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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nudge: FINAL Post

One Final Nudge: This may come as a surprise, but we humans are not machines (Econs, as the authors call it), but rather fallible creatures subject to short-cut decisions amid a life of geometrically increasing options. We have two decision-making systems—Automatic and Reflective—and much of the time the Automatic system overrides the Reflective one. The authors suggest that choice architects—any of us, like parents, bosses, friends—can act in the other’s best interest by employing simple and available nudging techniques to help them make good decisions. So, read Nudge, tweet or facebook these posts to your friends and colleagues, and nudge them to do the same.
a. P.S.—Here’s a BIG Bonus: If you want to hear Richard Thaler talk about Nudge live, check him out at Google Authors: Richard Thaler speaks at Google.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nudge: Post #8

Framing: Context determines how people will react because most reaction is Automatic. People are much less Reflective and often don’t take the time to think, thus rely on their less rational Automatic decision helpmate. Choices often depend on how problems are stated. The authors offer a great example relevant to public policy about energy use. Option A: “If you use energy conservation methods, you will gain $350 a year.” Option B: “If you do not use energy conservation methods, you will lose $350 a year.” Given the previous discussion on “Gains and Losses,” can you guess which approach works best? Of course, Option B. So, framing works based on how things are stated and by what people will gain or lose.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nudge: Post #7

Gains and Losses: People hate to lose. Period. Have you ever tried to donate a kid’s never-used toy to Goodwill? If you have, you know that they’ll fight you to the death to hold onto it, despite the fact that they haven’t touched it in years. In fact, if you WANT someone to use something, just threaten it and see the results. However, according to the authors, this loss aversion type of “cognitive nudge” encourages us not to make changes “even when changes are very much in our interests.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nudge: Post #6

Optimism and Overconfidence: I’d call this one the Lake Wobegon effect: Where “all the children are above average.” In psychology it is referred to as illusory superiority. We have a tendency to give ourselves the nod, the big break, when rating ourselves against others. Can you begin to imagine how this might affect decision making? For example, most entrepreneurs starting a business (which statistically fail over 50% of the time) believe at the 90% level that they will defy the stats! The authors suggest that the pervasiveness of this phenomenon can be disastrous in high-stakes decisions, and people need a memory of a bad event to anchor them back to reality.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nudge: Post #5

Rules of Thumb: We’re all busy and don’t have the time to reflect on the perfect choice, so we use what the authors call “rules of thumb” guidelines. Like when I look at the Beltway (around Washington, DC) and see it’s completely backed up. I have an automatic audible play that loops me around to a secondary road. The authors note several nudging elements in such rules of thumb situations—I’ll mention two: Anchoring and Availability. Anchoring tells us that if we’re hungry we shouldn’t go shopping…our temporary anchor (hunger) makes us want to buy more. Availability is similar to anchoring in that if we have a readily available relevant example of a fearful event in our minds, we’re more likely to overreact to a choice in front of us. For example, we hear in the news much more about homicides than suicides, so we wrongly believe that more people die from homicide. So, our brain responds based on what kind of reference points it starts from. No wonder so many of us make bad choices.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nudge: Post #4

Two Thinking Systems: We have both an Automatic and a Reflective System to help us get through life. The Automatic System—run by the amygdala, the primal, reptilian part of our brain that resides at the base of our brain—responds to threats and pleasures quickly, like a fifth of a second. The Reflective System is controlled, deductive, slow and self-aware, residing in the prefrontal cortex (often called the executive control center of the brain). It thinks about best options. Unfortunately, often under pressure to “choose’ an option while at the computer, we hit “recommended” when the Automatic brain overrides the Reflective brain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nudge: Post #3

Status Quo Bias: One of the best examples of a nudge is the “default option” often known as the status quo option. Most people, most of the time, take the easiest option—the default. We tend to stick with the current situation, due to either inertia or lack of attention. And we assume, either rightly or wrongly, that the default option comes with an implicit endorsement from the default setter. We assume that whoever is offering such an option knows best and wants the best for us. Yeah, right.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nudge: Post #2

Choice Architecture: Everyone is a choice architect—one who organizes or arranges the context in which people make decisions. Parents make offerings to their kids about what choices are available for breakfast. Bosses arrange the context of sometimes tough choices about new job opportunities. And surely, doctors arrange the context of options for patients having to make life and death choices. Nudges cause alterations in the decisions people make—but are not intrusive, expensive, or particularly demanding. Rather, they are subtle and don’t provoke resistance the way a command would.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nudge: Introduction

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein (Penguin, 2009)—reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

If you’ve ever clicked on the “recommend” option for installing a computer application or program, picked a Chick-fil-A sandwich from the front of its stacking rack, or purchased the suggested extended warranty contract, then you’ve been NUDGED. In this entertaining and informative book about how certain things move us to make automatic (less than reflective) decisions, Richard Thaler (an economics professor at the University of Chicago) and Cass Sunstein (a professor at the Harvard Law School) have written a classic, much like Tipping Point or Freakonomics. Fortunately, they’re both tenured profs and can afford to write such readable stuff for the rest of us. Thanks guys!

This week I’ll cover a few of the key elements, but I highly recommend a close, personal read of Nudge.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fierce Conversations: Post #5

Resolution: Now it’s time to move toward agreement about the next steps.

a. Ask questions that move you toward resolution: Example: “What have we learned? Where are we now? Where do we go from here? What do we need to do now to resolve this situation?”

b. Make an agreement about holding each other responsible: Example: “I’m wondering what you and I need to do specifically and on a timeline to help change this situation to a win-win for us both. Do you have any thoughts about what we can do? Would you be interested in brainstorming this to move it forward?”

c. After this meeting, you may consider summing up what happened and setting out some deadlines, without sounding like a field marshal!

d. Final word. While fierce conversations seem difficult, they get much easier every time you use them. AND they make a real difference in our personal and professional happiness. Remember, problems unaddressed only get bigger and tougher if not addressed by a fierce conversation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fierce Conversations: Post #4

Interaction: After delivering the opening statement, it's time for you to LISTEN a lot. It’s actually the guts of the conversation (and takes the most time if done right), where you listen and inquire as the person begins to respond and talk based on your invitation to resolve the issue. You must LEARN in this phase and the only way to learn is to ask questions and LISTEN.

a. Inquire into your partner’s views. It’s hard, but you need to LISTEN and PROBE. Talking will interrupt the valuable flow of information you will need to eventually construct a lasting resolution. By ONLY asking What, How, Who questions, you can keep the conversation alive and keep the other person talking and you LISTENING. Examples: “What does it look like when you say I talk too much? How can we approach the problem so we both get what we want?”

b. You should also paraphrase, so the person knows that you understand and are not judging. “So, I’m hearing you say that you’re hurt by my response to the way I’ve been treated, is that right?” Am I hearing that correctly? “

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fierce Conversations: Post #3

Here are the last four of components of the opening statement, as identified by Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations:

d. Clarify what’s at stake—for the person you’re talking to, for you, and for the company. Example: “There’s some important things at stake here. Our working relationship and the success of our division.”

e. Identify your contribution to this problem. What have you done to help produce the very results that are making you unhappy? In short, how are you to blame for the situation. Example: “Joe, I know I’ve contributed to this problem, by not speaking up on the first time you told me to shut up. I just thought that behavior would stop over time, but it hasn’t, and I’m very concerned.

f. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue. Scott cautions to be sure to use the word “resolve.” It’s not a final or a win-lose sort of word, rather a word that shows hope and an interest in clearing things up. Example: “Joe, I want to resolve how we can work together in a way that works for you and also gives me the kind of respect I think I deserve.”

g. Invite your partner to respond. Now that you’ve succinctly set up the problem (in less than a minute), you need to invite the other person to join the conversation. Now, it’s time to listen. Example: “I want to understand what’s happening from your perspective. What do you think about what I’ve said?”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fierce Conversations: Post #2

Opening Statement: Author, Susan Scott, suggests scripting this out and rehearsing it as if you were an actor in a movie. Here are the first three of seven components of the opening statement. This statement usually takes a about a minute to deliver. It is to the point but powerful…not rambling but very focused. What follows is an example of a direct report chatting with his boss (Joe) about their relationship:

a. Name the Issue: Put a name on it to identify the issue, clearly and succinctly. Focus will help the solution process. Example: “Joe, I want to talk about our working relationship.”

b. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change. Find an incident that hits the heart of the issue without rambling on—which could get very distracting and undercut your point. Example: “Last week in a meeting, you told me to shut up and listen. And two weeks ago, you cut me off when I was offering an observation about the new building plans.”

c. Describe your emotions about this issue. It’s important to let people know how you feel, otherwise they’re clueless. Often, a clear declaration about how you feel can be disarming. Example: “Joe, when you say things like “shut up” especially in a public setting, I get angry and insulted—then de-motivated and unhappy.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fierce Conversations: Introduction to the Review

Fierce Conversations
By Susan Scott (the Penguin Group, 2002) Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.
This is the first of several posts this week based on my in-depth review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

It’s often difficult to have tough conversations with other people, especially people we care deeply about. Susan Scott wrote Fierce Conversations about how to do just such a thing—have a difficult or fierce conversation. Scott maintains that “the conversation is the relationship.” And, throughout the book, she makes this point—fiercely. Unfortunately, most of us have very surface-like conversations in our lives and never get down to the stuff that matters with the people who matter to us. Fierce Conversations teaches people how to have conversations they need, not necessarily want to have. In the end, every conversation changes the relationship either for the better or the worse. And as tough as fierce conversations are to have, they build the relationship by surfacing important issues—the earlier the better.
This week I’ll review the book in depth.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Influencer: FINAL Post

Final words: We all influence each other in some way or another. Often, the way we influence is haphazard, unintentional, and ineffective. Patterson, et al., have given us a simple, yet powerful, methodology to become far more organized, intentional and effective influencers. Read this book only if you want to influence the people around you to make the world a better place.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Influencer: Post #4

Structural (systemic) Motivation and Ability

a. Structural Motivation: Let personal motivators and social reinforcement be the basis for organizational rewards. Make sure rewards are directly and immediately linked to behaviors. Rewards should be small and heartfelt, or they will backfire. In the case of rewards, “less is more.” What about when things go bad? If you have to come down on people, first give them a warning. Then do what must be done (punish them) to show that you won’t tolerate misbehavior.

b. Structural Ability: Change the environment. If you want people to collaborate and reinforce each other, then give them a place to gather and physically locate them close to each other. The concept of “propinquity” (proximity) is fascinating and discussed at length in the book. Psychologist Leon Festinger discovered a simple truth: “…the frequency and quality of human interaction is largely a function of physical distance.” Give people a gathering place and watch them interact, ask questions, and influence each other in ways you would never imagine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Influencer: Post #3

Social Motivation and Ability
a. Social Motivation: Effective influencers know how to harness peer pressure. Remember the power of one and the power of the herd. In social motivation, opinion leaders matter. People look toward a respected peer’s behavior more than they look toward their parents or relatives. Also, never underestimate the power of a herd stampeding toward a goal. Make it safe to have difficult conversations about things that matter. Find a new support structure to reinforce new behavior change. Think of Alcoholics Anonymous as a good example of peer influence to solve a very difficult problem by offering ongoing support.
b. Social Ability: Teams outperform individuals; so, work in teams. Vicarious modeling (demonstrations, videos, case studies) works. Solidarity has a single, powerful voice that motivates. Authority is also a huge motivator, if the authority figure is respected by the team.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Inluencer: Post #2

Personal Motivation and Ability

a. Personal Motivation: All influence starts on a personal level. If you are not personally motivated to change, nothing will move you—best just to grab a bag of chips and a beverage of your choice and watch TV! “Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.” (Steven Wright, page 83) According to the authors, getting people to try it (change or use new behavior), take pride in doing it, and connect it to their values goes a long way toward motivating them.

b. Personal Ability: Engaging their personal ability and helping them surpass their perceived limits requires influencers to do more. They must engage in deliberate practice—people need immediate coaching and feedback. It’s not just a practice-makes-perfect attitude. Rather, it’s a perfect-practice-makes-perfect attitude—paying full attention when practicing and having self discipline. All of these make a big difference in a lasting change of behavior.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Inluencer: An Overview

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything (McGraw Hill, 2008) by Kerry Patterson, et al. Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., October 2010

If you’re a parent, sibling, teacher, manager, CEO—or anyone who, in the course of your daily life, has to persuade or influence the way others think or act—you are an influencer. And this book is perfect for you. As a longtime student and professor of communication and influence, I found this book easy to read, understand, and put right into practice. That’s the highest recommendation anyone can give a book. You’re likely to recall the string of authors—Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler— who brought you the bestseller Crucial Conversations. In this new book, they offer many compelling stories and experiments, as well as a six-part model of influence that not only makes sense but also is easy to practice. The model is based on a simple two-part premise: 1) People must believe that change is worth it; and 2) they can do all that’s required to make that change. Thus, value and ability are the cornerstones of this book.The six sources of influence are grouped into three areas as follows:

1. Personal motivation and ability
--a. Can you (as an influencer) make the undesirable, desirable?
--b. Can you get people to surpass their perceived limits?
2. Social motivation and ability
--a. Can you harness peer pressure?
--b. Can you find strength in numbers (by showing how others are doing it already)?
3. Structural (systemic) motivation and ability
--a. Can you design rewards and demand accountability?
--b. Can you change the environment to accommodate change?

The authors practice what they preach. They tell some compelling stories, offer experimentation (that a layperson can understand), and provide just the right amount of documentation. Thoughtful readers of this book can use this information to become more active influencers in their families, professions and communities.

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