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How positive thinking can change a company

Positiv Effekt

Photo: Oana Alexandra Graur

February 13, 2017

Psychologists, physicians, and athletes have long known the power that resides in confidence in ones own abilities. But although buzzwords like “positive thinking” are known worldwide, this knowledge is still used astoundingly little in one area: in the work world. Therefore a team of authors at Jacobs University is now presenting these findings in a new book for management personnel. The volume entitled “The Positive Effect” is an appeal for drastic re-thinking in management.

Everyone knows about the placebo effect: The belief in efficacy alone engenders a change for the better. “Numerous scientific studies demonstrate how much success and failure are influenced by ones inner attitude,” says Sven Voelpel, Professor of Business Administration at Jacobs University. Last fall his book “You Decide How Old You Are” became a Spiegel bestseller. His new book, which he wrote together with the organizational psychologist and business management expert Fabiola Gerpott, who got her doctorate at Jacobs University, is also about changes in attitude.

Together they have written a management guide that is based on scientific studies and focuses on the individual and his abilities for motivation and self-confidence. For instance, a study at Jacobs University showed that older people presented distinctly fewer creative ideas in groups after they had first been given reports of the disadvantages of growing older. When the focus was placed on the advantages of getting older, such as networked thinking and knowledge gained from experience, the ideas veritably poured forth in the group. “Other studies show that the walking pace of a person after depressing news is distinctly slower than after positive news,” says Fabiola Gerpott.

Everyday work life, too, it has been shown, does little to promote motivation in many workplaces. Voelpel and Gerpott criticise that it is not rarely marked by little decision-making latitude, strict business hierarchies, and increasing acceleration. This is where their management concept comes in: Benchmarks and financial participation by employees in the company’s profit or loss are unsuitable as performance drivers in companies, if the managers lack a fundamental characteristic: the ability to get people enthusiastic about a common goal and to encourage positive thinking among the personnel in an authentic and lasting way.

Together the two authors describe ways to escape the trap of focusing upon problems in workplaces and show how management can utilize a positive attitude to create value. In doing so, they emphatically plead for “optimistic realism” and for a reconciliation of supposed opposites, such as intuition and rationality or pragmatism and passion. Because this is the only way to build a foundation that permits development of creativity, performance, and satisfaction.

Sven C. Voelpel; Fabiola H. Gerpott: The Positive Effect – Revolutionising Management by Changing Attitudes, Campus-Verlag (appears February 16th)

Additional information at:

Additional questions will be answered by:
Dr. Sven Voelpel | Professor of Business Administration
s.voelpel [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-3467

Thomas Joppig | Brand Management, Marketing & Communications
t.joppig [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-4504