Saturday, October 24, 2009

PM in the AM and PM

There isn’t much in life to which a baseball analogy can’t be applied. I was reminded of that as I read Paul Jacobs’ recent post on Life Lessons from the Detroit Tigers.

The Minnesota-Detroit playoff game proved to be the first of what so far has been a terrific post-season of lead changes and momentum swings - which brings me to the topic of Psychological Momentum – the perception that one or more factors, positive or negative, help create a particular outcome.

Jim Taylor’s and Andrew Demick’s “A Multidimensional Model of Momentum in Sports” defines “PM” as a “positive or negative change in cognition, affect, psychology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events” that together bring about a positive outcome. They point to a six-part “momentum chain:” a precipitating event; changes in cognition, physiology, and affect; a change in behavior; a change in performance; a contiguous and opposing change for the opponent; and a change in the outcome.

(If you want a quick read on this and more on PM in general, check out this terrific piece from Dan Peterson.)

If you root for a team, you’ve probably felt more than once a true-or-not intuition that one team now has things going “their way” and seems to be playing with more confidence while the other team is back on their heels appearing more desperate than self-assured.

To be sure, PM also has critics who can cite studies that refute the theory.

But I’m on the same side of the fence as sports psychologist Jeff Greenwald who, in “Riding the Wave of Momentum,” says momentum gives players a “heightened sense of confidence… the most important aspect of peak performance” and that this improved self-efficacy can help take “the ‘performer self’ to a higher level.” Greenwald suggests that champions not only capitalize on momentum, they ratchet up their game. He also notes that great players more quickly perceive when momentum begins to shift and make adjustments before their opponents.

Perhaps you’ve seen PM at your station. A precipitating event like a new hire, a great promotion, or some highly effective occurs that elevates the perceptions of employees that causes a change in behavior and performance. Suddenly the staff is working with more intensity or creativity, displaying a greater level of confidence, and delivering a noticeably improved performance.

These are the times, as Greenwald suggests, to “pour it on.”

In 1996, while playing with the Yankees, Mariano Duncan coined the phrase, “We play today, we win today. ‘Das it.” The phrase became a mantra for the Yankees with many players wearing it on t-shirts under their uniform. That was the year the Yanks came back from losing the first two games of the ’96 World Series – at home – to the Atlanta Braves before turning it around and winning the next four and their 23rd world championship.

Whether or not you buy into PM in sports, I’ll be you’ve heard and seen something special in stations whose people believe they have PM going for them.

Can you create some Psychological Momentum today?

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