Tag Archives: business


Sharing a plate helps with both love and work

Need a boost to persuasion power at your next big meeting? Try changing the setting to someplace less plate-y.


Image via Pixabay.

Business negotiations go more smoothly and take less time when participants share a plate, not just a meal, new research reveals. Shared plates are customary in Chinese and Indian cultures (among others), and people sharing a plate are able to collaborate better and reach deals faster, the study explains.

Breaking Bread

Ayelet Fishbach and Kaitlin Wooley, a Professor at the University of Chicago and PhD student Cornell University, respectively, say a family-style meal with a prospective business partner can help the deal go through smoothly.

The duo asked a group of participants (all strangers to one another) to pair off in a lab experiment regarding negotiation patterns. Before the experiments began, participants were invited to have a snack of chips and salsa with their partners. Half of the pairs received one bowl of chips and one bowl of salsa to share, while the others each had their own bowls.

After this light snack, the pairs were asked to simulate a negotiation between a member of management and a union representative. Their goal was to settle on an acceptable wage for workers of both parties in the span of 22 rounds of negotiations. To put a little bit of pressure on the hypothetical scenario, a “costly union strike” was scheduled to start on round three. Each party would incur costs from this strike which, the team hoped, would help coax the participants into reaching a deal as quickly as possible.

On average, participants that shared a bowl of snacks reached an agreement in nine strike days (i.e. in twelve turns). Their separate-bowl counterparts needed, on average, took four days longer to agree on their terms. In the team’s hypothetical scenario, these four extra days translated to an extra $1.5 million in combined losses.

What’s particularly interesting is that it didn’t much matter if the two parties liked one another — what mattered was whether or not they had coordinated their eating. This finding came from a repeat experiment carried out by Woolley and Fishbach, in which they had both friends and strangers participate. Both groups received pairs of both friends and strangers, and sharing plates had a significant effect in both cases.

The degree to which a person felt they were collaborating with their partner while eating — sharing food rather than competing for that last bite — predicted their feelings of collaboration during the negotiation phase, the team adds. Fischbach says that the results showcase the powerful effect a meal can have on interpersonal connections. Despite how convenient remote meetings can be, they simply don’t stack up to sharing a meal — and, he adds, this holds true for professional as well as personal relationships.

“Basically, every meal that you’re eating alone is a missed opportunity to connect to someone,” says Fishbach. “And every meal that involves food sharing fully utilizes the opportunity to create that social bond.”

The paper ” Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Credit: Public Domain.

The 20-year-old entrepreneur is an exception, not a rule

Credit: Public Domain.

A young Steve Jobs. Credit: Public Domain.

Many people are seduced by the allure of a young, hoodie-dressed tech entrepreneur who just quit college to start a successful internet startup. Steve Jobs started Apple at 21 and Mark Zuckerberg was 20 when he co-founded Facebook. But, as enticing as this conjured image may sound, the 20-year-old entrepreneur is a myth. According to a new study from MIT, the average age of an entrepreneur who’s started a new business and went on to hire at least one employee is 42.

“If you knew nothing else, and you had two identical ideas, one proposed by a very young person, one proposed by a middle-aged person, and that’s the only thing you have to go on, you would be better off—if you wanted to predict success—betting on a middle-aged person,” Azoulay said.

To learn when, on average, an American entrepreneur starts a new business, Azoulay tapped into the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, and Schedule K-1 business owners data from the Internal Revenue Service. There are many ways to measure and entrepreneur’s average age, along with other metrics, but the new study shines in the fact that the Census data is matched to IRS records. This allowed the researchers to get a lot closer to the ground truth than anything else.

Overall, the study included 2.7 million people across all walks of life who founded businesses between 2007-14. The team was careful to clarify self-employment versus entrepreneurship but also narrowed the scope from any and all companies to the ones that have the ambition to grow. Some businesses, like neighborhood car washes or pizza shops, start with the intention of becoming successful — but stay small.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Azoulay said. “But when you’re talking about entrepreneurship, what you conjure is the image of someone who’s trying something with the ambition to grow at the time in which he or she starts.”

On average, the MIT researchers found that the average age of the American startup founder is 42 — and this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. You can argue that a 23-year-old entrepreneur has more energy and less responsibility, enabling him or her to take more risks — but that’s about where the advantages of young age in business end. With age, various other benefits accrue, such as experience, financial resources, and social connections.

Some might think that it’s in more up and coming fields like online retail or internet services that you’ll find the kiddo-entrepreneur. However, the closest any founder age got to “young” was in VC-backed firms, where the average age was 39 in New York. What’s more, the average founder age in some of the newest technology sectors—in this case, wireless telecommunication carriers—was 39 years old. Even very famous entrepreneurs who started out young, such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, had more success as 50-year-olds than as a 20-year-olds. Another interesting finding was that entrepreneurs were 125 percent more successful if they were previously employed in the particular sector in which they are starting a business.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the findings should discourage young people from pursuing their entrepreneurial ambitions. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway is for the middle-aged readers out there: your time is now!

“If you’re 22 or maybe just coming out of an MBA program, and there is this social perspective that you should be an entrepreneur right now, rethink that, because you might have a great idea but you might not have the right skills or experience to really propel that idea,” said Daniel Kim, a PhD student at MIT. “Think about career paths as options, not just as absolute paths.”

ADHD’s restlessness and impulsivity could actually make you a better entrepreneur, study finds

That guy who says he has ADHD and can’t stay still in lecture? He’ll probably make a great entrepreneur when college is over, a new study has found. The disorder’s associated traits seem to foster entrepreneurship, making people more willing to embrace new experiences and demonstrate passion and persistence in their work.

Image credits Génesis Gabriella.

ADHD gets a lot of bad rep, being associated with hyperactivity, poor concentration, and impulsive behavior. And overall, it’s a disorder that’s viewed as having a negative impact on someone’s performance, be it academic or in the workplace. So why then do successful entrepreneurs often exhibit this disorder?

“We noticed sometime that some symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship — in a positive sense,” says Prof. Holger Patzelt of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Working together with Professor Johan Wiklund at the Syracuse University Dimo Dimov at the University of Bath, Patzelt surveyed 14 self-employed people diagnosed with ADHD about their diagnoses, career path, and personal background. Their study shows that central traits of ADHD have had a decisive role to play in the subjects’ decision to go into business as well as their approach to entrepreneurship.

First on the list is impulsiveness. People with ADHD are notorious for their short attention span and patience, and several of the participants listed boredom as a big factor in their decision to self-employ — as it allowed them to pursue their own ideas whenever they desired. One woman said that running her own company has allowed her to introduce 250 new products in just a few years. Many participants also reported being at ease, even stimulated, by situations that others would find stressful, such as meetings with important customers.

“Their impulsiveness, resulting from ADHD, gives them the advantage of being able to act under unforeseen circumstances without falling into anxiety and paralysis,” says Patzelt.

Most of the subjects also reported they often act without thinking of the consequences, relying on intuition even for choices that have far-reaching effects. One participant described how he found out a friend was retiring and deciding to buy his company over the course of a single lunch. Others say they make investments with no strategy and are willing to commit large sums of money on projects with highly uncertain outcomes. Some say that this kind of quick decision making is key to staying productive, and are willing to suffer some setbacks from time to time — others have difficulty coping with structured activities.

This willingness to try new things and take risks is “an important entrepreneurial trait,” Parzelt says. However, he notes that these impulsive actions led to success only when they focused on activities essential to the development of the respondents’ businesses.

It’s a pretty nifty business plan.
Image credits Tumisu / Pixabay.

But it does come with a drawback, too. All participants mentioned they have problems with routine tasks such as bookkeeping.


If they develop a strong interest in a task or subject, people with ADHD can sometimes pursue it with an incredible level of single-mindedness, know as hyperfocus. One of the subjects said he often becomes completely absorbed in his work — crafting customer solutions. Another said he keeps up with new technologies in his field to such an extent that he is now often contacted as an expert on the subject.

Many of the respondents also said they work day and night without taking time off. This could come down to their hyperfocus, but can also be explained through the physical restlessness associated with ADHD. Because their energy levels can fluctuate wildly throughout the day, a self-employment model works for better for those with ADHD than traditional nine to fives, allowing them to set their own hours of work.

“ADHD was a key factor in their decision to go into business for themselves and decisively impacted important entrepreneurial traits: risk taking, passion, persistence and time commitment,” Patzelt concludes.

“Impulsiveness has a special role to play. For People with ADHD it is okay to make intuitive decisions even if the results are bad. With their passion and persistence, and the expertise they acquire as a result, entrepreneurs can gain a substantial competitive advantage.”

Roughly one-third of those surveyed either had little success in their business ventures or had them fail completely. Still, Patzelt believes his findings warrant a reassessment of our assumptions about entrepreneurship.

“The way we evaluate entrepreneurial decisions is largely based on rationality and good outcomes. In view of the multitude of uncertainties, however, can such decisions always be rational? People with ADHD show us a different logic that is perhaps better suited to entrepreneurship.”

The full paper “Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed” has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights.


A stable boss is better than an inspirational leader for most businesses


Photo: spartandaily.com

Every business out-there, be it a corporate giant or a small shop, has it in its mind that it needs to employ highly original and market disruptive leaders in order to grow and prosper. A study that studied Chinese workplaces found that leaders don’t need to be transformational to lead a highly productive group. Instead, managers who are stable, reliable and closer to the team – as in part of the team, not someplace above it – have been found to help business become more successful.

Whenever inspiring business leaders are concerned, Steve Jobs’ name seems to pop-up. Indeed, in many aspects with Apple and Pixar, Jobs revolutionized business practices – this is why he was often called disruptive, shifting paradigms and changing the rules of the game. No doubt, Jobs was a fantastic business man, but his former employees might also recognize him as a draconian leader. If you got stuck with Steve in an elevator, boy were those three floors of hell!

A boss that’s one of you

Ning Li, an University of Iowa professor of management and organizations, sought to find whether inspirational and charismatic leader make that much of an impact by examining 55 work groups, consisting of 196 employees and their leaders, at two Chinese firms.  He found that a transnational approach to business did little to improve workplace productivity and willingness to engage in the business, especially if the sense of a team was already among the employees.

Employees that were found to be self-motivated, as well as those with traditional views, experienced the least impact as a result of  disruptive leadership. These people, the authors note, already put their best for the company because they genuinely believe that’s what they’re being paid for, and consequently don’t require or care for inspiration. Also, the researchers note, that at times transformational leadership was actually counterproductive because it ended up getting in the way of a team that was already functioning at a high level.

Concluding, the authors write that employees who view their leaders as closer or part of the team are more willing to cooperate between themselves and take charge of their own actions. The authors caution firms that they need to understand transformational leaders like Jobs or Bill Gates aren’t the best role models in all situation, and instead appoint managers based on the strengths and personality of the team and its members.

“Leaders need to tailor their transformational actions accordingly, rather than use a one-size-fits-all, group- directed, transformational style,” wrote the study’s authors, which also include Texas A&M University’s Dan Chiaburu, North Carolina State University’s Bradley Kirkman and Zhitao Xie of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Findings appeared in the journal Personnel Psychology and the Academy of Management journal Perspectives.