Personal Development, Posts, Understand Yourself

Outsmart the Availability Heuristic

Salient events are easier to remember, so we give them more importance in our decisions. Psychologists call this simple fact “the Availability heuristic”, which is a cognitive bias.

Cognitive Bias?

Remember that cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that help us survive in a dangerous world, but they fool us in a complicated one. When you see a lion in the Serengeti, you need to run without thinking. But when you decide to buy a car, it would be better to avoid running to buy the one you see frequently in the ads and think thoroughly before making the decision.

Examples of the Availability Heuristic

Salient memories from one’s experience will impact its future decision, when searching for a job, a neighborhood, a partner, a vacation destination, etc. We focus on that specific event and forget about the rest. We make a poor decision, and we often regret it.

Plane crashes are so rare that everyone knows about them when they happen. Yet they seem to horrify people much more than car accidents, which cause many more victims… Sharks, Tsunamis, Terrorist attacks, etc. These are a salient cause of death, but they have, by far, the least number of victims compared to car accidents or medical errors.

AvailabilityHeuristic.png

The media are an enormous « availability bias » machine. Journalists and reporters are both victims and contributors to this social phenomenon. A journalist that reports “a plane departing from Berlin had landed safely in CDG airport this afternoon” will most probably lose his job. Continue reading “Outsmart the Availability Heuristic”

Personal Development, Posts

When Can We Trust an Expert’s Intuition?

I recently read the book “Blink, the power of thinking without thinking“, by Malcolm Gladwell. A book about the magic of experts’ intuition. The book left me with big questions on expertise and intuition, so I had to dig deeper. I am convinced that experts’ intuition is not always reliable, what I found is that it depends on the domain of expertise and the expert’s experience in the domain.

In this post I summarize 2 approaches to intuition:

  • Naturalistic Decision-Making (NDM)
  • Heuristics and Biases (HB)

The confrontation of these 2 approaches results in 3 conditions for reliable intuition, abbreviated as REF:

  • Regularity
  • Exposure
  • Feedback

For starters, we define intuition as the ability to detect a pattern and solve problems rapidly, without relying on conscious reasoning.

Reasoning versus Intuition directional signs

Two Approaches to Intuitive Expertise: NDM vs. HB

The first approach to intuitive expertise is naturalistic decision-making (NDM). It is focused on the decisions made in real life by experienced people such as firefighting commanders, nurses, chess-masters, etc. NDM aims at demystifying the intuition by searching for the cues that led to the expert judgment.

Continue reading “When Can We Trust an Expert’s Intuition?”

Personal Development, Posts

How to Learn New Skills Quickly

Image result for The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything ... Fast

Learning new skills is paramount in today’s world. Whether you are searching for a first job, seeking a promotion in your current job or planning to make a career pivot, your ability to learn new skills (fast) will be your best friend. 

In his book “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything. Fast!”, Josh Kaufman suggests the following 10 steps to gain a new skill quickly:

  • Choose a project you love, a project you are very curious about.
  • Focus your energy on one skill at a time, don’t try to learn everything at once.
  • Define your target performance level, when you become “good enough” on the skill. This will define how long and how much energy you will put in this project.
  • Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills. Divide and conquer.
  • Obtain critical tools, the tools you need for practice and performance.
  • Eliminate barriers to practice, including emotional barriers. Set your environment in a way to reduce the effort required to practice. Remove distractions, put your mobile phone away, etc.
  • Make dedicated time for practice, MAKE it.
  • Create fast feedback loops. Feedback is to get accurate information about how well you are performing. Using this information to improve the performance creates a feedback loop. The faster the loop, the faster the learning.
  • Practice by the clock in short bursts. You may try the Pomodoro technique.
  • Emphasize quantity and speed. Don’t seek perfection. Quantity is better than quality for learning a new skill.

To be at your best performance, and accelerate your learning curve, make sure you are in the zone, or in a flow state. More on that in future posts.

Management, Personal Development, Posts

The Optimal Level of Stress

Stress is the response of your body to challenge. Your level of stress predicts your performance in your job and your relationships. On the one hand, high levels of stress would cause strong anxiety, exhaustion, and impaired performance. On the other hand, low levels of stress would result in boredom, inactivity, and disengagement.

You need an optimal amount of stress to perform at your best. In psychology, this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, depicted in the figure below.

The Optimal Level of Stress

If you are a manager or a leader, make sure that your people are experiencing the optimal level of stress to stay engaged, motivated and at their best performance.

Personal Development, Posts, Understand Yourself

Outsmart your Confirmation Bias

The first cognitive bias that we will review in the series “Outsmart Your Biases” is the Confirmation Bias, that is, the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms our opinion, and neglect information that contradicts it.

The Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is one of the most common biases that have direct consequences on our personal life and professional career. The examples are endless. We often seek information to prove that our political party is right. When we like a person, we don’t want to see her character flaws. To prove the validity of our proposed strategy we search on google for “Is the [proposed strategy] better than [opposite strategy]?”. In a job interview, we frame our questions in a way to confirm our beliefs or our first impression of the candidate. etc… Try to figure out in which decision you were prone to it.

Jeff Bezos about today’s internet: “a Confirmation Bias Machine”.

To outsmart your confirmation bias, you may use the following tricks:

  • Ask for an outside view of the topic at hand and seek criticism.
  • Search for the pros and cons of the different options.
  • Suppose the opposite: be the devil’s advocate.

Such debiasing strategies can be performed in brainstorming format, in informal discussion, etc.

Personal Development, Posts, Understand Yourself

Outsmart Your Biases

Do you think you are rational? Are you sure that you often make the best decision? Do you feel that your reasoning is superior to that of others? Do you regret some acts and wish you had thought more before committing them? You are, like all human beings, a victim of your cognitive biases.

What is cognitive bias?

Cognition is the mental process of understanding and acquiring knowledge. Cognitive bias is an unconscious cognitive process in human psychology that makes us prone to errors in our reasoning and judgment. It is the gap between rational thinking and our actual way of thinking.

There exists a lot of biases that affect our interaction with the world; we seek pattern in everything even if there is none, we confuse correlation with causality, we hire people who are similar to us, we don’t react the same way to the same information if framed differently, we don’t understand why the opposite side don’t see the ‘truth’, we overestimate our knowledge, etc.

Cognitive biases are an important cause of many catastrophes and tragedies in business, politics, relationships and everyday life. Outsmarting our cognitive biases is key to good decision making and critical thinking.

A New Blog Post Series “Outsmart your Biases”

Outsmart your biases is a forthcoming series of posts that will discuss some of the major cognitive biases, illustrated with examples; the confirmation bias, the availability heuristic, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the planning fallacy, the halo effect and more. In this series, you will find mental tricks and processes that you can use to outsmart these biases and become a better decision-maker. Stay tuned!

Personal Development, Posts, Quotes

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Aristotle

Management, Personal Development, Posts

What is Your Personality Type ?

Every human being is unique. Each of us has a unique DNA, a unique experience of life, and a unique outlook to the future. Nonetheless, as a species – Homo sapiens, we all share some traits at different degrees: we tend to over-generalize, we procrastinate, we are curious, etc. Moreover, if we scan the history and the geography of human societies, we notice some patterns in the characters: the leader, the soldier, the scientist, the rebel, the traitor, the altruist, etc. We don’t find it difficult to compare one or more characters of a story to other characters in other stories…

The study of human behavior and personality has gained increased attention in the last two centuries and has evolved from pseudoscience theories (such as phrenology and physiognomy) to an established branch of psychology.

In a previous post “Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little“, the personality is defined as the result of the following determinants: biogenic (inherited genes), sociogenic (culture and values) and idiogenic (individual decisions and will) traits. The OCEAN model for human personalities and behavior was used as a tool to assess the basic personality traits.

Many other models exist in the literature. In this post, the following personality models are presented: MBTI, FIRO-B, SDI, and DISC. These models are widely used today in the corporate world (in hiring and management), and they are part of some management programs. All the models are based on psychological research studies and are formulated as introspective self-report questionnaires that can be found online.

MBTI – Myer Briggs Type Indicator

The  Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality assessment model that was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The personality traits are grouped into four categories:

  • Introversion / Extraversion: What is your source of energy? From inside yourself (I) or from people (E).
  • Sensing / INtuition: How do you perceive the world? As facts and details (S) or as possibilities and big picture (N).
  • Thinking / Feeling: How do you make decisions? Using analytical thinking (T), or feelings and empathy (F).
  • Judging / Perception: How do you organize your life? To-do lists and instructions (J) or flexibility and improvisation (P).

This produces 16 personality types as shown in the figure below. An individual can fall into one type, or between 2 or more types, depending on its score.

MBTI Continue reading “What is Your Personality Type ?”

Book Review, Personal Development, Posts, TED Talks, Understand Yourself

Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little

Couverture de Who Are You, Really?

Audible Audio-book

  • Title: Who Are You, Really? The Surprising Puzzle of Personality

  • Author: Brian R. Little, PhD
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Recommendation Score: 4.5 / 5

Book Review

Who are you, really? Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? Are you compassionate or rather detached? What defines your personality traits? Can you change your character?

The book “Who are you, really?” provides insights about the personality traits based on latest psychological studies. The good news is: you are not destined to have a certain character, you can change your personality traits. How? By pursuing your personal projects, you define who you are. In other words, the well-doing can change your character, and has an impact on your well-being. More details below.

Biogenic, Sociogenic and Idiogenic selves

The author argues that everyone has three ‘selves’:

  • The biogenic self: your genes define some of the traits of your character. This is the fixed part of your personality.
  • The sociogenic self: other traits of your personality are imposed by your social context and the culture you grew in; people who are important to you, your family, friends and colleagues.
  • The idiogenic self: what you decide to do, your projects and plans, are the last layer of your character. Studies have shown that what you do can even has an impact on the manifestation of your genes, and, in a sense, influence your genome at least temporally.

Fortunately, your genes and social context are not the only determinants of your personality. Your idiogenic self is your hero.

Continue reading “Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little”

Personal Development, Posts

From Knowledge to Wisdom

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