Liverpool footballer, Steven Gerrard, missed a penalty in 2006 when playing for England in the World Cup – and, according to new research, that miss could have been down to timing. The Norwegian School of Sports Sciences has discovered a possible link between the time taken to kick a penalty and the likelihood of scoring a goal. It seems that if the footballer responds rapidly to the referee’s whistle there is much less of a chance of scoring than when a player takes their time. However, if the delay is not of the player’s choosing – such as when the referee slows things down – the chances of success are reduced (as Steven Gerrard can testify..!).

Steven Gerrard could help Internet businesses

Steven Gerrard could help Internet businesses

In other words, when the player is in control, when they do things at the speed they want, there is a higher likelihood of a positive outcome. The sports psychologists who found this out suggest that the taking of the penalty presents the footballer with a sudden, intense potentially negative hit upon their reputation. As a result they want to get it over and done with immediately. The result of that is an almost instant response to the referee’s whistle, not leaving enough time for preparation, accuracy and so on – leading to failure.

So, what has this to do with your Internet business? It’s a reminder that immediate, rapid responses are not always the right thing and can lead to failure. For instance, take Twitter. Many businesses are simply pouncing on it because it presents them with a quick and easy promotional tool that is also free. Whoopee dooo…!

However, it has its downside. Consider, for a moment, how a business could have promoted itself without such a communications tool. They might, for example, use direct mail. But what if there was an error on the printing which was not spotted until after the mailing went out? The company could possibly stop the postal service distributing things, or it could send out a correction, or it could simply ignore it. The damage would be minimal, as few people would notice and those that did would be in small numbers who couldn’t really do very much other than notice the error.

Now think about the same company making a similar error on Twitter. Millions of people would see it and thousands could re-tweet it, further damaging the business reputation. When a mistake is made online, it is much more difficult to correct it and eradicate the stain on your image than previously, without the Internet. Yet, every day we see thousands of businesses reacting with a “knee-jerk” response, joining in on Twitter, launching Facebook pages or taking in part in some other online activity because “it’s the thing to do”. Many businesses are reacting too quickly and thereby potentially missing out on success; if only they had waited, planned and thought about things more, their success might be greater.

Conversely, there are other companies hanging back, delaying things not because they don’t want to take part, but because some adviser or some executive has suggested a possible reason for not getting involved. The people who want to get on with the new technology are out of control of the situation, which if the Steven Gerrard penalty is anything to go by, means they are also less likely to succeed with their wanted venture.

Even though the football research is specific to sports psychology, extrapolating the concept to online business makes sense. Frequently, business owners regret their too rapid adoption of a new technologies which failed to help them achieve what they wanted. At the same time, they also complain about other members of staff who delay the use of new technology, which then affects the motivation of people who really know that it would benefit the firm. In turn, that also reduces the likelihood of success.

Finding the right balance between starting too quickly and avoiding other people delaying your use of new online technology is a difficult thing to get right. If the football research is anything to go by, the right time is when you are in control, when you feel it is right and not doing it because everyone else says you should. Trust your instincts; they are frequently correct.

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