Dec 16, 2009

Tiger Woods and the Halo Effect



Ever since I started following the Tiger Woods saga - I am amazed how much people suffer from the Halo Effect  (book review of the book by the same name here)

Flickr image courtesy  Melissa_Blonde

HR professionals and Hiring Managers are taught about the Halo Effect - a psychological shortcut that causes human beings to infer good things about a person based on a single area of achievement.

So Tiger Woods is an exceptional golfer - however we humans cannot really segregate performance into specific buckets which leads us to make the judgement based on his excellence around other aspects of his personality.

And then when the veneer of excellence around the other aspects of the person gets damaged - we are left with "flawed geniuses".

The only issue is that our assumptions of "perfect geniuses" is a myth - formed by the inability of our brains to understand that performance can be nuanced and that the famed CEO/ Manager/ Sportsman/ Celebrity may be great in what he/she does - but not in other aspects.

In the business world it gets played out a little differently, usually performance (because it is long term - and not easily attributable in certain professions) is attributed from how a person behaves with other people. And when data comes in - it clashes with the perception of the person and we end up demonising them - similar to how we are reacting to Tiger's shenanigans now.

P.S. On a different note - here's a great post by Antonio chronicling time line of how Accenture reacted to the story (after all its website featured Tiger - and it urged people to "Go on. Be a Tiger" in 2006) - and how it should have reacted more in real time to the social media backlash against Tiger.