If your company is predicated upon restricting employees’ freedom—limiting their ability to make mistakes and learn from them—you could be diminishing your revenue. A two-year study that was just completed by Tupperware Brands and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business reveals that there is a provable link between confidence and increased revenue. The project observed 4,000 employed adults in Brazil, South Africa and the United States, and demonstrated that more confident employees averaged 22% higher sales and 27% more recruits or business leads.
This study indicates that increasing confidence cannot simply come from individual supervisors, but must be a company-wide mission—enabling all workers to utilize their respective talents without fear of retribution for earnestly trying to advance the business into new and innovative areas. Employees’ confidence increased by 30% within organizations who gave their employees “permission to fail.” This scene from Seinfeld comes to mind as an example—where Elaine Benes touched the hot plate in order to “know what your idea of hot is.” Humans learn best by doing, not by being told what to do, and sometimes we must burn ourselves in order to know not to go near the flame again, or to help us create ideas to rid us of the flame altogether.
This isn’t the first project which has demonstrated a link between confidence and aptitude, as Zachary Estes and Sydney Felker conducted a test at the University of Warwick that administered the classic Mental Rotations Test, and calculated their results relative to the participant’s self-confidence measured prior to the MRT. Per Psychology Today’s write-up of the study:
Consistent with prior research, males, on average, were more confident and more accurate than women on the mental rotation test. Note these are only averages, there were women who were more confident and performed better than men. At any rate, when confidence was taken into account, the sex difference in mental rotation scores almost completely evaporated. This is quite impressive, considering there are very few studies showing that one variable can completely account for this very large sex difference.
This is an important finding, and the research in Tupperware and Georgetown’s study corroborates these results, as described in Business Wire:
Additionally, research shows that the link between confidence and success is universal, within Tupperware Brands and beyond, and across countries, gender, and enterprise types. The confidence-success link exists regardless of total work experience or experience in one’s current job, suggesting that confidence exists separately from on-the-job experience.
Given these studies and the success of things like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In initiative, it’s no secret that a lack of confidence in the workplace on average, negatively affects women more than it does men. Old-world thinking peddles the sexist trope that this is an indictment of the genders altogether, yet study after study has proven that this idea is bunk, and it is almost certainly an issue of nurture rather than nature. Only 26 of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, and this inherently creates a culture that is more conducive to men than women.
If we take a step back from the wonkishness of these studies, it seems obvious that confidence would be a prime driver of success—regardless of gender. Innovation is a direct product of taking risks, and any environment which discourages following the courage of one’s convictions is inherently limiting the business’s upside. There is a clear delineation between 20th century thinking tilted towards developing robotic factory workers, and a 21st century mentality that engenders creativity in a world which moves faster than uniform thought can restrict—and confidence is perhaps the central division between these mindsets.
Old-world business strategies rely on conformity to create workers skilled at following orders, and new-world ideas are increasingly focused on fostering an atmosphere where employees can create a new order altogether. If your business is tilted towards the former, calculate what a 22% increase in sales would mean for you, and reconsider how yours or your business’s ego may be limiting the upside of your bottom line.
Tupperware Brands and Georgetown University shared an infographic with Paste touching on the core findings of this study, check it out below.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.