Friday, August 2, 2013

Increase Goal Attainment Pt. I – Form Implementation Intentions, Not Goal Intentions

During the 90s, a series of papers by NYU researcher Peter Gollwitzer improved on the field of intention-behavior relations with the concept of implementation intentions. Usually when we need to achieve something we form goal intentions. Goal intentions specify what one wants to achieve (“I want to achieve X!”).[1] By contrast implementation intentions specify the behavior plan one must engage in to achieve a goal and the situational circumstances in which a person will employ the plan (i.e. “If situation Y arises, then I will initiate goal-behavior Z!”).[2] Substantial evidence now shows that forming implementation intentions, as opposed to mere goal intentions, increases our rates of goal attainment.[3]

Implementation Intentions
Implementation intentions are often described as if-then strategies which specify the behavior a person must engage in to achieve the desired goal. They are planned out concrete responses when faced with a given situational cue.[4]

There are two parts of an implementation intention, 1) a situational cue (if I hear a distraction), and 2) a concrete response (then I will ignore it).[5] Since at its core implementation intentions are merely planned out concrete responses to situational cues they can be phrased in many ways that do not encompass the above if/then” vernacular. For instance an implementation strategy can be formed with a situation cue of time (when it is 2 p.m.) and followed by a concrete action (I will study for two hours).[6] A “when/then” course of planning if you like.

The takeaway is obvious - form implementations intentions and not merely goal intentions. For instance, those in managerial positions should not stop at merely setting a goal intention – i.e. “We wish to increase traffic.” Instead they should form implementation intentions in service of their intended goal. A more effective management team might set aside a specific time everyday where workers will focus only on an activity designed to increase traffic. For instance, every 2:00 p.m. on Thursday can be dedicated to measuring the efficiency of their ad strategy – accounting for holidays, seasonal consideration, etc. that might affect how much they should spend on advertising for the week and which channels to use.

Like this post? For more, see Increase Goal Attainment Pt. II Power in Planning: Why Implementation Intentions Increase Gain Attainment.

[1] Paschal Sheeran, Thomas L. Webb, and Peter Gollwitzer, The Interplay Between Goal Intentions and Implementation Intentions, Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2005), 87.
[2] Id.
[3] See Generally Id.
[4] Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen, Implementation Intentions and Test Anxiety; Shielding Academic Performance From Distraction, Learning and Individual Differences (2010), 30.  
[5] Id.
[6] See Sheeran, supra note 1, at 91. In pertinent part:
The implementation intention manipulation came at the end of the second questionnaire. Participants received the following instruction—“Decide now where (e.g., library) and at what times (e.g., 2-3 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.) you will do your independent study in the next week”—and filled in their responses under the headings “where” and “when” for each day of the week.

No comments:

Post a Comment