, unreasonably– optimistic– sometimes its called positivity bias… Research indicates that, at the unconscious level, human minds have a tendency to focus on the optimistic, while at the conscious level they have a tendency to focus on the negative… 

In Eleanor Porter’s classic book, Pollyanna, she describes how a positive attitude affects people with a negative view of life… The Pollyanna attitude of life has led to the coining of a psychological term, called Pollyannaism.

Pollyanna accepts anything that happens by reflecting that things could always have been worse. This noble view of the world is not always an asset at work… The IBM Pollyanna Principle is the axiom; machines should work; people should think. This can be understood as a statement of extreme optimism; machines should do all hard work, freeing people to think (hence reference to Pollyanna), or as a cynical statement, suggesting that most of the world’s major problems result from machines that fail to work, and people who fail to think…

Also, Pollyannaism is sometimes used pejoratively, referring to someone whose optimism is excessive to the point of naïveté or refusing to accept the facts of an unfortunate situation.

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In ‘A Bit of Pollyanna’ by Nan S. Russell writes: Everyday ideas are gutted before they’re allowed to evolve; it’s becoming a workplace ritual to poke pinholes in the balloon of an idea until enough air leaks out to drop the budding idea to the ground. We look first for the reasons why something can’t be done; why it won’t work; why it’s too difficult; why it’s a bad idea… We’ve become so good at discouraging ideas that might lead to new business, processes, products…

In contrast, people who are winning in business take a far different approach; they pump air into idea-balloon by offering– suggestion, brainstorm possibility, encourage input… They point out problems by offering solutions that make ideas more viable. They’re curious and intrigued, looking at how one idea might fit with another, or weaving two small ideas into one bigger one. And, instead of asking why they encourage people to give it a try… They get excited about new possibilities…

Often its the– optimism, vision, positive approach… which is the bit of Pollyanna in them. But they probably won’t call it that; Pollyanna’s gotten bad rap in business circles it’s naïve and unrealistic… It’s time to look at Pollyanna differently: You will find more success in business by embracing new ideas, seeing the positive side, stretching the horizons…

The impossible is often more a state of mind than reality: As Helen Keller said: No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of stars… or sailed to uncharted land… But, there’s more to winning in business than just positive thinking, optimistic approaches… a bit of Pollyanna must be mixed with strong doses of common sense. Or, as British political leader Harold Wilson put it: I am an optimist, but I’m an optimist who carries a good raincoat… A bit of Pollyanna is a very good thing…

In the article When Does Optimism Become Pollyannaism? by Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo, Olivier Sibony write: One way to overcome unconscious biases in decision-making is to ask the question: Is the base case for the decision overly optimistic? In business, most planning contain forecasts, which are notoriously prone to excessive optimism…

Leaders with successful track records are more prone to this bias than others; especially if they are on a winning streak… However, in our daily business life we often view those who try to rein in or express contrarian views as ‘downers’… As a result, in the desire to show who is less negative a race to the top of the optimism ladder begins and at some point it becomes Pollyannaism.

Moreover, some leaders tends to view an issue as a– glass half-empty rather than glass half-full, and the fear of being in an adverse situation can be a powerful motivator for taking action: Thus, a Pollyanna state could reduce a management team to complacency… Which means that a team in the midst of success is less likely to change, than one in the midst of crisis…

Although, clearly defining the demarcation zone between optimism and Pollyannaism is difficult; it does highlight the fact that there is failure in success, and it can cast doubt on the phrase– nothing breeds success like success. In fact, the best indicator that Pollyannaism might have infected a business culture is its degree of success… After all, it’s kind of hard to reach ‘state of Pollyanna‘ if you’re not even in ‘state of optimism’.

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In the article Business Plans Should be Simple & Passionate by Cletus E Olebunne writes:  You’ve come up with a great idea for– an innovation, new business, new product, niche in the marketplace that’s crying out to be filled… In perfect world an industrious person set-up a business, watch it flourish, and counts the money as it flows over the transom… But in imperfect world, in addition to being industrious, a person needs investment, resources… in order to launch a business. And to get the needed financial investment, typically you go begging to– banks, venture capital, angel investors, uncle-aunt…

Most of these sources of investment want a business plan; and for entrepreneurs– preparing a business plan is one of the most frustrating parts of launching a business: Translating ideas, concepts, vision… into a dry document designed to win over skeptical investors… The purpose of a business plan is to convince potential investors that the idea for new– company, product, market… is solid and you’re the right person to make the whole thing work.

However, Pollyannaism doesn’t make good entrepreneurs…  many people have great ideas… and many people can be an entrepreneur… but few people can thoroughly think through and explain the many issues, risks, potential problems… associated with a starting a new business, or for an existing business…

Preparing a business plan forces you to answer tough questions, forces you to address the– pitfalls, risks… Finding the pitfalls, thinking through the key issues, risks… is crucial. A good business plan isn’t only stuffed with financial projections, but it must also explain how the business, product, market… makes money… The business ideas can be great, but investors want to know how the company will actually make money… If you come across as Pollyannaish then that’s a negative, turn-off for an investor…

In the article Secrets of Happiness at Work by Dr Dick McCann writes: The reality of the business world is often summarized, tongue in cheek, by Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will… Therefore, it’s important not to sit back and accept fate in a positive way, as Pollyanna does… It’s essential to identify all the obstacles that might occur and have a plan of action ready to implement, should things go wrong. Anticipating key issues, problems, pitfalls… and having a plan to avoid or at least mitigate them can help prevent Murphy’s Law from happening…

Also, in contrast and as important, Pollyannaism can cause major problems for a business, as well, for example; excessive enthusiasm and belief in positive outcome certainty can often lead to bad decisions that are regretted later, which then also can lead to wide-spread cynicism in the workplace… Risk-averse people tend to focus their energy on– seeing many obstacles– all the things that might go wrong… And, when faced with potentially good opportunities, they may very well ignore them, resenting cogent arguments to support their view that the risks are too great– this is correlated to pessimism. Pessimism is a mood state that affects all of us to varying degree. However, too much pessimism can lead to apathy and inaction…

In A. A. Milne’s classic book, ‘Winnie the Pooh’; Eeyore is universally recognized as being gloomy about life and anticipates the worst in most situations. He constantly expects things to go wrong… However, if we were all like Eeyore and see gloom in everything, then we probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning! A focus on seeing obstacles is very important in business, since it can prevent serious mistakes from being made… But excessive negativity, or Eeyoreism, can be even more catastrophic, it must be avoided at all costs…

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In the article Difference between Optimism and Pollyannaism by Robin J. Elliott writes: Why do some people go courageously forward convinced of their imminent success, while others– cower, whimper… looking for excuses to retreat to old ways? What makes some people see the future as– dark, threatening… while others are eager to search for new opportunities, expecting only best outcomes? Once, I was accused of being Pollyannaish…

The accusing naysayer honestly believed that my optimism was delusional… But, after I gave it some thought, I concluded that their expectations were based on their past failures, whereas I based my expectations on past successes. So, if everything you tried failed… and, you know the pain of going forward is less than pain of doing nothing… and, the situation is going from bad to worse… then you ‘must’ make a change… and, my recommendation is the following; Find a winner, a person who is going in your same direction and team up with them… Borrow their courage, learn from their demeanor, model their attitude, lean on their strength. Take their advice even when terrified. Winners like to help others who work hard and do their best…

Small successes build faith and strengthen self-esteem… and self-discipline will do wonders for optimism… If you think like a winner then you are a winner: Do what winners do, have what winners have, act in spite of fear, face the demons. Choose a good business mentor then listen, learn, and take it one step at a time… but tread little and beware of being Pollyannaish…

The brain is bias– it processes information which is pleasing and agreeable in a more precise and exact manner; as compared to unpleasant information. We actually tend to remember past experiences rosier than they actually occurred… According to Christopher Peterson; the human mind at the unconscious level gravitate toward the positive, while at the conscious thinking level it tend to focus on the negative

According to Pete Carroll; there’s a difference between Pollyannaism and passionate resilience; it’s sort of a jazz thing– readiness, eagerness to improvise, turn a negative situation into positive.. being convinced that– something good is about to happen and preaching it to the team According to Warren Bennis; the best leaders have ‘unwarranted optimism’… and I often find myself pushing back against that notion: I know plenty of failed leaders who had expectations that were bigger than their legacies… A person must believe that something good is about to happen and prepare accordingly…

According to Barry Maher; positive thinking that isn’t firmly rooted in reality shouldn’t be called thinking at all. It’s nothing but Pollyannaism– it’s pixie dust. Pollyanna thinking makes problem worse…  When you want to be positive, you often try to block out negatives: Unfortunately, reality has a way of refusing to stay blocked…