Does having a Plan B increase your chance of failure?

Most of us have imagined alternate paths for our lives: if you don’t make it into med school, go in for nursing. If you can’t cut it as an engineer, teach high school math. If you don’t get a scholarship to your top choice university, enroll closer to home. But does having a contingency plan affect the outcome of our work and goals?

Jihae Shin, Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at the University of Wisconsin, and Katherine Milkman, Associate Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions at The Wharton School, explore the effects of back-up plans in their paper “How Backup Plans Can Harm Goal Pursuit: The Unexpected Downside of Being Prepared for Failure.” The work was published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal in 2016.

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Sarah Fletcher