CXO

Why do rational people make irrational decisions?

Otherwise bright people sometimes do the dumbest things. In this video from TR sister site BNET, author Ori Brafman discusses some of the reasons why in stories from his book Sway.

Otherwise bright people sometimes do the dumbest things. In this video from TR sister site BNET, author Ori Brafman discusses some of the reasons why they do so in stories from his book Sway.

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Ever do something and then look back and see what a boneheaded maneuver it was? And you can't remember why you made the decision to begin with? These type of bad decisions happen on a daily basis. Sometimes they happen for no good reason, but in others there are subtle psychological things going on that you might not be aware of.

In a book called Sway,  authors and brothers Ori and Rom Brafman collected stories from fields such as science, sports, aviation, and music that highlight the psychological forces at work that can sway our behavior. TechRepublic's sister site BNET has a video series called Business Book Briefs that features authors and discusses some of the highlights of their books. In the video here, Ori discusses several of the stories from the book and shows some of the reasons why we make bad decisions.

Let's go to the video

Ori's video covers several key findings of the book. Some of the areas he discusses include

  • Loss Aversion
  • Commitment
  • Diagnosis Bias
  • Group Dynamics

Although none of the examples here are directly IT related, it's easy to analogize them to what we do as IT leaders. For example, you've probably dealt with many IT projects that have consumed too much time and effort but still haven't been terminated. These are projects that live on due to Ori's Loss Aversion and Commitment theories.

As I've suggested in Decision Central before, I think that much of Vista's problem is perception oriented. It's actually not that bad of an operating system if you have it installed fresh on a machine with sufficient power. But Vista has such a bad reputation now that it's often dismissed without a second thought. This aligns with Ori's Diagnosis Bias theory.

Finally, when it comes to Ori's Group Dynamics and Dissent theories, all you have to do is stop and think about that lone Linux or Mac proponent in your organization. There's always someone in the organization who goes against the grain. To avoid groupthink, you need to sometimes take these points of view into consideration in the decision-making process.

Ori concludes the video by pointing out some of the things you can do to overcome sway in your decisions. Although some of the things mentioned in the video seem like common sense, they're actually pretty interesting when you stop to think about them.

The bottom line for IT leaders

Although bad decisions you make may not have life or death consequences, they can waste valuable time and money that your organization can't replace. Being cognizant of how bad decision making can take place and what influences may alter your perceptions, you can attempt to avoid these pitfalls in the future.

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