Even though we have come a long way in terms of technology and science since superstitions ruled us, many of us choose to trust them like an instinct. Perhaps surprisingly, entrepreneurs and business owners have a lot of superstitions that affect their decision-making. They are often deep-rooted traditions in a person’s upbringing and provide an illusion of control in an uncertain business world. Statistical evidence shows that 33% of people feel that finding a penny is a sign of good luck, while 21% think knocking on wood prevents bad luck and so on.
According to psychologist Stuart Vyes, author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstitions,
“They also come from the uncertainty of life – if you have something you desire that you cannot make sure will happen…”
Be it bookkeeping, accounting, interior design or coaching, there is always a risk factor associated with business. That is why a strong eye should be kept on profit and loss margins to ensure consistent cash flow. There is a lot of stress and pressure associated with managing these. Particularly when you lead a startup, there may be times when you are desperate enough to do anything to benefit your business, even if it has no logical backing. It is all about the sense of comfort that results from doing all you can to turn fortune to your favour.
Vyes explains this tendency this way:
“…[T]here is a tremendous amount of randomness in the market and people seek ways to gain control over these events, even though they can’t…What you wear that day, the coffee that you drink – these things can’t affect the outcome of the day’s business, but people engage in this [behaviour] to feel like they’ve done every possible thing to manage the outcome.”
An experiment by scientists at the University of Cologne showed that superstitious beliefs can boost performance. The subjects who were equipped with good luck charms performed better than those whose charms were confiscated. While superstitions did not directly have a role to play, the confidence and self-belief they induce in some people helped them perform better.
A few perks of superstitions for business owners:
The following are superstitions prevalent among business owners. Do you practice any of these?
This superstition is an amalgamation of two other superstitions: Friday is considered unlucky by some Christians as Christ was crucified on this day and 13 is considered an unlucky number. This is one of the most common superstitions, so much so, that the fear of Friday the 13th has been recognised as a disorder, called paraskevidekatriaphobia.
In a research paper by Lauren Block and Thomas Kramer, titled “The Effect of Superstitious Belief on Performance Expectations” and published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Block talks about the loss of business on Friday the 13th:
“People don’t do as much shopping and don’t leave the house – and there’s less flying.”
It has been observed that businesses all over the world lose $800 to $900 million in revenue because of superstitious customers. Many businesses use these superstitions to their advantage by highlighting the fact that Friday the 13th is around the corner in their advertising and offering discounts.
Before the gallows were invented, criminals were hung from the top of ladders. The belief that their ghosts lingered beneath the ladder give rise to this superstition.
Pattern recognition is part of everyone’s senses, and numerology is primarily based on recognizing mathematical patterns. Since it is associated with numbers and patterns, it is a popular superstition in the business world to favour certain numbers or numerical patterns. Professionals not only implement numerological techniques when choosing the names of their businesses but also in their personal affairs for the sake of keeping them profitable.
An example of using numerology in favour of better business is a campaign by Icelandair where they allowed customers to add on excursions for $7 each, provided the booking was done on 07/07/07. Another is a campaign by Wal-Mart called “Lucky in Love Wedding Search” that granted seven couples a free wedding ceremony and reception on this lucky date, with 77 guests per couple.
Many entrepreneurs have peculiar quirks when it comes to dressing for work. While some believe that a specific suit or dress of theirs is lucky, others have lucky trinkets, like a special pen that they always use for signing major contracts. While there is no logic behind such quirks, it can boost their confidence. This in turn helps them stay calm and make the right decision – with all due credit going to their good luck charms.
Many superstitions have their roots in our history, myths, culture and folklore. Hence, they are never universal, and what is considered lucky in one country may be a harbinger of bad luck in others. For business owners, it all comes down to profit and loss, and these beliefs are like consolations, particularly so during tumultuous times. You may or may not practise some of these consciously, but in the end, business is a lot about far-sightedness, management skill, accurate and thorough bookkeeping, and even luck. Anything that makes you feel lucky can never be bad when practiced in moderation.
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