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Organizational Grit

Companies that have or develop a culture that supports passion and perseverance will get the most benefit from RFID technology.
By Mark Roberti
May 29, 2016

I've been reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, May 2016), a terrific book by Angela Lee Duckworth, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth describes "grit" as "passion and perseverance for long-term goals" and argues that this, more than intelligence, talent and other factors, determines who succeeds in life and who doesn't. (Watch Duckworth's TED Talk on the subject here.)

I picked up the book after reading a review. I wanted to understand more about why I am the way I am (very gritty), and how I can instill grit in my two children.

Duckworth was asked to help West Point Military Academy predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would quit. West Point's own prediction system had failed to identify the recruits with the right stuff with any degree of accuracy. Duckworth found that those with the most grit were the most likely to make it through the grueling program. Grit also predicted which kids would progress the furthest in a national spelling bee competition, which new teachers in difficult neighborhoods would not quit and which salespeople would succeed in difficult sales environments.

As I was reading the book, it occurred to me that if Duckworth applied the Grit Scale to companies, it would show which ones are the most likely to complete successful RFID deployments and continue to build on those deployments for years to come, and which would give up and jump on to some other hot technology.

Some companies begin new technology projects and see them through to the end. When they encounter problems, they work through them. When people quit, others step up. They keep pursuing the project until it is finished because it is one goal that must be completed in order to achieve the company's overall goal, whatever that may be.

On the other hand, other businesses are unable to see RFID projects through to completion. They begin a project, but when things become difficult or if someone leaves, the project flounders. Sometimes, companies become distracted by other technology projects; other times, political infighting scuttles an RFID project.

Duckworth argues in her book that grit can be cultivated in children and learned in adults. Grit probably can be learned by organizations as well. Some executives say to me, "We're not good at deploying new technologies" or "We don't do the innovation thing well." This is the same kind of inhibiting language that Duckworth hears from children. "I'm not smart enough to do this," they say, or "I just don't have the talent."

Duckworth maintains that if teachers show children they can learn to overcome obstacles and grow, they will stick with projects or courses when things get tough. They will become grittier. I believe businesses can also change their culture and become more innovative and more willing to stick with new technology projects, even when they turn out to be more difficult than expected.

I encourage you to find out where you fall on the Grit Scale by answering a few questions on Duckworth's website. Then apply the same questions to your organization.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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