Optimism as an Organizational Asset


Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently was Time magazine’s first guest editor in its 94-year history. In his opening essay, Gates explains that he decided to edit an issue of Time to share why, on the whole, the world is getting better.

“When you see good things happening, you can channel your energy into driving even more progress,” Gates wrote.

Gates is a self-proclaimed optimist. With Melinda, his wife and co-chair of the Gates Foundation, Gates draws on optimism to set overall direction for the foundation as it helps people all around the world lead healthy, productive lives.

Fast Company magazine also recently turned a spotlight on positive thinking, declaring that the key leadership question of this uncertain era is “What can we do to inspire optimism?” The January issue featured lessons in optimism from dozens of business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“Whatever is going on, your number-one responsibility is to have a mindset that says, ‘We can solve this’,” shared David Miliband, president and CEO of International Rescue Committee, a not-for-profit organization that responds to humanitarian crises throughout the world.

Debra Anderson, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Datavized Technologies, a New York City-based start-up, is quoted as saying, “There will always be challenges, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to find the silver lining. But what’s the alternative? And who wants to work in that environment?”

Like Gates, Miliband and Anderson, I believe optimism is a highly valuable asset for organizations.

Optimism keeps you energized to achieve your vision and motivated to overcome inevitable obstacles.

It rallies people and teams together, bringing out their best in pursuit of a mission, project or cause.

It helps ease stress in stressful situations, clearing the way to solve problems instead of dwell on them.

Science points to the benefits of optimism, too.

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist known for her research on optimism and author of The Optimism Bias, underscores that optimism inspires us and keeps us moving forward – priceless essentials for organizations to be sure.

“Without optimism, our ancestors might never have ventured far from their tribes and we might all be cave dwellers, still huddled together and dreaming of light and heat,” Sharot wrote in a 2011 contribution for Time. “To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities — better ones — and we need to believe that we can achieve them. Such faith helps motivate us to pursue our goals.”

Do you consider optimism an asset in your organization? What value does it create for you?


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