If You Don’t Get It, You Get It

February 20, 2013 by Bill Bradley


Title: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Competencies: finance, marketing, sales, decision-making, judgment, managing self

Who benefits: anyone can read and enjoy this delightful book

Consultant Usage: I can’t think of any form of consulting where a professional consultant would not benefit in some professional or personal way

What’s it about? Today and next Wednesday I am going to indulge myself.  I am going to review two books by one of my all-time favorite writers.  Maybe review is the wrong word.  Promote might be a more accurate term.  I can’t get enough of this guy and I don’t care who knows it!  Well, I do care that you know it.  (And that is The (Honest) Truth – a book by Ariely previously reviewed here.)

The writer is Dan Ariely.  He is a Duke University professor.  He is the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight.  Think about that for a moment and you will begin to know him.  Not your run-of-the-mill professor.  If you have two minutes to spare for a simple, homemade and yet hysterically funny video, check out the link.

Let me begin with a personal note about him … and my mother.  At 18, Ariely was in an explosion that left him with third degree burns over 70% of his body.  I received a pinpoint size burn on a finger once and thought I was going to die.  My mother was in an explosion that left her with third degree burns over 95% of her body.  What Ariely and my mother have in common is that they were never the same.

For my mother, she entered a mental shell for the remaining 45 years of her life.  For Ariely, his mind took a completely different turn.  Deprived of what young people do in their late teens and 20s, he used his mind to look at and understand the world in a completely unique way.

Today he is best known as a behavior economist.  If you are not familiar with the concept, behavioral economists want to feed conventional economics to the sharks (see above 2-minute video).  Conventional economics says that in everyday life we put all our options on the table and then follow the best (most rational) course of action.

Like Hell, to paraphrase Ariely.  He says our behaviors are irrational and they are neither random nor senseless.  They are systematic and we repeat them.  We predictably repeat them.  He says we need to move away from “naïve psychology (which often fails the tests of reason, introspection, and most importantly, empirical scrutiny)”.  And that is precisely the journey this book takes us on.

Now to the fun part.  Let me share with you some of the questions this book addresses … but you will have to read the book if you want the answers:

“Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin?”  (I LOL when I read this one … it is so me!)

“Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save 25 cents on a can of soup?”  (Oh man, he got me again!)

How did some black, ugly, useless pearls become some of the most expensive stones on earth?

And most importantly, if you are on the dating circuit, what qualities do you need in a wingman (or woman) to be successful?  (Ken, I know you are reading this.  Would you be my wingman?)

This book is a fast read.  It is really, really hard to put down.  The questions raised are fascinating, the answers astounding.

Before closing, I want to come clean.  Full disclosure.  Professor Ariely will be conducting a 6-week Coursera course A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior on March 25.  I can’t wait.  Join me?

Catch you later.

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development

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  • I was going to read this only because I always read what you post but I am crazy busy getting ready for my next trip. I got hooked. This looks like it gives fun, insight and things to think about all at the same time. Terrific.
    Thank you.

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