Monday, 9 June 2014

An Initial Boost

These days is it not unusual to see CEO’s giving presentations in casual tee-shirts or jeans. We've seen Mark Zuckerberg do it, Steve Jobs often strode the stage with his sleeves rolled up and Michael O Leary of Ryanair only seems to wear a suit when he is watching his race horses run. Even the average SME CEO is more likely to wear an open neck than a tie. Informal is the new formal.

This move away from formality involves more than fashion sense. There is also a tendency to informalise names. We see it in politicians with Tony Blair or Chuck Hagel, in business with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Brad Smith from Intuit, Larry Page at Google. It is not hip to be square or so it seems.

I recently came across some research which put me thinking about this. It is possible that formality is not completely dead. The research suggested that middle initials are associated with intellectual ability. A professor might be Michael D. Clark, while your local shopkeeper might be Michael Clark.

A publication in the European Journal of Social Psychology looked at seven studies and found that the display of middle initials increased positive evaluations of people's intellectual capacities and achievements. The people with the middle name were thought of as smarter and more likely to be serious professional achievers.

It seems that if you are looking for some credibility in a professional or academic setting, it’s possible that an initial might give you a boost. If you are considering writing few magazine articles or blog posts on serious topics why not throw in your middle initial and bask in the academic glow. If you want to add a bit of gravitas to the business card, put it in there too. In this case it is hip to be a little bit square and use that initial. You can still wear the tee-shirt.

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