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To success , it is when people or associations of persons who set goals to achieve. The opposite is failure .


Possible goals are personal goals for individuals and corporate goals , for example, for associations of people . Personal goals can be material goals such as income or career and emotional or immaterial goals such as recognition or happiness . Company goals such as profit maximization or cost recovery must serve to promote or enable the business purpose. If these goals are achieved, success occurs, which is reflected in a sense of achievement . For the implementation of goals in the results it requires implementation expertise .

The higher the degree of target achievement , the greater the success . This is measured by the effectiveness (effectiveness, quality of target achievement):


With regard to the target approach, success is sometimes understood as the degree of target achievement. The total success shows a target achievement of 100%, the complete failure is characterized by no target achievement (0%). If, for example, a piecework worker reaches the target agreement of 30 pieces of machining per minute, he works successfully; if below this, he approaches complete failure.

Concept development

According to Johann Christoph Adelung, the noun success comes from the verb “to take place”, which describes the consequence, consequence or effect of the action . The Old High German “to take place” meant something like “to achieve, fulfill and be given”. Success is therefore the effect, action is its cause. So action leads to success or failure.

state of scientific knowledge

In the scientific discussion there are numerous attempts to operationalize the concept of (subjectively perceived) happiness or success and make it measurable. One example is the flow concept of Csíkszentmihályi . According to this, a kind of happiness arises when a person's abilities grow to the same extent as the challenges. However, if these requirements increase faster than the skills, stress or even burnout syndrome can arise . Conversely, if the challenges are significantly lower than the skills, boredom occurs . If there is a lack of both challenges and skills, a feeling of apathy arises .

This concept is the basis for numerous other theories of success, the common denominator of which is to interpret success as the ability to achieve set goals. The concept of implementation competence is used for operationalization, with which one can measure the degree of ability to convert intentions, goals and knowledge into results.

In today's research to explain the phenomenon of success, the emphasis is on skills (competencies) rather than personality traits, motives, or various theories of intelligence . For example, empathy is extremely important in professions such as psychiatrist or salesperson , while a surgeon needs manual skills and an entrepreneur needs analytical skills to be successful. In some professions, procedural knowledge is crucial. In other words: it makes sense to speak of skills only in relation to certain tasks or goals in a specific environment. So it is about the valid diagnosis and development of operationalized and thus measurable competencies that are necessary to achieve clearly formulated goals. Examples are leadership skills for people with leadership responsibility, management skills for people with cross-functional responsibility or sales skills for employees in marketing and sales . The implementation competence or willpower, also known as volition , is independent of the situation or overarching .

Some scholars also point to the possibility of seeing something achieved as a success, even if one never intended it. By Werner Kirsch in this respect comes the example that he has a Nobel Prize would regard as a success, even if he would never take it from realistic reasons in his personal target system. Against this background it becomes clear that statements about success basically depend on the value system of the assessor. Success would therefore be a result of one's own actions, which is judged as positive on the basis of one's own values. Thus “success as the achievement of self-definable goals” can be redefined.

The connection between success and the achievement of propagated ideals , which is widespread in Western society, also has a connection. The wealthy are not considered to be successful if they can buy luxury cars, villas or social prestige due to external circumstances (inheritance, lottery win). “He who is successful is successful” in business, politics or private relationships. In principle, success can be assumed as a contribution to increasing the survivability of a natural, social or artificial system.

Types of Success

The following types of success can be distinguished:

According to the target direction

  • The partial success which, however, does not fully achieve the goal, only partially.
  • The respectful success, which lags behind the primary goal in relation to this, but is nevertheless perceived as above average (" respectable ") by a related group of observers due to its absolute level of performance . The viewer group is usually a subset of the population that is directly related to the event, e.g. B. Sports enthusiasts. If, for example, a candidate loses an election but achieves a relatively good result in terms of his or her chances of being elected, or if a team achieves a rank in the tournament that exceeds that expected of it (e.g. based on a ranking).
  • The healing success as the desired result of medical therapy.
  • The sham success as a result that is initially perceived as a success, but later turns out to be a failure. See also Pyrrhic victory .

After relating to people

  • The personal success as a positive result of human activity in terms of meeting their personal goals .
  • The leadership success as the personal success of the manager. This is reflected in the manager's certificate of good conduct and in his career success.
  • The realization of goals within the framework of target agreements between superiors and employees based on the suggestion by Peter Drucker from 1954.

Business administration

Erwin Geldmacher defined in 1929 the business success as the difference between income and consumption , so the company's success is the difference between income and expenses , operating income , the difference between purpose income and expenses . Business success is the result of the activity of a company, which is determined by the balance sheet and profit and loss account . In the balance sheet, the success is shown by comparing the equity at the beginning and at the end of the financial year , corrected for withdrawals / capital reduction and contributions / capital increase . In external accounting, success is the balance of expenses and income; in internal accounting, it is the balance of costs and sales . These balances can be positive or negative. Success is therefore a neutral business term like “result” - unlike the colloquial word. The terms operating success or operating result are used roughly equally. The success is recognized income statement accounts , as expense or revenue accounts are recognized in the income statement. This represents an income statement that records the company's success . It does a success split in order to be able to examine the sources of success. The success deviation is the difference between the planned and the actual success, which results from the success analysis.

Entrepreneurial success is the goal of securing long-term profitability , whereby the profit or capital value of the company serves as the measure of success . Whether and to what extent this success can be achieved depends on the existing success factors . These are influencing factors that determine the success of a company.

Standards of success

Some authors, such as Kaplan and Norton, suggest measuring the success of the company with metrics systems such as the balanced scorecard . These key figures are usually derived from the interests and expectations of the stakeholders and view the company from the customer, employee, process and financial perspective. Here you measure leading indicators of economic success or "soft factors", such as the employee and customer satisfaction , more important than earlier.


The leadership success referred to in management the attainment of management goals through the direct or indirect influence behavior of employees by managers by using their leadership skills .


Success in psychology occurs when the subjective needs , expectations, or desires of an individual are balanced with the objective situations and circumstances. Psychology deals empirically with causes (technical language determinants ) of success. When it comes to success in school and education, educational psychology is the central discipline . Companies, on the other hand, only measure their material success. The developing social capital from trust, personal network and the values ​​and norms of the employees are not taken into account in the balance sheet and income statement. Essential factors for sustainable success are self-image , social behavior , intelligence , knowledge , culture and motivation , regardless of whether for personal goals, corporate goals or social goals.


In sport , the achievement of goals can be measured precisely. Success is present here when athletes in competition winner will be, such as when Running the finish line by running first, the long jump the greatest distance achieved or the football more goals to shoot than the opponent. Success is measured here by measuring time or units of measurement such as length or number .

Criminal law

In criminal law there are successful offenses , the offense of which describes an act that triggers a certain success that is not yet included in the act itself. Success can be defined here as "a disadvantageous change in the legal interest protected by the standard". A distinction must be made between formal and material criminal success . As a rule, the formal success of the crime is associated with actual damage , such as bodily harm according to Section 223 (1) of the Criminal Code . The formal concept of success is linked to the object of the crime , i.e. the object on which the crime must take place according to the facts of the case. As a rule, this is associated with actual damage. The substantive concept of success is related to a violation of a protected legal interest . A material success is to be assumed if a criminal act unfolds the danger with regard to the protected legal interest.

Theater, music, book trade

Success is in bookstores , music or theater also be measurable, that of books in several editions are printed and they appear in bestseller lists, songs in the charts show up (and there to the number one hit will) or sold-out performances in opera or theater with violent applause be acknowledged.

Video games

In video games , the concept of success is understood to be the awarding of an award that does not necessarily result from achieving one's own game objective. The award is usually recorded in the player's profile and can thus - within the framework of the concept of social gaming - be presented to other players together with all other successes achieved so far. Examples of this are collecting all mounts or exploring a complete section of the virtual world in online role-playing games , a certain number of victories in an action game or victory with one party in a strategy game . The purpose of success lies in the motivation of the player and in comparing one's own performance with others. In addition to terms such as “trophies” and “achievements”, the English term achievement has become widespread in the German-speaking world .

Personal success and positive reinforcement

The success (or reward) caused by a certain behavior can lead to a positive reinforcement of the motivation to repeat this behavior (but see also the corruption effect ). Conversely, failures can tend to lead to demotivation (negative reinforcement), so that this behavior that led to this failure is avoided in the future, or in the worst case there is resignation , as is often the case with drug addicts or (mentally) unstable people, which usually does not result in a change in future behavior (e.g. conscious seeking help to achieve changes in behavior , etc.), which is ultimately due to a complete inability to act. On the other hand, there is a learned success in drug addicts in the (unconscious) experience of the sedative effect of drugs, which is perceived as positive (positive reinforcement).

Personal successes and positive reinforcement can be very different, for example they can be found in the private social area of ​​a person (success through recognition in relationships, partnership, etc.) or in the (social) area such as a job (impressive school grades or scientific publications, profit, etc.) . In general, it can be said that success with simultaneous recognition leads to the formation of self-confidence . At the same time, it can also be stated that with success, responsibility can also grow at the same time , since, for example, success could increase the expectations of the environment.

Best Practices - Successful Religions

With industrialization at the beginning of the 20th century, economic elites ousted the old aristocracy and military elites. In 1927, the Bible of all successful methods was published, the book Think and grow rich ( German  think and become rich ) by Napoleon Hill and the pioneering book Rationalize Yourself in German-speaking countries by Gustav Großmann . Since then, other authors have joined in with Dale Carnegie , Joseph Murphy and Stuart Wilde . From a successful religion can speak to if the success Because rituals and ceremonies are connected, similar to those of religions. What they all have in common is the belief in the methodological feasibility and producibility of material success.

In addition to internationally successful entrepreneurs such as George Soros , Jack Welch , Donald Trump , Bill Gates and Warren Buffett , who offer their success stories as books, in Germany, for example, B. Erich Lejeune and Jürgen Höller distinguished themselves with their own successful training courses. The film The Secret of My Success also shows a success story.

Since social decline and a lack of chances of success have shaped German reality, the ideology of success has been strongly criticized, for example by the authors Alexander Dill , Christiane Zschirnt and Alexander von Schönburg .

If success is placed above other aspects of life, one can speak of an addiction to success. This leads to the impairment of social relationships.


  • Christian Näther: Success standards in strategic corporate management. Barbara Kirsch Publishing House, Munich 1993.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow at work, The secret of happiness at work. 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 978-3-608-93532-5 .
  • John Fleming: Manage Your Human Sigma. Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005.
  • Christiane Zschirnt: Don't worry, it will go wrong. Munich 2005, ISBN 3-442-30112-2 .
  • Alois Kogler: The art of high performance. Sports psychology, coaching, self-management. Springer, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-211-29129-6 .
  • Horst-Joachim Rahn : Compact personnel management. Munich / Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-486-58506-3 .
  • Hans-Georg Huber / Hans Metzger: Sensibly successful. Lead yourself and others. Rowohlt Taschenbuch-Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-61936-9 .
  • Harald Hungenberg / Torsten Wulf: Fundamentals of corporate management. Berlin at al., ISBN 3-540-20355-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Success  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Success  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Schwarz, Measurement and Control of Communication Efficiency , 2013, p. 16
  2. Klaus-Dieter Fessmann, Organizational Efficiency in Companies and Sub-Areas of Companies , 1980, p. 213 f.
  3. ^ Johann Christoph Adelung, Grammatical-Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect , 1793, Sp. 1889 f.
  4. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow in my job. The secret of happiness at work , 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004.
  5. Jens-Uwe Martens / Julius Kuhl, The Art of Self-Motivation , 3rd Edition, Stuttgart 2009.
  6. ^ Lyle M. Spencer, Competence at work: models for superior performance , John Wiley & Sons, 1993.
  7. Cyrille H. Timwo Monthe, Success Value Management. Understand heresy and implement smart management. 1st edition, Baar 2017, p. 93, ISBN 978-3-033-06442-3
  8. ^ Napoleon Hill, Think and Get Rich , 1966, p. 46
  9. ^ Peter Drucker: The Practice of Management. Harper Business, New York 1993.
  10. Erwin Geldmacher, Basic Concepts and Systematic Outline of Business Accounting , in: ZfhF , 1929, p. 6 f.
  11. Rüdiger Pieper (Ed.), Lexikon Management , 1992, p. 105
  12. Rüdiger Pieper (Ed.), Lexikon Management , 1992, p. 105
  13. Wolfgang Becker / Stefan Lutz, Gabler Kompakt-Lexikon Modernesrechnung , 2007, p. 67
  14. Hans-Dieter Kleinhückelskoten / Günter Schnetkamp, Success Factors for Marketing Strategies, in: Manfred Bruhn (Ed.), Handbuch des Marketing, 1989, pp. 258 ff.
  15. Ottmar Schneck (Ed.), Lexikon der Betriebswirtschaft , 1998, p. 215 f.
  16. Aloys Gälweiler, Strategic Management , 1990, p 26
  17. ^ Robert S. Kaplan / David P. Norton. The Balanced Scorecard , Boston 1996.
  18. John H. Fleming et al .: Manage Your Human Sigma. In: Harvard Business Review , July-August 2005.
  19. Bernd Wirkus, success / failure , in: Ommo Grupe / Dietmar Mieth (eds.), Lexicon of Ethics in Sport, 2001, p. 123
  20. Uriel Moeller, Definition and Limits of Forward Relocation of Punishability , 2018, p. 128
  21. Michael Busching, The place of inspection for utterance offenses on the Internet , in: Multimedia und Recht 18 (5), 2015, p. 297
  22. Peter Vorderer / Jennings Bryant, Playing Video Games. Motives, Responses and Consequences , Lawrence Erlbaum Association. New Jersey. 2006, p. 120.
  23. Archive link ( Memento of the original from May 28, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. Success addict