The Sweet Smell of Success: How to Get Hooked on Sustaining Efforts

Published: 26 Jan 2022

The dynamics linking effort to performance and success have more in common with the process of addiction than you might think, finds new research from ESSEC Business School.

Recent research from Fabrice Cavarretta studying the relationship of effort and performance finds that while we tend to think if we just put in enough effort, we’ll get the results we want, the truth is more complicated than that. Rather than looking at effort as a cause of performance or even as a consequence of being motivated and doing well, we should consider effort as part of a cycle. Organising for long term performance amounts to organising a beneficial addictive loop.

In addiction, one is motivated to repeat an enjoyable behaviour in the short term. The long term behaviour derives from the repetition of a loop:, action, pleasure, motivation, and then back to action again.

Dr. Cavarretta explains that implementing a successful path amounts to triggering a spiral, linking effort to performance to pleasure to motivation to effort. “This pattern matches the one occurring when people get caught into compulsive behaviours such as drug abuse,a sports obsession or a passion for music,” says Cavarretta, “interestingly, this can explain both toxic outcomes, for example addiction, as well as desirable outcomes, for example work performance.”

Such conceptualisation allows properly accounting for effort as both a cause and a consequence, and allows us to better organize ourselves over the long term.

This research was published in “Organizational Dynamics”.

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