Fake It Until You Become It

January 30, 2013

Small changes – tiny tweaks – can lead to big changes. How would you like to make a two-minute change that greatly improves your odds of success in a job interview? Or strengthens your ability to actively participate on the job or in the classroom? An interesting TED Talk by Amy Cuddy reveals how.

As a social psychologist Amy Cuddy became interested in how nonverbal expressions played a role in power dynamics. After conducting studies, Cuddy found that certain body postures – “high-power poses” – lead to hormonal changes that configure our brains to be assertive, confident and comfortable. Likewise, “low-power poses” can do the opposite, making us fell stress-reactive and shut down.

In other words, our own non-verbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. As Cuddy says, “Our bodies can change our minds.” She found that power posing for just a few minutes can change our lives in meaningful ways.

For example, Cuddy conducted recorded tests of people going through a stressful, five-minute job interview. The candidates most likely to be hired turned out to be those who had power posed for a few minutes prior to the interview. The important variable that tilts the scale is the presence that the interviewees who power posed brought to the table.

You can use your own body language to change an outcome. Cuddy advises that before your next stressful evaluative situation to try power posing – in an elevator, a bathroom stall, behind closed doors – to, “Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down.”

I enjoyed this talk because it reinforced the principle of making small changes that lead to better outcomes. We need to do the same thing with agile adoptions – or should I say transformations. We need to provide ourselves with a series of small experiences and approaches to work that help us to reconsider our values that drive our behavior, which in turn leads to better outcomes.

We can all improve any change effort by following Amy Cuddy’s advice: “Don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”


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