Saturday, October 2, 2010

7 Steps to Improving Your Business's Success through Science

7 Steps to Improving Your Business's Success through Science

New research out of MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory shows that we learn better from success than we do from failure. Professor Earl Miller, along with colleagues Mark Histed and Anitha Pasupathy, conducted experiments that concluded that we only learn from experience when we do something right.

This is excellent news for anyone growing a business (or raising a child).

Several classical models of learning suggested that humans learn best when experiencing something unpleasant or harmful. This is called avoidance learning and an example would go something like this: a hornet's nest hangs from a tree in your back yard. Rather than calling in the pros, you decide to just knock the thing down and throw it down the hill. Instead of passively following their rolling home, the hornets attack. Avoidance learning would suggest that you would not be so stupid again.

Miller's study, however, showed that our brains are better stimulated by success than failure. And, importantly, success breeds more success.

It all comes down to dopamine.

Dopamine is the brain's "happy drug." It is released by the brain when we do something "right," and we experience its release as pleasure. Our brains, motivated by the pleasure, seek to re-experience the success, which will in turn lead to a greater release of dopamine.

Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany support the conclusion that our brains are motivated by success to greater success. Immediately after experiencing a victory, our neurons process information more effectively, we become "sharper" and learn faster. In fact, a 2006 study of dopamine's effect on the brain showed that participants in a gambling study spotted winning strategies at a faster rate when dopamine was present in the brain.

So, how can this grow your business?

It means that you should look for small victories along the way toward your big goals. Say, for instance, you are starting an internet marketing business that offers higher compensation when you reach a top tier level. Your goal is to reach that top tier level quickly. Your chances of reaching that goal will be severely hampered if you don't have smaller victories along the way. Why?

Because, instead of bathing your brain in dopamine, frustration and anxiety produce the stress hormone, cortisol, which only increases the sense of failure. This may be the reason why so many new businesses fail.

The repeated release of dopamine strengthens the neural pathways needed to master a new skill. This is why practice makes perfect. The more you succeed at a task, the longer your brain stores the information that allowed you to succeed in the first place.

Yes, the brain is a greedy little organ. But, again, this works in your favor as you grow your business. So, how do you maximize success?

1- Set many short term goals. Say you are new to internet marketing and do not understand the importance of social media. In fact, the idea of "tweeting" and "Facebooking," of interacting with strangers, makes you break out in hives. Don't take it all on at once. Set an hour or two aside to learn Twitter. Just the basics. You may feel like a fool, but send out a tweet. When you receive a return tweet, you'll feel a small level of success. Send out another one. Build upon your prior successes.

2- You're bound to make mistakes. Don't focus on them. Instead, understand that you have another chance. In fact, you have many chances to get it right. Become success-oriented rather than mistake-focused. Try again.

3- If, against all odds, you cannot manage the new skill, walk away. Exercise, change your activity. The more you beat yourself up, the more cortisol builds up in your brain and, when this happens, it is almost impossible to learn.

4- Practice and Repeat. If you've ever taken a golf lesson, you'll be familiar with the term, "muscle memory." When we repeat a physical motion over and over, our muscles somehow "remember" the action and, in the future, repeat it unconsciously. Repetition is the key to muscle memory. Likewise, repetition is the key to success.

5- Celebrate and reward success (in others and in you). Set your goals, along with the reward (no matter how small) you'll receive when you reach that goal. Learning to tweet might get you a slice of pie. Making your first sale might be cause for going out to dinner. Reaching the top tier may deserve a vacation (though, you really should practice while the dopamine is flowing).

6- Motivate rather than punish. If you are building a team, don't focus on the mistakes made along the way (remember cortisol?). Instead, recognize small successes, give positive feedback. The pleasure from that feedback will motivate you and your team on to greater success. And, make sure you give the feedback/reinforcement immediately, while the brain still remembers exactly how the success was achieved and can repeat it.

7- Finally, build on your success. Have you ever noticed that successful people often seem to "be on a roll?" That they move from success to success? That the wealthy seem to attract money, which is a form of reward? Dopamine.

Remember, set small goals for yourself along the way. Celebrate and reward yourself when you achieve them. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Let your brain swim in dopamine.

The Author

Katherine (Kaete) Mariaca is a respected Internet Marketing Leader, with expertise in all aspects of marketing online. While she specializes in content and attraction marketing, her main focus and continued commitment is in educating others to become the Internet Marketing Leaders of tomorrow. She graduated from Tufts University with a B.S. degree in Psychology and from Lesley University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Kaete is currently seeking highly motivated entrepreneurs to join her team of successful internet leaders. You can reach her through her business blog,, or coaching blog,

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