CEOs with unusual names tend to adopt unconventional strategies

Unique business strategies can create competitive advantage.

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A new long-term study from the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in Texas shows that executives with unusual names are more likely to choose unusual approaches to business.

The authors Yan Anthea Zhang, Yungu Kang and David H. Zhu analyzed the data from 1,172 companies that the researchers collected over 19 years. The result: Unique company strategies seem to be systematically linked to bosses who have unusual names.

Earlier studies examined the relationship between strategic decisions and the personality, values, experience and demographic characteristics of a manager – but not with his or her name. According to the authors, however, a person’s name is “their most fundamental attribute” and influences their way of thinking and acting, and not least their self-confidence.

According to the scientists, it is often precisely those companies with a boss with an unusual name that stand out from other companies within an industry with strategies that deviate from the norm.

People with unusual names often think of themselves as more unique, creative, special, and interesting than their peers. Managers in particular apparently have the self-confidence to convey this to the outside world and to distinguish themselves from others through their actions, according to the authors – this has an influence on their tendency towards unconventional strategies.

“This is consistent with evidence from psychological research that successful employees who have unusual names tend to view themselves as more special, unique, interesting, and creative,” the researchers write.

Unique business strategies are critical to gaining competitive advantage in the marketplace and being successful. Companies striving for an innovative strategy should therefore tend to hire a boss with an unusual name, according to the authors. Because he will ensure that all other employees in the company get involved in his unusual strategy, which in the end may be decisive for everyone’s success.

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