In 1898, Norman Triplett did a study on a group of cyclists. He clocked their race times in two different sets of circumstances. For the first, they were alone on the course. The second time, they were riding in a group.
His findings were simple, yet incredibly profound: The cyclists' times were consistently faster in the presence of their peers.
This triggered an avalanche of studies over the coming decades, proving the theory to hold true in just about every endeavor.
In 1924, Floyd Allport, who is commonly considered the founder of social psychology, coined the term "social facilitation." He deepened the studies to cover everything from word association, test taking, fitness and even math.
The results were all the same. The presence of other people makes a dramatic positive difference in output.
It's really this simple: If you want to increase your performance and results in a given area, find some people to join you -- or just have them watch you. Ideally, find people who are a tad out of your league.
I recently had a rather enlightening -- and rewarding -- personal experience with the advantage of social facilitation.
Last year, a friend and I somehow decided to sign up for our first 50-mile foot race, despite never having run close to that far.
After months of mediocre training (at best), one Saturday morning we finally worked up the courage to join the local ultra running club. We went on a 14.2-mile loop in the hills of the Marin headlands.
Most of these guys left me in the dust right from the get-go. Not only was I not even remotely leading the pack, I wasn't really part of it.
But the interesting thing was that it didn't matter. When I finished, my average pace per mile was almost two minutes faster than my usual pace. Over 50 miles, that’d be 1.5 hours faster!
It seemed too easy. I went to some random Saturday run club with a few new friends, and my output instantly increased by 15 percent?
I didn't even have to do anything differently. I didn't change my diet, sleep, training -- nothing. No one on the trail was yelling at me to run faster. In fact, half the time I was running all by myself.
I just showed up -- and that changed everything.
Here’s the craziest part. While driving home, the idea of actually running 50 miles didn't seem so terrifying anymore. In fact, I even got a little excited. And that eventually got me over the finish line (just shy of the 14-hour cut off!).
Social facilitation applies to everything -- especially entrepreneurship. For example:
- Rehearse a pitch with experienced VCs and your delivery will change.
- Step on a TED stage and your storytelling transforms.
- Talk new ideas and possibility with a group of savvy entrepreneurs and your creativity and enthusiasm blossoms.
As entrepreneurs, we often have the most to gain from environment change. By definition, we blaze our own trail, but that doesn’t give us permission to create in pure isolation.
In today’s world of solopreneurs, remote teams and mobile offices, it’s even more relevant. Sure, the freedom is nice, but how much greater could your impact be if you routinely traded ideas with smart people facing the same issues?
It’s the most immediate business, productivity and life hack I’ve seen, and is something you can start doing right this second -- in two simple steps.
1. Find a group near you that’s working on similar projects or at a similar stage in business. Or focus on a specific topic such as sales, negotiation, productivity or product development.
Look into local entrepreneurship clubs, coworking spaces or incubators. Join Toastmasters, search Meetup or Craigslist or ask the local popular restaurant owner where to look. Start with just one person if you must. Ideally, create your own mastermind group.
2. Routinely show up and watch what happens.
Take your surroundings seriously, because one thing’s for certain, your community will change you.
If the people around you don’t perform, you won’t expect yourself to either. If you want to be world class, know who your friends need to be.
The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them.
Change your surroundings. Change what's possible.
The best part? It’s 100 percent in your control.