Saturday, July 24, 2010

The early bird does get the worm

Fascinating though very short article in the July-August 2010 issue of HBR, "Defend Your Research: The Early Bird Really Does Get the Worm"

Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg,Germany, conducted a survey of university students and concluded that "people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success, because they’re more proactive than  people who are at their best in the evening."

Whoa!!! Hang on, hold your horses, wait up, just-a-minute!!! What are you saying here? Anyone who works late is screwed? Is having to work late, because of calls with people halfway across the world, a crime in itself, that sentences your career to mediocrity?
Maybe not.
Professor Randler tries to be balanced, by stating that evening people have positive traits like a better sense of humour (check), smarter (oh yes, a big check!), and are more outgoing (don't think so), it is the morning person who is better positioned for business success.
Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed. They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.

It is not clear how much a person's circadian clock is genetic, and how much of it can be changed. Or if eveningness is really something that can be changed only with great difficulty, then why not try and work with this trait? Why do companies insist that employees be in office at 8AM or 9AM or 10AM? Deeply ingrained cultural beliefs for one. Lack of awareness of such differences between people for another.
But if current findings hold and eveningness is determined to be an inherent characteristic, I hope that organizations will look for ways to bring out the best from their night owls.
Interesting and intriguing, but also an idea that needs much more research and application of theory. Look forward to more research to come out of academia.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.