This Is the Science Behind the Buddy System

Teamwork really does make the dream work.

We tend to think of self-improvement as a solo pursuit, but a piece in the Harvard Business Review makes a great argument for why we need a little help from our friends (and colleagues) if we want to make progress happen.

“Human beings are infamously bad observers of our own reality,” author Ron Carucci, an organizational consultant, writes, referencing the work of Stanford researchers Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman and their self-affirmation theory. We become self-protective when we try to learn something new or improve ourselves so we're blind to evidence that we might be falling short. Having other people on board— through a variety of methods of involvement—helps us see whether we’re really making progress.

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Carucci writes about effective ways to go about building such a team. For example, if your improvement goals are work-related, ask for frequent check-ins with your boss instead of yearly feedback. You can also recruit friends to hold you accountable to your goals or seek out like-minded people on their own self-improvement journeys. Not all of the feedback will be good, but that’s the idea—you need a support system that will actually let you know when you’re not moving forward. Just remember that their input will help you get to wherever it is you’re trying to go.

Read the full HBR piece here.