The Surprising Power of Nostalgia at Work

This article was originally published in the Harvard Business Review

Many people assume that nostalgia is purely entertainment, a feeling individuals enjoy because it takes them back to the more carefree days of their youth. Some view it as maladaptive fixation on the past, perhaps indicating a fear of change. I’ve heard business analysts and leaders argue that, although nostalgia may help some companies sell consumers a range of products, it’s ultimately bad for business and the economy. They imagine that by keeping people focused on the past, nostalgia undermines innovation, creativity, and ultimately progress.

From that perspective, there’s little reason for managers to view nostalgia as having value within their organizations. However, a growing body of research reveals that it’s an important psychological resource that helps individuals cope with life’s stressors, build strong relationships, find and maintain meaning in life, and become more creative and inspired. I’ve been conducting research on the psychology of nostalgia for almost 20 years. Based on what I’ve learned, I believe managers can use the power of nostalgia to help their organizations thrive.

Nostalgia Is a Psychological Resource

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