Rationalize my decision … please
Posted by Amy Wilson on July 2, 2010
I finally got around to reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely – a behavioral economics book that Mark and Ken have been recommending for awhile. Dan’s book shows via extensive experimentation that a good deal of emotion (and predictable emotion, at that) goes into decisions – even those as obviously rational as price-based decisions.
Dan and his colleagues have done loads of experiments, but my favorite bit from the book is a personal anecdote. Dan had just got rid of his motorcycle and was set to buy his first car. He was married and planning to have kids soon. With this in mind, he turned to a car advice website and took a blind survey – the questions ranged from preferred safety ratings to desired breaking distance to number of passengers. 15 minutes later, Dan had his answer. A Ford Taurus. What?? He didn’t know what car to buy, but he knew for sure he didn’t want a Ford Taurus. He then did what any rational human being would do – started hitting the back button and changing his answers until he got a more “accurate and appropriate” response. A Mazda Miata, as it turned out.
In reflection, Dan wrote:
“The elaborate computerized justification process might seem artificial and extreme but I suspect that the same basic elements end up playing out in many of our important decisions. This experience taught me that sometimes we want our decisions to have a rational veneer when, in fact, they stem from a gut feeling – what we crave deep down.”
Of course, this got me thinking about business software. The best business software enables better decisions … and the best decision-making tools understand the human nuance Dan refers to above. Rather than throwing a bunch of new information at people and then making a decision for them, an effective tool takes information the individual already knows, organizes it, augments it, and gradually discloses discrepancies. The decision maker feels in control, feels more confident and justified, and ultimately makes the *right* decision.
A business leader’s gut instinct shows him where to go and the effective decision-making tool shows him why and what opportunities are available to him.
Have you ever hit the back button on a survey answer?