The greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus, (apologies to Tiger followers) practiced each shot in his mind prior to actually striking the ball. What he likely didn’t know was that many scientists believe “practicing” in your mind has a significant impact on actual performance, in fact eliciting nervous system responses not dissimilar to those recorded during physical execution of the same action. In one specific study appearing in the North American Journal of Psychology in 2007, athletes who mentally practiced a hip-flexor exercise had strength gains that were almost as significant as those in people who actually did the exercise (five times a week for 15 minutes) on a weight machine.
So what does this have to do with business? Perhaps much more than you would have imagined. Visualizing can carve a groove in your mind that promotes actions in support of what has been visualized. The more you visualize, the deeper the groove, fostering motivation and confidence in your actions – or intended actions.
Take for example a local restaurant owner who envisions a new kind of takeout service for people who don’t like to plan ahead or whose day has become so filled with things to do that the thought of scrounging up dinner is unappealing. By offering definitive choices (12 pack of spicy sushi rolls with miso soup) at the moment in time when someone might be susceptible to such a suggestion, the savvy restaurateur envisions a “move the needle” event in the growth and profitability of their business. The more she thinks about the idea, the more refined it becomes. The more she describes the idea to her employees, the more suggestions help in its honing. Excellent execution of the idea will certainly position it for optimal success, but the visualization, cerebral replay, discussion of the vision, etc. are the key elements for its potential success.