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Sway, the Irrational Pull of Irrational Behavior

Join the Tea Party

Ori & Rom Brafman write in “Sway, the Irrational Pull of Irrational Behavior” that we fear the hold irrational behavior plays in our decisions to the point of blocking decisions or making bad decisions. Ori and Rom advise you recognize irrational behaviors, acknowledge them, and use them to make better decisions. These are my notes from their excellent book.

Fear of Risk and Loss: Aversion and Overcompensation Behaviors

  • Overreaction to avoid loss – the more on the line, the more susceptible to taking a dangerous risk.
  • Force of commitment to take a risk – when the cost of delaying is thought to be high but the chance of success is thought to be small.
  • Value attribution – believing labels of good and bad determine the outcome.
  • Focusing on future predictions and past reconstructions rather than the facts of present performance.
  • Psychological chameleons – being seduced by the characteristics that we and others ascribe to us
  • Believing that procedural fairness is more important than outcome fairness.

Politeness and well-mannered become more important than the decisions.

Opportunity to have a voice is more important than the outcome.

The product or project doesn’t speak for itself, so keeping  customers and employees informed is more important than their participation.

  • Ill-conceived reward (extra compensation) is separated from the common goal and risk to achieve the common goal is avoided.
  • Initiator or Blocker? – know how to separate outcome positive behavior from outcome detrimental behavior, a dissenting voice can seem annoying, but those opinions are essential in keeping the group in balance and the plane safely flying.

Stories and Questions to Ask

  • Letting go of the past

Andy Groves of Intel from Only the Paranoid Survive:

Intel in 1985 was losing money making its signature product – memory chips. Asking his cofounder Gordon Moore, “if we were fired, what would a new CEO do?,” Moore replied, “Get out of memories.” Groves said, “Why don’t we do that ourselves?”

If unsure whether to continue, think “If I were just arriving on the scene and were given the choice to either jump into this project as it is or pass on it, would I chose to jump in?”

  • Value attribution

Elizabeth Gibson and Rufino Tamayo’s Tres Personajes story:

Walking in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she saw a painting with a cheap frame wedged between two trashcans. She looked at the painting, liked it, but hesitated to take it. Years later she learned the thieves discarded the stolen masterpiece for the garbage collectors.

Observe things for what they are, not just for what they appear to be.

  • Judgments about ideas and others – the sway of bias.

Personal Construct Theory – Keep evaluations open-ended, practice being comfortable with the complex and contradictory information, and take time to consider other information before making a diagnostic a judgment – think about adopting a “waiting period.”

  • Not being swayed by emotional reactions – when gripped by emotions, ask, “Would I rather achieve my goals or teach someone a lesson?”


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