Intentional Insights Intentional Insights blog brought to you by History News Network. Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 ( Is There Anything We Can Do to Stop Politicians from Lying? Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of the forthcoming The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide and is currently writing The Alternative to Alternative Facts: Fighting Post-Truth Politics with Behavioral Science. He is aprofessor of history at Ohio State University and President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights. This article is part of the author’s broader work on promoting rational thinking and wise decision-making. To learn more about The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook book and be notified of its publication, click on this link. He blogs here at Intentional Insights on HNN. 

We are in unprecedented historical territory when a Senator calls the President of his own political party “an utterly untruthful President” as Bob Corker did in regard to Donald Trump, and when another Senator from the same party, Jeff Flake, describes the President as having a "flagrant disregard of truth.” Consider the recent example of Trump making false statements about his phone conversation with a Gold Star widow, and then doubling and tripling down on them. For a more policy-oriented example, recall how Donald Trump’s rally speech in Phoenix on August 22 was full of falsehoods. He gave a revisionist and false history of his reaction to the Charlottesville violence to make himself look better, made false statements about media reporting and misled the audience over his economic achievements. Trump’s actions point to the normalization of post-truth politics, when appeals to personal beliefs and emotion win out over objective facts. To avoid this normalization, we need to borrow the successful tactics of the environmental movement.

Trump’s behavior – the speech and the attacks on the Gold Star widow – represents part of a broader pattern: Of Trump’s statements fact-checked by Politifact, an astounding 49 percent are false. By comparison, his Democratic opponent in the U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton, has 12 percent of her fact checked statements rated false; 14 percent of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s are.

Despite Trump’s extremely high rate of deception, many still believe him. As an example, 44 percent of those polled believed his falsehoods about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign. Unfortunately, 29 percent of the public, and only 12 percent of Trump supporters, trust fact checkers.

Moreover, research on debunking falsehoods shows such debunking sometimes backfires. Called the backfire effect, scientists have shown in a number of cases people believe in falsehoods even more strongly after being presented with contradictory evidence. This situation enables Trump to pollute our politics with deception, destroying trust in our democratic political system.

Political and social science research summarized in the 2003 Trust and Governance, edited by Valerie Braithwaite and Margaret Levi, shows trust is vital for healthy democracies. Citizens in a democracy have a basic expectation of their public officials being trustworthy, in their words and actions. In return, citizens comply with laws, pay taxes and cooperate with other government initiatives. By comparison to a democracy, an autocratic state bears a much higher resource burden of policing to make its citizens comply with its laws. In his 2002 work, Trust and Trustworthiness, political scientist Russell Hardin also shows the vital role of trust in creating and cultivating civil society in a democracy. When political leaders act in ways that destroy trust—as Trump is doing through misleading statements and outright lies—people will increasingly stop complying with laws, paying taxes and engaging in civil society. Trump’s actions are fatally undermining the health of our democracy.

His behavior falls within the sphere of what behavioral scientists term “tragedy of the commons,” following a famous 1968 article in Science by Garret Hardin. Hardin demonstrated that in areas where a group of people share a common resource—the commons—without any controls on the use of this resource, individual self-interest may often lead to disaster for all involved. Because each individual may well have a strong interest in using more of the common resource than is their fair share, all suffer the consequences of the depletion of that resource. Environmental pollution is a clear example where the common resource of clean air and water is abused by polluters who destroy this shared resource.

Trump is abusing the commons of trust in our political environment, and he is setting a clear example for other politicians to follow through his successful tactics. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin are adopting the post-truth tactics of condemning media as “fake news” whenever the media report stories unfavorable to them. As an example, Bevin personally attacked a journalist who reported on Bevin’s purchase of a mansion for about a million dollars under market value from a hedge fund manager, which some suggested might be a bribe in return for under-the-table political favors. Such trickle-down of post-truth politics points to its normalization within our political system, thus enabling corruption and undermining our democracy.

How do we stop this pollution of truth? The modern environmental movement has been dealing successfully with a tragedy of the commons: industrial pollution. The historical consensus is that the launch of the modern environmental movement came with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. This and other similar publications brought about an awakening of the public to the dangers posed by environmental pollution to individual and community health, and led to the coordinated movement of activists—Republican and Democrat—fighting for the environment.

As a result, environmental problems drew much wider public attention. Consider the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. The river has had a long history of pollution, and in June 1969 oil-covered debris caught fire, causing $100,000 worth of damage to two railroad bridges. This event drew national attention and became a major story in Time. Cleveland’s mayor testified before Congress to urge greater attention to pollution by the federal government. Notably, the Cuyahoga River had experienced many other fires due to industrial pollution, such as one in 1952 that resulted in over $1.3 million in damage—10 times that which incurred in 1969. This much bigger and more destructive fire, however, inspired little national attention—or efforts to change the situation—as compared with the conflagration of 1969.

The marked difference in the reaction to the two fires stemmed from the launch of the modern environmental movement, combining the coordinated actions of activists to seek out and highlight these problems with heightened public attention awareness of the danger of environmental pollution. We can do the same for the pollution of truth by launching a nonpartisan pro-truth movement. Such a movement would require a coordinated group of activists holding public figures accountable for deception as well as publicly highlighting the danger that post-truth politics poses to the health of our democracy.

Whereas the 1960s required the publication of books to raise awareness and launch a movement, our contemporary digital environment gives us easier tools. One example is the Pro-Truth Pledge project at, which allows private citizens and public figures to take a pledge committing them to 12 behaviors that research suggests are most likely to lead to a truth-oriented society. This site both offers a coordination venue for those determined to roll back the tide of lies and protect our democracy, and raises awareness of the dangers of political deception. Hundreds of private citizens across the U.S. and many dozens of public figures have already taken the pledge, including household names such as Peter SingerJonathan Haidt, and Steven Pinker as well as over 50 Democratic and Republican politicians.

By launching a pro-truth movement uniting people across the political divide, we can avoid the normalization of post-truth politics. Doing so will help ensure that the kind of falsehoods uttered by Trump get a response equivalent to the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga river, rather than the 1952 one. Whether the pro-truth movement takes off depends on how many people choose to take the pledge and join the effort to protect the health of our democracy from the pollution of truth.

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
The Behavioral Science of Political Deception in the 2016 Election Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge.Caption: Head with brain and puzzle pieces (Geralt/Pixabay)

How did Donald Trump win, when he used so many misleading statements and outright deceptions? Couldn’t people see through them? As an expert in brain science, I want to share why his followers fell for his lies and what can be done to address this situation in the future.

First, let’s get the facts straight., a well-known non-partisan website, rates only about 4 percent of statements by Trump as fully “True” and over 50 percent as either completely “False” or what they call ridiculously false – “Pants on Fire,” with the rest in the middle. By comparison, Hillary Clinton rated 25 percent as fully “True” and only 12 percent as either “False” or “Pants on Fire.”

The Washington Post, one of the most reputable newspapers in the country, wrote that “There’s never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump — someone so cavalier about the facts and so unwilling to ever admit error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.” In their rulings on statements made by Trump, this paper’s editors evaluated 64 percent of them as Four Pinocchios, their worst rating. By contrast, statements by other politicians tend to get the worst rating 10 to 20 percent of the time.

These sentiments are representative of other prominent news media and fact-check outlets, yet according to an ABC News/Washington post poll, most voters on the eve of the election perceivedDonald Trump as more trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. This false perception came from the Trump campaign building up on previous Republican criticism of Clinton, much of it misleading and some accurate, to manipulate successfully many voters into believing that Clinton is less honest, in spite of the evidence that she is much more honest than Trump. The Trump campaign did so through the illusory truth effect, a thinking error in our minds that happens when false statements are repeated many times and we begin to see them as true. In other words, just because something is stated several times, we perceive it as more accurate.

You may have noticed the last two sentences in the previous paragraph had the same meaning. The second sentence didn’t provide any new information, but it did cause you to believe my claim more than you did when you read the first sentence.

The Biology of Truth Vs. Comfort

Why should the human brain be structured so that mere repetition, without any more evidence, causes us to believe a claim more strongly? The more often we are exposed to a statement, the more comfortable it seems. The fundamental error most people make is mistaking statements that make them feel comfortable for true statements.

Our brains cause us to believe something is true because we feel it is true, regardless of the evidence – a phenomenon known as emotional reasoning. This strange phenomenon can be easily explained by understanding some basic biology behind how our brain works.

When we hear a statement, the first thing that fires in our brain in a few milliseconds is our autopilot system of thinking, composed of our emotions and intuitions. Also known as System 1, the autopilot system is what the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman identified as our two systems of thinking in his 2011 Thinking, Fast and Slow, and represents the more ancient system of our brain. It protected us in the ancestral environment against dangerous threats such as saber-toothed tigers by making us feel bad about them and drew us toward what we needed to survive such as food and shelter by making us feel good about them. The humans who survived learned well to heed the autopilot system’s guidance, and we are the children of these humans.

Unfortunately, the autopilot system is not well calibrated for the modern environment. When we hear statements that go against our current beliefs, our autopilot system perceives them as threats and causes us to feel bad about them. By contrast, statements that align with our existing beliefs cause us to feel good and we want to believe them. So if we just go with our gut reactions – our lizard brain – we will always choose statements that align with our current beliefs.

Meme saying “Lizard brain thinking is killing democracy – Please think rationally”  (Ed Coolidge, made for Intentional Insights)

Where Do We Get Our News?

Until recently, people got all their news from mainstream media, which meant they were often exposed to information that they didn’t like because it did not fit their beliefs. The budget cuts and consolidation of media ownership in the last decade resulted in mainstream media getting increasingly less diverse, well described in the 2009 Media Ownership and Concentration in America by Eli Noam. Moreover, according to a 2016 survey by Pew Research Center, many peopleare increasingly getting their news mainly or only from within their own personalized social media filter bubble, which tends to exclude information that differs from their own beliefs. So their own beliefs are reinforced and it seems that everyone shares the same beliefs as them.

This trend is based on a traditional strong trust in friends as sources of reliable recommendations, according to the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report. Our brains tend to spread the trust that we associate with friends to other sources of information that we see on social media. This thinking error is known as the halo effect when our assessment of one element of a larger whole as positive transfers to other elements. We can see this in research showing that people’s trust in social media influencers has grown over time, nearly to the level of trust in their friends, as shown by a 2016 joint study by Twitter and analytics firm Annalect.

Even more concerning, a 2016 study from Stanford University demonstrated that over 80 percent of students, who are generally experienced social media users, could not distinguish a news story shared by a friend from a sponsored advertisement. In a particularly scary finding, many of the study’s participants thought a news story was true based on irrelevant factors such as the size of the photo, as opposed to rational factors such as the credibility of the news source outlet.

The Trump team knows that many people have difficulty distinguishing sponsored stories from real news stories and that’s why they were at the forefront of targeting voters with sponsored advertorials on social media. In some cases they used this tactic to motivate their own supporters, and in others they used it as a voter suppression tactic against Clinton supporters. The Trump campaign’s Republican allies created fake news stories that got millions of shares on social media. The Russian propaganda machine has also used social media to manufacture fake news stories favorable to Trump and critical of Clinton.

Additionally, Trump’s attacks on mainstream media and fact-checkers before the election, and even after the election, undercut the credibility of news source outlets. As a result, trust in the media amongst Republicans dropped to an all-time low of 14 percent in a September 2016 Gallup poll, a drop of over 200 percent from 2015. Fact-checking is even less credible among Republicans, with 88 percent expressing distrust in a September 2016 Rasmussen Reports poll.

All this combined in the unprecedented reliance on and sharing of fake news by Trump’s supporters on social media. With the rise of the Tea Party, a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University used Politifact to find that Republicans have tended to make many more false statements than Democrats. Lacking trust in the mainstream media and relying on social media instead, a large segment of Trump’s base indiscriminately shared whatever made them feel good, regardless of whether it was true. Indeed, one fake news writer, in an interview with The Washington Post, said of Trump supporters: “His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything.” No wonder that Trump’s supporters mostly believe his statements, according to polling. By contrast, another creator of fake news, in an interview with NPR, described how he “tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait” due to them practicing fact-checking and debunking.

Meme saying “People are most comfortable dealing with reality in terms of black or white, but reality tends to like shades of grey”  (Wayne Straight, made for Intentional Insights)

This fact-checking and debunking illustrates that the situation, while dismal, is not hopeless. Such truth-oriented behaviors rely on our other thinking system, the intentional system or system 2, as shown by Chip and Dan Heath in their 2013’s Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The intentional system is deliberate and reflective. It takes effort to use but it can catch and override the thinking errors committed by system 1 so that we do not adopt the belief that something is true because we feel it is true, regardless of the evidence.

Many liberals associate positive emotions with empirical facts and reason, which is why their intentional system is triggered into doing fact-checking on news stories. Trump voters mostly do not have such positive emotions around the truth, and believe in Trump’s authenticity on a gut level regardless of the facts. This difference is not well recognized by the mainstream media, who treat their audience as rational thinkers and present information in a language that communicates well to liberals, but not to Trump voters.

To get more conservatives to turn on the intentional system when evaluating political discourse we need to speak to emotions and intuitions – the autopilot system, in other words. We have to get folks to associate positive emotions with the truth first and foremost, before anything else.

To do so, we should understand where these people are coming from and what they care about, validate their emotions and concerns, and only then show, using emotional language, the harm people suffer when they believe in lies. For instance, for those who care about safety and security, we can highlight how it’s important for them to defend themselves against being swindled into taking actions that make the world more dangerous. Those concerned with liberty and independence would be moved by emotional language targeted toward keeping themselves free from being used and manipulated. For those focused on family values, we may speak about trust being abused.

These are strong terms that have deep emotional resonance. Many may be uncomfortable with using such tactics of emotional appeals. We have to remember the end goal of helping people orient toward the truth. This is a case where ends do justify the means. We need to be emotional to help people grow more rational – to make sure that while truth lost the battle, it will win the war.

P.S. To learn more about truth-seeking strategies in politics and other life areas, check out the article author’s book, The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide.

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
Roy Moore's Systemic Danger to Our Democracy Wikimedia commons) 

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of the forthcoming The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. One of the lead creators of the Pro-Truth Pledge, he is a professor at Ohio State and President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights. Connect with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky on Twitter, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn, and follow his RSS feed and newsletter.  

The front-runner candidate for Alabama Senate, Republican Roy Moore, called The Washington Post “fake news” after the newspaper published a thorough investigation reporting on sexual encounters between Moore and multiple teenage girls, one as young as 14. Moore’s attacks on this highly-reputable newspaper are part of a recent broader pattern of prominent public figures using the label of “fake news” to denounce quality investigative journalism that reveals corruption and abuse of power. Such attacks pose an urgent and systemic danger to our democracy, as they encourage corruption and abuse of power by undermining credible media reporting on such behavior.

As a high-quality, well-respected venue, The Washington Post would not publish such a controversial story without a thorough investigation. The article was based on multiple interviews with over 30 people who knew Moore at the time the sexual encounters happened, between 1977 and 1982. The journalists were careful to paint a balanced story, including some negative facts about the women who accused Moore, such as divorces and bankruptcies.

Perhaps most telling of the high quality of reporting and credibility of the newspaper is the fact that a number of prominent Republican leaders are calling on Moore to withdraw from the race. Immediately after The Post publishes its story, Republican Senator John McCain called for Moore to step aside immediately, and Montana Senator Steve Daines withdrew his endorsement, as did Utah Senator Mike Lee. After a fifth woman stepped forward to accuse Moore independently of The Post’s story, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that Moore “should step aside,” and so did Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

On the other hand, Republicans well-known for making false accusations of mainstream media outlets being “fake news” defended Moore and supported his attack on The Post. For example, former Donald Trump adviser and head of Breitbart Stephen Bannon accused the The Post of being “purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party” for conducting its thorough investigation. Prominent Virginia Republican Corey Stewart also refused to criticize Moore and instead attacked the newspaper. A number of Fox News commentators, such as Gregg Jarrett, also attacked The Post.

Unfortunately, these attacks on quality investigative reporting represent part of a broader trend of conservative politicians across the country adopting the tactic of condemning media as “fake news” whenever there are stories unfavorable to them. As an example, Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin tweeted that the reporter Tom Loftus of the largest newspaper in Kentucky, The Courier-Journal, is “a truly sick man” for “sneaking around” Bevin’s manor. Loftus at the time was working on a story about how Bevin faced an ethics complaint over an accusation of bribery for purchasing this manor for about a million dollars below market price from a local investor, Neil Ramsey. Apparently, shortly before getting a million-dollar discount on this manor, Bevin appointed Ramsey to the Kentucky Retirement Board, which oversees $16 billion in investments.

Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie used a similar approach when caught abusing his power. He ordered a number of state-run beaches in New Jersey closed on June 30, yet he used a closed state beach in Island Beach State Park for himself and his family on July 2. Reporters for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, secretly photographed him and his family using the beach. When asked about whether he was on the beach that day, Christie denied it. When confronted with photographic proof, Christie did not acknowledge and apologizing for his lies and his abuse of power in using a closed public beach for the benefit of himself and his family. He instead attacked The Star-Ledger for its reporting.

Without the attacks on the media, the investigations of Christie and Bevin would have simply revealed the sordid affairs of corruption and abuse of power. Our democracy would have worked correctly with voters appropriately getting the important information from credible sources, the largest newspapers in Kentucky and New Jersey. With these accusations, Bevin and Christie distract attention from the corruption and abuse of power, and instead present themselves as fighters against supposed media bias.

In doing so, Moore, Bevin, Christie and many others are tapping the anti-media bias of the Republican base inflamed by Trump’s attacks on the media. He has expressed pride over his branding of high-quality venues like “CBS, and NBC, and ABC, and CNN” as “fake news.” We are now reaping the whirlwind of politicians caught engaged in immoral, abusive, and corrupt behavior using Trump’s anti-media rhetoric to protect themselves and continue engaging in such activities.

Now, it doesn’t mean that Democrats will not try similar tactics. For example, the prominent film director Harvey Weinstein, a well-known and high-profile fundraiser for and influencer in the Democratic Party, accused The New York Times of publishing fake news when they revealed his sexual harassment. However, neither the Democratic base nor prominent Democrats bought this accusation, and Weinstein was quickly ousted from his leading roles.

By contrast, Bevin’s popularity in the polls was climbing in Kentucky, a conservative state, at the same time that he was making his accusations. Moore has continued to be staunchly supported by the Alabama Republican Party and base, despite the accusations and the withdrawal of support from many mainstream Republicans. Only in New Jersey, a liberal-leaning state, did voters express discontent over Christie’s behavior.

However, all of us – regardless of our party affiliation – will be greatly harmed if politicians are able to get away with corruption, immorality, and abuse of power through labeling of credible media sources as fake news. This tactic is posing an existential and systemic threat to our democracy, and we must do everything possible toprotect quality journalism and overall promote truthful behavior.

P.S. Want to promote truth and fight lies? Take the Pro-Truth Pledge at, get your friends to take it, and call on your elected representatives to do so.

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
How to Address Truth Denialism Effectively Over the Holidays Thomas Guest/Flickr)

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge.

It’s the holiday season, which means plenty of opportunities for uncomfortable interactions with friends and family who are truth deniers. For example, my close friend invited me to her holiday party recently, where I sat across the table from her brother Mike. We got to talking about Donald Trump’s recently-successful efforts to ban people from many majority-Muslim countries from entering the US and his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos.

Mike strongly supported Trump’s ban and rhetoric, and other anti-Muslim policies. By the end of that meal, he grew to be much more tolerant and inclusive of Muslims. To get him to update his beliefs  – something I do regularly during interviews with conservative talk show hosts –  I relied on my research on how to get people to accept the facts, specifically a strategy that can be summarized under the acronym EGRIP (Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, Positive Reinforcement).

The typical response to truth deniers of presenting facts and arguing is generally not effective in changing people’s minds on charged issues. Research on the confirmation bias shows that people tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conforms to their beliefs. Moreover, studies on the backfire effect reveal that when people are presented with facts that challenge their identity, they sometimes develop a stronger attachment to their incorrect belief as a defense mechanism.

If someone denies clear facts, you can safely assume that it’s their emotions that are leading them away from reality. You need to deploy the skill of empathy, meaning understanding other people’s emotions, to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to deny reality. In Mike’s case, it was relatively easy to figure out the emotions at play by making a guess based on what research shows about what conservatives value: security. I confirmed my suspicion through active listening and using curiosity to question Mike about his concerns about Muslims, and he shared extensively his fears about all Muslims being potential terrorists.

Next, establish shared goals for both of you, crucial for effective knowledge sharing. With Mike, I talked about how we both want security for our society. I also pointed out how sometimes our emotions lead us astray. We might want to eat all the Yule log on the table, but it would harm our health, so we should focus on our goals over our gut intuitions. We should also commit to the facts, as we want to avoid deceiving ourselves and thus undermining our safety and security. I told him that I - along with thousands of others - committed to the Pro-Truth Pledge and asked him to hold me accountable. He appreciated me sharing about this commitment, and it raised my credibility in his eyes. 

Third, build rapport. Using the empathetic listening you did previously, a vital skill in promoting trusting relationships, echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel. In the case of Mike, I echoed his fear and validated his emotions, telling him it’s natural to feel afraid when we see Muslims committing terrorism, and it’s where my gut goes as well.

Fourth, move on to sharing information. Here is where you can give the facts that you held back in the beginning. There were eight terrorist acts in the US motivated in part by Islamic beliefs in 2016, with nine terrorists in total. Given that there are about 1.8 million Muslim adults in the US, you have a one-in-200,000 chance that any Muslim you see would commit a terrorist act in one year. That's like picking out a terrorist randomly from the number of people in several football stadiums, and focusing our efforts on surveilling Muslims will make us less secure by causing us to miss the actual terrorists.

Moreover, the FBI praises Muslims for reporting threats, and anti-Muslim policies will make Muslims less likely to report threats. Besides, we already see Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric used to recruit terrorists in the US, and more anti-Muslim policies will only result in more materials to recruit terrorists. The key here is to show your conversation partner, without arousing a defensive or aggressive response, how their current truth denialism will lead to them undermining the shared goals we established earlier.

Mike was surprised and moved by this information, presented in an emotionally-sensitive manner. He agreed that anti-Muslim policies seem unwise, and we should be more tolerant and inclusive for the sake of increasing our security, even if that’s not how we intuitively feel. I offered positive reinforcement for his orientation toward the facts, a research-based tactic of encouraging people to change their identity.

Think of how much better your holiday dinner could go if you use EGRIP instead of arguing!

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
The GOP's Latest Scam Was to Convince the Base the Tax Law Is a Middle Class Tax Cut

Image of hand with Christmas gifts (Max Pixel)

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge.

President Donald Trump called the recently-passed tax bill “an incredible Christmas gift” for middle-class Americans. In reality, the tax bill takes money from the pockets of middle-class Americans and gives it to corporations. Anyone who claims the tax bill primarily benefits the middle class is spreading falsehoods.

With the new bill, the tax rate for corporations is reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent. That makes a total reduction of 40 percent from what they were paying earlier. Other benefits for corporations include doing away with the alternative minimum tax, along with many provisions that will reduce the taxes they do pay.

What about tax cuts for individuals? Consider a household making $50,000 to $75,000: the average tax cut for them is 1.6 percent, or $870. The wealthiest would get the biggest tax breaks, as a household earning over a million would see an average cut of $69,660, or 3.3 percent increase.

Unfortunately for individuals, the tax cuts they get are limited to 8 years, and expire after 2025. So without any changes, the same household making $50,000 to $75,000 would actually be paying $30 more in taxes after 2025. The wealthy would be much better off, with the average household making over a million getting a cut of more than $23,000 after 2025, along with a host of other benefits. Overall, after that date, households making over a million  –  approximately .6 percent of all taxpayers  –  would get 81.8 percent of the total benefit of this bill. By contrast, the corporate tax rate cuts are permanent, and will not expire.

This extremely disproportionate tax cut comes with a hefty price tag. The nonpartisan and authoritative congressional scorekeeper Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax bill would cost approximately $1.4 trillion, which would be added to the existing $20 trillion national debt.

Who will now be responsible for paying the taxes to address this debt? Due to the extreme tax cut for corporations, individual American taxpayers will have a much bigger proportional tax burden in paying for the debt. Since the most wealthy had especially large tax breaks, and they tend to be the large shareholders in corporations that benefit from this law, middle-class Americans will be increasingly stuck with the tab for the debt. This is especially the case after 2025, when the tax breaks for individuals expire.

The Republican politicians who support the tax bill say it will pay for itself by creating jobs and improving the business climate, and thus in the end benefit the middle class. However, they are not experts at economics. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is acknowledged as nonpartisan and expert by Democrats and Republicans alike, found that over 10 years the tax bill would produce $400 billion in revenue, leaving unpaid an additional $1 trillion. Likewise, a survey of top economists indicated that the vast majority believed the tax bill would not substantially improve the US economy, would substantially increase the debt burden, and would redistribute wealth from the middle class to corporations and the wealthy.

Deferring to expert analysis is a critical component of truthfulness. Any time we see someone  –  especially a politician  –  reject expert analysis, we should be very suspicious, and see whether they have hidden motivations to mislead us. After all, while politicians are not experts at economics, they are experts at getting elected. They have strong incentives to do what would get them elected and mislead the public if needed.

In the case of this tax bill, the hidden motives are quite obvious. For example, Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, told a reporter that “my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again’” regarding the tax bill. According to Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, if the tax bill is not passed, the “financial contributions will stop."

In order to ensure they get elected, Republicans had to pass the tax bill in order to keep getting donations from the wealthy and corporations, who really pay attention to and know what is going on. Now, President Donald Trump is calling on his Republican colleagues to sell the tax bill to everyday voters, who pay much less attention to the details of tax policies.

Republicans have been misrepresenting the essence of the tax bill all along. They presented it as all about tax cuts to the middle class, even though the biggest cut has been for corporations. Repeating this falsehood invokes the illusory truth effect, a psychological phenomenon where a false statement repeated often enough becomes seen as true. Indeed, most of the Republican base bought these falsehoods, with around 60 percent thinking the bill primarily favors the middle class.

In reality, the tax bill falls into the classic category of trickle-down economics. This policy approach involves taking money from the middle class and giving it to corporations via such tax cuts. Republicans justify trickle-down economics by saying that corporations will use such money better than middle-class Americans, despite experts disagreeing with them about the growth resulting from the tax bill.

Historically, trickle-down economics has been most strongly associated with Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, Reagan’s economic policies had bad economic consequences. More recently, thorough analyses of trickle-down economics by such reputable organizations as the International Monetary Fund suggest that this approach does not stimulate economic growth. Instead giving money to the lowest income earners stimulates growth much more. However, that’s not what the tax bill does.

We may debate about the effectiveness of trickle-down economics. However, the more salient point is that the large majority of Republicans have not been courageous enough to say openly that this tax bill is an example of trickle-down economics. While we may disagree on whether trickle-down economics works, we should all agree that spreading falsehoods about the reality of the tax bill erodes our democracy.

Will the misrepresentations of the tax bill succeed or will the American people recognize the truth about this tax bill as taking money from the pockets of middle-class Americans and giving it to corporations? You can make a difference by calling out any politicians and journalists who misrepresent the tax bill and calling on them to commit publicly to truthful behavior, as well as committing to truthful behaviors yourself by taking the Pro-Truth Pledge at

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
We Need to Address the Danger from Trump's Fake News Awards

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is anAssistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge, which aims to unite all who care about facts and truth.

Donald Trump’s “Fake News Awards” for what he calls “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media” have drawn mockery. However, behavioral science research suggests they are deadly serious. These awards create an institution for Trump’s relentless attacks on mainstream media and position Trump as the only voice who gets to determine truthful media. Unfortunately, the typical style of news coverage will perpetuate Trump’s agenda. However, a different style informed by behavioral science strategies would convey more accurate information and address the damage from the Fake News Awards.

The purpose of any award is to create an institutionalized way of promoting a certain cause through drawing public attention. As an example, consider perhaps the most well-known prize in the world, the Nobel Prize, awarded for the most important scientific and cultural advances. Every year, the media is filled with headlines describing the awards and their recipients, resulting in significant public attention that uplifts the importance of science and culture.

This attention taps into the “availability heuristic,” our tendency to assign excessive importance to whatever happens to be at the forefront of our minds, and the “priming effect,” where we perceive exaggerated connections between past and future stimuli. Thus, the Nobel Prize causes the public to focus on scientific and cultural achievements, and interpret future advances in light of the winners of last year’s Nobel Prize.

More subtly, an award positions the grantor of the award as the sole legitimate voice in determining who deserves the award. Several Swedish and Norwegian institutions decide who gets the various Nobel Prize awards. Perhaps the most prestigious one, the Nobel Peace Prize, is determined by a committee elected by politicians in the Norwegian Parliament. Thus, the internal domestic politics of Norway powerfully influence this prize.

In parallel, the Fake News Awards promote Trump’s attacks on mainstream media. In a January 2, 2018 tweet, he described the award as highlighting “Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories.” We can get a more clear nature of what he means by “various categories” from when Trump first tweeted on November 27, 2017 about handing out a fake news trophy for “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me).”

Trump, in other words, aims to use the award to perpetuate the narrative of himself as the victim of unfair and dishonest mainstream media coverage: after all, he is well-known for using the label “fake news” to attack accurate news stories that he doesn’t like. The President will use these awards to draw massive public attention to supposed “fake news” coverage by mainstream news sources. In fact, he even delayed the granting of the awards due to the extensive public attention to the awards.

Official Fake News Trophy Featured in GOP Email 1/18/18

The availability heuristic will cause the public to focus on “fake news” in mainstream media’s coverage of the President, regardless of whether this coverage is accurate or not. The priming effect will move news consumers to be more likely to perceive negative coverage as fake.

Since such awards will likely be given annually, they will institutionalize Trump’s agenda of attacking the mainstream media, while also legitimating Trump as the grantor of these awards. He will get to determine which media venues get labeled as providing “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” coverage. You can bet that it will not be the media venues that actually are the most dishonest, but the ones that depict Trump in a negative light, regardless of how factual (or not) such depictions may be.

Some believe that Trump will lose credibility from granting these awards because he will draw attention to unflattering stories about himself. Unfortunately, behavioral science research suggests that the style of coverage by news media will facilitate Trump’s agenda.

The typical style of headlines about any awards generally focus on who got the awards. Unfortunately, research shows that only 41% of readers go beyond the headlines, with most getting their news from the headline alone. Many of the rest do not read beyond the first paragraph, which in most stories would summarize who received the awards and in what category. Even the ones who do go further will experience “anchoring,” a thinking error where the first information we get about a topic drastically colors our overall perspective. Yes, first impressions really do matter.

Studies reveal that the standard journalistic methods of correcting people’s misconceptions with accurate facts backfires in the long term. If you first state the false information and then provide evidence of why it is wrong, people will tend to forget over time the evidence for why it is wrong, and start to misremember the original falsehood as true. Thus, even though many articles covering the Fake News Awards will eventually explain that these awards are meant to perpetuate Trump’s attacks on mainstream media and were awarded at Trump’s sole discretion, the damage will already be done.

To prevent this outcome of media consumers getting the wrong impression about the Fake News Awards, mainstream media need to go against its typical style of reporting, and instead align its coverage with behavioral science research. Instead of headlines about who received the awards, headlines should say something like “In Yet Another Attack on the Media, Trump Issues Fake News Awards” so that the majority of their readers who only glance at the headlines get the right impression. The first paragraph of the article should focus on how this award attempts to perpetuate and institutionalize Trump’s attack on the media and position Trump as the sole voice of truth, before talking about who received the awards.

Articles on the awards should devote some space to the “Press Oppressors awards” issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists. These awards - issued in response to Trump’s announcement of the Fake News Awards - focus on world leaders “who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.” Can you guess who received the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award?

You as a media consumer can encourage media venues to cover the Fake News Awards appropriately by writing letters-to-the-editor suggesting more appropriate coverage, or more simply by tweeting and emailing them with a link to this article. You can also encourage them to take the Pro-Truth Pledge at to commit to truthfulness. Consider taking the pledge yourself, which aims to unite all private citizens and public figures who care about truth and facts in our society.

You can also make sure to share only articles that cover the awards appropriately. When others post articles on social media with problematic coverage, you can make comments that give a more accurate impression and draw attention to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

You have the power to address the damage from these awards.

Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
Winning At Life…By Not Losing

Caption: photo of woman playing tennis (Skeeze/Pixabay)

Guest post by Peter Livingstone

After hearing several references to a 1973 book called Extraordinary Tennis for the Ordinary Player by Simon Ramo, I decided to give it a read. I was wowed! It’s not because I used it to improve my game. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that I don’t play tennis, and I don’t plan to start because I read the book. What compelled and excited me was the bigger lesson conveyed by the book.

Ramo describes how in amateur tennis, about 80 percent of points are lost, not won. Lost points, as defined by Ramo, are those resulting from a player making an unforced error, such as hitting an easy return out-of-bounds, rather than hitting a brilliant shot that is impossible for an opponent to return. The lesson is that the vast majority of amateur tennis players will have much more success by working on “not losing,” rather than by trying to “win.”

I was struck by the fact that this simple idea is transferable to nearly every aspect of one’s life. Here’s how I think it can be applied to not be a loser in the game of life.

Caption: Photo of family playing "The Game of Life” (Kathryn/Flickr)

A Bit More About Dr. Ramo… and Tennis

Simon Ramo was a prominent American physicist, engineer, and businessman. Later in his life when he wanted to improve his tennis game, he applied the same rigorous, evidence-based approach that led to his successful career.

As a scientist and statistician, he gathered data by simply counting points won versus points lost. What he discovered is that in amateur tennis, the game’s outcome is determined by the player who makes the most mistakes. Thus, the best strategy to win in amateur tennis is to keep the ball in play, allowing the other player to make more errors. Occasionally, your opponent will hit a shot you can’t return. More frequently, however, he or she will hit it into the net or out-of-bounds, or fail to return it at all.

Keep in mind that Ramo discovered that outcomes in professional tennis work the opposite way - about 80 percent of points are won. That is, the professionals who win hit extraordinary shots that are essentially impossible to return. So, unless you are one of those professionals, the best way to win is to avoid losing!

Transferring Tennis Lessons to Life Lessons

Domain independence is the idea that certain knowledge may be applicable across other fields. I think Ramo’s insights into tennis can be considered domain independent for many other endeavors.

"In order to succeed it is necessary to know how to avoid the most likely ways to fail." When I first read this statement, referred to as Minsky’s Admonition in The Systems Bible, it struck me that it could have been lifted directly from Dr. Ramo’s book on tennis. Hyman Minsky was an American economist whose research attempted to provide an understanding and explanation of the characteristics of financial crises.

I doubt there was ever any collaboration between Ramo and Minsky, so I take this as evidence of domain independence. Two different people, researching two completely different subjects, have come to the same conclusion on achieving success!

Here are a few other areas where I think this concept may apply.


In the classic investment book Winning the Loser’s Game, Charles Ellis makes the case that investing works much the same way as tennis. Ellis proposes that most investors, like most tennis players, end up defeating themselves by making avoidable mistakes. Like Ramo, Ellis uses compelling mathematical evidence to make his arguments.

Consider, for example, some statistics: The average annual compounded return of the broad US stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, for the past 30 years was just over 10%. For that same period, the average individual investor in stock market funds achieved a return of slightly less than 4%. For an individual investing $300 a month in a retirement account over 30 years, this is a difference of having about $650,000 versus $200,000.

Why do most investors underperform the market by so much? While a fraction of the underperformance can be attributed to trading costs and other fees, Ellis explains that most investors are like amateurs playing tennis. That is, they think they can outperform the market by attempting brilliant, “winning” moves, but by doing so make unforced errors. One such error is trying to “time” the market through a pattern of buying and selling. Another error includes buying into “hot” funds or individual stocks - those that have had recent superior performance - and selling losers. These actions, more often than not, lead to buying high and selling low, the exact opposite of a winning strategy. Also, paying high fees to funds you expect to outperform will usually lead to underperformance. Funds that charge high fees, on average, underperform funds with low fees. One might get lucky once in awhile, but over time these actions lead to the huge discrepancy between the market performance and average individual performance.

What’s the best way to avoid these investment mistakes and achieve results close to the market average? It’s the same as in tennis: just work on “not losing." For individual investors with a long-term time horizon, the best option is to systematically invest in a low cost fund that tracks a broad market index, such as the S&P 500, or a global index such as the MSCI ACWI, which includes the US and most other world markets. Put your money into these investments incrementally over time and leave it there, at least until you are close to retirement.

Health and Fitness

Ramo lists a group of “don’ts” for tennis - those behaviors, characteristic of many amateur players, which should be eliminated. Simply focusing on reducing, and preferably eliminating, these actions can significantly improve one’s play. As in tennis, improvements in health and fitness can come from the elimination of harmful actions.

According to the ongoing Global Burden of Disease study, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US and the world. Diet is the second highest risk factor after smoking. Many diet-related diseases are the result of overconsumption of calories in the form of simple sugars. Additionally, increasing death rates from the abuse of alcohol and opioids in the US has been widely acknowledged as a public health crisis.

It may take you a bit of reframing to view behaviors such as smoking, poor eating, and drug abuse as errors. Additionally, identifying these errors is usually pretty simple, but eliminating them can be extremely difficult. Behavior change is hard. Here is an article I found useful on how to avoid impulsive temptations, and one on building willpower.

Many of us think improving our fitness is only possible by adding activities to our routines, such as going to the gym or taking up running. Consider, however, some things we can eliminate to get actually more exercise.

How many times have you stood on an escalator, or ridden an elevator, only to find that someone who took the stairs arrived at the same destination as quickly as you? Do you have the opportunity to walk or ride a bike to some destinations, rather than take a car or bus?

By framing some of these modern conveniences as errors to eliminate, you may be able to improve your fitness without sacrificing time or money. There may be tremendous opportunity for improving your health and fitness by just working on eliminating some things you are doing, rather than doing more.

Diminishing Returns

Learning to avoid mistakes may be one of the fastest and easiest methods of improving. Have you ever noticed how quickly you can improve when you start learning something new, especially if you’ve had the opportunity to learn from a good coach or teacher? I’ve really enjoyed watching children learn a new activity from a good coach, whether it be playing a sport, or even a board game requiring some skill.

It seems to me that most of their improvement, at least initially, comes from learning how to avoid mistakes. Of course, those improvements usually tend to slow down over time, a phenomenon known as diminishing returns. As we improve, it naturally gets harder to keep up that rate of improvement, or learning curve. Perhaps most of that rapid improvement comes from simply learning to not make mistakes. Keep this in mind to avoid frustration. The more you improve, the harder it may be to become even better.

…But Will This Approach Lead To Mediocrity?

By now you may be thinking “If all I do is focus on not losing, won’t I just be mediocre in everything?” No doubt many of us can and do achieve greatness in some domains, but consider these two points:

1) Since no one starts off anything at a high level of expertise, why not begin by “not losing” and learn first to avoid errors?

2) Even people talented, dedicated, and lucky enough to achieve greatness in one or two fields will undoubtedly be closer to ordinary in many other areas. It is important to recognize at what, if anything, you are truly great or desire to be great, and what falls in your “ordinary” range.

Let’s consider an example of how someone at the top of their field could have used this approach for a better outcome in another endeavor. History is filled with many top performers in one field having disasters in other areas. In 2009, Sports Illustrated estimated that 78% of NFL players have gone bankrupt or have been in financial stress within two years of retirement, and that 60% of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. Considering that the average annual salary of these professionals in 2012 was about $2 million and $5 million, respectively, this seems unbelievable.

Sticking to our tennis theme, consider the case of Bjorn Borg. Undoubtedly the greatest tennis player of his time, and considered by many one of the greatest ever, Borg won 64 titles, including 11 Grand Slams, over a 10 year career. His tournament earnings alone, in today’s dollars, were about $15 million. Borg retired from professional tennis in 1983 and pursued business opportunities. By 1990 his companies collapsed and were declared bankrupt. In 2006, Borg was forced to sell off many of his trophies to achieve "financial security”.

According to tennis writer Richard Evans, Borg “was much too trusting. He made bad choices which led to bad luck.”

Perhaps Borg, and many other top athletes, fall into the trap of approaching personal finance in the same manner as winning in their professional field. Maybe Borg would have fared better by approaching his businesses and personal finances from an “ordinary” perspective, at least until he developed into an extraordinary businessman.

The Relativity of Ordinary

Being a scientist, Ramo paid homage to Albert Einstein by invoking the term relativity. What if, relative to your opponent, you are the equivalent of a pro? In this case, Ramo’s advice for tennis should not be taken as absolute, but should be adapted for the situation.

Perhaps, given a weaker opponent, you can benefit by trying a more aggressive court position, much like a professional. You can use this adaptation in other areas of life too. As you improve and get closer to a professional level, consider some actions that challenge your abilities. Just don’t try these during a critical “match” point. For example, if you’re just learning how to drive, you might want to practice in an empty parking lot, maneuvering around rubber cones, before you cruise through busy city streets. It’s OK to make some errors, providing you learn from them and you are willing to accept their consequences.

What if, on the other hand, you really are a pro player, but your play has become a little erratic and you are temporarily making more errors? It can be difficult admitting part of your game is ordinary. If this is your case, Ramo suggests considering that you may be only a bit ordinary. You are still eligible to benefit from working on winning by not losing, and by eliminating errors.

As Ramo puts it, you can improve, going from “ordinary” to “ex-ordinary,” whether or not you ever become extraordinary.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are some areas in which you can benefit by taking the ordinary approach, as in working on not losing, and eliminating errors?

  • What are some actionable steps you can take to go from “ordinary” to “ex-ordinary”?

  • How can you apply a simple measurement of your performance, as Ramo did in tennis using points lost versus points won? ---

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge, which aims to unite all who care about facts and truth.
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    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    (Dis)Trust in Science: What Can We Do About the Scourge of Misinformation? Caption: Woman looking at homeopathic medicine (Wikimedia Commons)

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky serves as the volunteer President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights and is a co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge. He authored a number of a number of books, most notably the #1 Amazon bestseller The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide, and is regularly featured in venues like CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Newsweek, The Conversation, CNBC, and elsewhere.

    At least 10 US children died and over 400 were sickened after taking homeopathic teething medicine laced with a poisonous herb called “deadly nightshade.” Carried by CVS, Walgreens, and other major American pharmacies, the pills contained this poison based on the alternative medicine principle of homeopathy, the treatment of medical conditions by tiny doses of natural substances that produce symptoms of disease. 

    These children did not have to die. Numerous research studies show that homeopathy does not work. Despite this research, homeopathy is a quickly-growing multi-billion dollar business, taking advantage of people’s distrust in science and the lack of government regulation of “alternative medicine.”

    These deaths are among many terrible consequences of the crisis of trust suffered by our institutions in recent years. While headlines focus on declining trust in the media and the government, science and academia are not immune to this crisis of confidence, and the results can be deadly.

    Consider that in 2006, 41% of respondents in a nationwide poll expressed “a lot of confidence” in higher education. Less than 10 years later, in 2014, only 14% of those surveyed showed “a great deal of confidence” in academia.

    What about science as distinct from academia? Polling shows that the number of people who believe that science has “made life more difficult” increased by 50% from 2009 to 2015. According to a 2017 survey, only 35% of respondents have “a lot” of trust in scientists; the number of people who do “not at all” trust scientists increased by over 50% from a similar poll conducted in December 2013.

    This crumbling of trust in science and academia forms part of a broader pattern, what Tom Nichols called The Death of Expertise in his 2017 book. Growing numbers of people claim their personal opinions hold equal weight to the opinions of experts.

    Children dying from deadly nightshade in homeopathic medicine is only one consequence of this crisis of trust. For another example, consider the false claim that vaccines cause autism. This belief has spread widely across the US, and leads to a host of problems. For instance, measles was practically eliminated in the US by 2000. However, in recent years outbreaks of measles have been on the rise, driven by parents failing to vaccinate their children in a number of communities.

    Should We Actually Trust Scientific Experts?

    While we can all agree that we do not want children to suffer, what is the underlying basis for why the opinions of experts - including scientists - deserve more trust than the average person in evaluating the truth of reality?

    The term “expert” refers to someone who has extensive familiarity with a specific area, as shown by commonly-recognized credentials such as a certification, an academic degree, publication of a book, years of experience in a field, or other way that a reasonable person may recognize an “expert.” Experts are able to draw on their substantial body of knowledge and experience to provide an opinion, often expressed as “expert analysis.”

    That doesn’t mean an expert opinion will always be right: it’s simply much more likely to be right than the opinion of a non-expert. The underlying principle here is probabilistic thinking, our ability to predict the truth of current and future reality based on limited information. Thus, a scientist studying autism would be much more likely to predict accurately the consequences of vaccinations than someone who has spent 10 hours Googling “vaccines and autism” online.

    This greater likelihood of experts being correct does not at all mean we should always defer to experts. First, research shows that experts do best in evaluating reality in environments that are relatively stable over time and thus predictable, and also when the experts have a chance to learn about the predictable aspects of this environment. Second, other research suggests that ideological biases can have a strongly negative impact on the ability of experts to make accurate evaluations. Third, material motivations can sway experts to conduct an analysis favorable to their financial sponsor.

    However, while individual scientists may make mistakes, it is incredibly rare for the scientific consensus as a whole to be wrong. Scientists get rewarded in money and reputation for finding fault with statements about reality made by other scientists. Thus, for the large majority of them to agree on something – for there to be a scientific consensus – is a clear indicator that whatever they agree on reflects reality accurately.

    The Internet Is for… Misinformation

    The rise of the Internet, and more recently social media, is key to explaining the declining public confidence in expert opinion.

    Before the Internet, the information accessible to the general public about any given topic usually came from experts. For instance, scientific experts on autism were invited to talk on this topic on mainstream media, large publishers published books by the same experts, and they wrote encyclopedia articles on this topic.

    The Internet has enabled anyone to be a publisher of content, connecting people around the world with any and all sources of information. On the one hand, this freedom is empowering and liberating, with Wikipedia a great example of a highly-curated and accurate source on the vast majority of subjects. On the other, anyone can publish a blog piece making false claims about links between vaccines and autism or the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine. If they are skilled at search engine optimization, or have money to invest in advertising, they can get their message spread widely.

    Unfortunately, research shows that people lack the skills for differentiating misinformation from true information. This lack of skills has clear real-world effects: just consider that US adults believed 75% of fake news stories about the 2016 US Presidential election. The more often someone sees a piece of misinformation, the more likely they are to believe it.

    Blogs with falsehoods are bad enough, but the rise of social media made the situation even worse. Most people re-share news stories without reading the actual articles, judging the quality of the story by the headline and image alone. No wonder that research indicates that misinformation spreads as much as 10 times faster and further on social media than true information. After all, the creator of a fake news item is free to devise the most appealing headline and image, while credible sources of information have to stick to factual headlines and images.

    These problems result from the train wreck of human thought processes meeting the Internet. We all suffer from a series of thinking errors such as confirmation bias, our tendency to look for and interpret information in ways that conform to our beliefs.

    Before the Internet, we got our information from sources such as mainstream media and encyclopedias, which curated the information for us to ensure it came from experts, minimizing the problem of confirmation bias. Now, the lack of curation means thinking errors are causing us to choose information that fits our intuitions and preferences, as opposed to the facts. Moreover, some unscrupulous foreign actors - such as the Russian government - and domestic politicians use misinformation as a tool to influence public discourse and public policy.

    The large gaps between what scientists and the public believe about issues such as climate change, evolution, GMOs, and vaccination exemplify the problems caused by misinformation and lack of trust in science. Such mistrust results in great harm to our society, from children dying to damaging public policies.

    What Can We Do?

    Fortunately, there are proactive steps we can take to address the crisis of trust in science and academia.

    For example, we can uplift the role of science in our society. The March for Science movement is a great example of this effort. First held on Earth Day in 2017 and repeated in 2018, this effort involves people rallying in the streets to celebrate science and push for evidence-based policies. Another example is the Scholars Strategy Network, an effort to support scholars in popularizing their research for a broad audience and connecting scholars to policy-makers.

    We can also fight the scourge of misinformation. Many world governments are taking steps to combat falsehoods. While the US federal government has dropped the ball on this problem, a number of states passed bipartisan efforts promoting media literacy. Likewise, many non-governmental groups are pursuing a variety of efforts to fight misinformation.

    The Pro-Truth Pledge combines the struggle against misinformation with science advocacy. Founded by a group of behavioral science experts (including myself) and concerned citizens, the pledge calls on public figures, organizations, and private citizens to commit to 12 behaviors listed on the pledge website that research in behavioral science shows correlate with truthfulness. Signers are held accountable through a crowdsourced reporting and evaluation mechanism while getting reputational rewards because of their commitment. The scientific consensus serves as a key measure of credibility, and the pledge encourages pledge-takers to recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be true when the facts are disputed. Over 500 politicians took the pledge, including members of state legislatures Eric Nelson (PA) and Ogden Driskell (WY), and members of US Congress Beto O’Rourke (TX) and Marcia Fudge (OH). Two research studies at Ohio State University demonstrated the effectiveness of the pledge in changing the behavior of pledge-takers to be more truthful with a strong statistical significance. Thus, taking the pledge yourself, and encouraging people you know and your elected representatives to take the pledge is an easy action to both fight misinformation and promote science.\


    I have a dream that one day, children will not be dying from taking poisonous homeopathic medication or getting sick with measles because their parents put their trust in a random blogger instead of  extensive scientific studies. I have a dream that schools will be teaching media literacy and people will know how to evaluate the firehose of information coming their way. I have a dream that we will all know that we suffer from thinking errors, and watch out for the confirmation bias and other problems. I have a dream that the quickly-growing distrust of experts and science will seem like a bad dream. I have a dream that our grandchildren will find it hard to believe our present reality when we tell them stories about the bad old days.

    To live these dreams requires all of us who care about truth and science to act now, before we fall further down the slippery slope. Our information ecosystem and credibility mechanisms are broken. Only a third of Americans trust scientists and most people can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehood online. The lack of trust in science - and the excessive trust in persuasive purveyors of misinformation - is perhaps the biggest threat to our society right now. If we don’t turn back from the brink, our future will not be a dream: it will be a nightmare.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    When Truth Isn’t Truth Courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky co-founded the Pro-Truth Pledge (at, a project joined by anyone who cares about creating a united constituency of all who care about truth and facts. He authored a number of a number of books, most notably the national bestseller The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide, and is regularly featured in venues like CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Newsweek, The Conversation, CNBC, and elsewhere. Connect with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky on Twitter, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn, and learn more about him on his website.

    “Truth isn’t truth” according to Rudy Giuliani, a statement he made on August 19th on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The phrase was immediately derided as a verbal blunder embodying the Trump administration’s complete disregard for the facts. Yet a closer look at Giuliani’s message shows an underlying strategic approach to undermining the truth similar to that used by “scientists” producing industry-sponsored studies rejecting human-caused climate change and links between tobacco and cancer.

    The transcript of the exchange reveals how Giuliani made his statement while defending Donald Trump’s unwillingness to testify for Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. According to Giuliani, “I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.”

    The moderator, Chuck Todd, responded: "Truth is truth." Then, Giuliani said: "No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth." Giuliani went on: “Donald Trump says I didn’t talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says you did talk about it, so tell me what the truth is” and then added “we have a credibility gap between the two of them. You’ve got to select one or the other. Now, who do you think Mueller’s going to select? One of his best friends, Comey, or the president.”

    Let’s unpack that exchange. Giuliani’s first statement conveyed that there are many versions of the truth, and denied the existence of any underlying factual reality.

    Todd pushes back, saying - “truth is truth” - referring to truth as what physically happened in reality, independent of anyone’s interpretation or spin. Giuliani disagrees, stating “truth isn’t truth”: he denies the existence of anything that really happened, implying that it’s all about different interpretations and the one who determines the interpretation wins.

    He uses this denial of factual reality to defend his reluctance for Trump to testify. After all, once Trump’s testimony is on paper, the president can be charged with perjury if his version of the truth does not win out. Giuliani then suggests that the Mueller is biased and will side with his friend Comey over Trump, leading to Comey’s version winning out.

    It’s telling that this exchange occurred just as the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump is looking to reverse the long-standing position of the EPA that there is no safe level of fine particle pollution. This reversal is occurring regardless of the lack of science behind the new position and the extensive research showing that exposure to fine particles contributes to asthma and heart attacks. Likewise, the Trump administration is planning to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions, with no credible science behind this repeal.

    What are the parallels behind these seemingly different events? The strategy widely used by climate change deniers - and now adopted by the Trump administration - of casting doubt on truth as a way of promoting their political agenda.

    A widespread consensus among climate scientists exists on the reality of substantial human-caused climate change. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of Americans are aware of this consensus, despite extensive communication about this consensus by scientists.

    Why? Research shows this low level of awareness comes from economically and politically motivated challenges to the reality of climate change from groups with substantial access to resources that influence public opinions. Most notably, the fossil fuel industry has funded the research of a tiny minority of scientists in order to cast doubt on human-caused global climate change.

    Why do people believe this tiny minority of scientists? Because the fossil fuel industry then used its enormous financial and political resources to spread this paid-for “research” widely.

    People who are not experts in climate change are thus exposed extensively to false information due to the huge megaphone of the fossil fuel industry. Such exposure triggers the “illusory truth effect,” a psychological phenomenon where the more we are exposed to a lie, the more likely we are to believe in. Indeed, research on climate denialist messaging demonstrates that exposure to such information substantially reduces both people’s belief in human-caused climate change and the truthfulness of climate science.

    These tactics used in climate change denialism are part of a broader pattern of science denialism perpetrated by groups with economic and political interests in casting doubt on credible research as well as undermining belief in scientific truth more broadly. Thus, many of the same “scientists” who are now at the forefront of climate change denialism produced research denying the links between smoking and lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the hole in the ozone layer. As a tobacco executive wrote, “doubt is our product” - no doubt the same kind of product peddled by fossil fuel executives funding “research” denying climate change.

    Giuliani is in the same boat of peddling doubt as a strategy. His denial of an underlying truth of reality uses the same strategy used by deniers of climate change and links between smoking and cancer. Just as they use industry-funded “alternative science” to cast doubt on ever finding the truth of reality, he claims that we can’t speak about what really happened - “truth isn’t truth” - because alternative narratives exist.

    Whether in the courtroom or in the lab, peddlers of doubt like Giuliani decimate our ability to make the kind of sound decisions on which democracy relies. To preserve our democracy from destruction by such tactics requires an organized effort to unite all who care about truth across the political spectrum. Regardless of what Giuliani states - or what the industry-funded “scientists” claim - truth is truth, and it must be protected for the sake of our shared future.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    The Pro-Truth Pledge prompts truthful behavior, according to psychology studies

    Traditionally,  identifying truth in politics comes from mainstream media and its fact checking. A recent Gallup poll, however, showed that only 29 percent of Americans trust fact checking.

    Research in behavioral science suggests that we can address the spread of misinformation through a number of other effective strategies, which are brought together in the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) project. Several months ago, I wrote a post explaining the Pro-Truth Pledge and its mission. Since that time, two peer-reviewed studies have provided evidence of its effectiveness in changing the behavior of pledge-takers — private citizens and public figures  both— to be more truthful, for more than a month after they have taken the pledge. Both studies were published in prestigious psychology journals, Behavior and Social Issues and the Journal of Social and Political Psychology.

    Quantitative evidence shows the Pledge is effective

    The study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Social and Political Psychology suggests that taking the pledge results in a statistically significant increase in alignment with the behaviors of the pledge. The survey involved 24 participants filling out Likert scale (1–5) surveys self-reporting their Facebook engagement with news-relevant content on their own profiles and also with other people’s posts and in groups before and after they took the pledge, with 1 at lowest level of alignment to the pledge behaviors and 5 being full alignment. To avoid the Hawthorne effect of study participants being impacted by observation, the study did not evaluate current behavior, but past behavior.

    We only recruited participants who took the pledge 4 or more weeks ago to fill out the survey, and asked them about their behavior after taking the pledge. Giving them this period also gave people an opportunity to have the immediate impact of taking the pledge fade from their mind, thus enabling an evaluation of the medium-term impact of the PTP on sharing news-relevant content.

    This study method was informed by the approaches used by studies of whether honor codes address cheating, which is the most comparable form of intervention to the PTP. Such studies similarly rely on self-reporting by students on whether they have cheated or not cheated.

    The study found that on one’s own Facebook profile, the median alignment with the PTP score before taking the PTP is 4 (SD=1.14), and the median alignment score after taking the PTP is 4.5 (SD=0.51). For engaging with newsworthy content on other people’s profiles and in groups, the median PTP alignment score before taking the Truth Pledge is 3.5 (SD=1.06).

    The median PTP alignment score after taking the Truth Pledge is 4.5 (SD=0.65). For sharing content, 70.83% of participants (17 of 24 respondents) reported an increase of their PTP alignment after taking the PTP. The figure below provides a visual summary of the preliminary survey data.

    Figure 1, Visual summary of preliminary survey data with PTP alignment in Facebook engagement


    We conducted a second study, the one published in Behavior and Social Issues, to address the weakness of the first study’s reliance on self-reporting. The second study sampled 21 people, and involved researchers observing and evaluating the quality of Facebook engagement by study participants on their own Facebook profile.

    Similarly to the first study, the second study avoided the Hawthorne effect of study participants being impacted by observation by evaluating past behavior. Researchers looked at the first ten Facebook posts with news-relevant content made four weeks after the pledge. Then, the researchers compared these ten posts to the first ten posts for the same period the year before the study participant took the pledge. Each post was coded according to quality, from 1 of lowest level of alignment with the PTP, to 5 of highest alignment.

    The second study showed that the average PTP alignment before taking the pledge was 2.49, and after taking the pledge was 3.65, and conducted a paired t-test to examine whether Pro-Truth Pledge Alignment is significantly different after taking the PTP. The null hypothesis H0 for the paired t-test states that there is no significant alignment difference before and after taking the pledge and the alternative hypothesis H1 proposes a significant difference. There was a significant difference in the scores for Pledge Alignment before]]> Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0 3 Steps to an Intentional Life


    Are you getting all you want? Are you achieving all of your goals and succeeding in life? Are you living a fully intentional life?

    If you are, I salute you. I can’t make the same claim. To live a more intentional life, I constantly strive to gain greater agency, the quality of living intentionally.

    In doing that, it helps to take the following three steps: evaluate reality clearly, make effective decisions, and achieve your goals.

    Step 1: Evaluate Reality Clearly

    What does it mean to evaluate your reality clearly? That means gaining a deep understanding of your external environment – your immediate surroundings, your social circle, your career, and anything else of relevance. That also means your own internal environment – your patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving.

    Four factors obstruct our ability to evaluate reality clearly:

    Learning about and watching out for these challenges in a systematic manner improves our decision-making.

    Step 2: Make Effective Decisions

    Next, you want to make effective decisions about how to reach your goals. Consider your options, based on your knowledge of your outer and inner environment. Be aware that you can change both your external surroundings, and your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to help you to get what you want in life.

    Evaluate the various paths available to you, assess the probability that each path will get you to your goals. Then make a plan for how to proceed, and take the path that seems best suited to go where you want.

    Step 3: Achieve Your Goals

    Finally, implement the decisions you made and travel along the path. Remember, you will usually encounter some unknown obstacles on your road to what you want. Be excited about getting feedback from your environment and learning about better paths forward.

    Take the opportunity to change your path if a new one opens up that seems better suited to help you meet your goals. Be open to changing your very goals themselves based on what you learn.

    As you can imagine, these things are easy to say, but hard to do. It’s very helpful to get support along the way, through learning about strategies oriented toward this purpose. However, above all, it takes your own commitment to the goal of gaining greater agency over your life and living intentionally to succeed in life.


    Key Takeaway

    To live a truly intentional life, make sure to take these three steps: 1) Evaluate Reality Clearly; 2) Make Effective Decisions; 3) Achieve Your Goals ---> Click to Tweet



    Bio: Known as the Disaster Avoidance Expert, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky authored the national bestseller on avoiding professional and personal disasters, The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide, and you can pre-order his new book, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters. He has over 20 years of experience dramatically empowering leaders to avoid business disasters as the CEO of the boutique consulting and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. Tsipursky also has a strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Visit his website, subscribe to his monthly Disaster Avoidance Tips, email him at gleb[at]disasteravoidanceexperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, on Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, on Facebook DrGlebTsipursky, and on LinkedIn Dr. Gleb Tsipursky.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    8 Key Steps to Prevent Project Management Failure


    When was the last time you saw a major project management or process management failure? Such disasters can have devastating consequences for high-flying careers and successful companies. Yet they happen all too often, with little effort taken to prevent failure.


    For example, many leaders stake their reputations on key projects such as successful product launches. However, research shows that most product launches fail. Nike’s FuelBand, launched with much fanfare in 2012, flopped on arrival. By 2014, Nike fired most of the team behind FuelBand, discontinuing this product.


    One of the most important types of projects for a business is a merger or acquisition. Yet 70 to 90 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value, and CEOs who lead failed M&As are frequently replaced. For instance, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer left in large part due to the tensions around his push to acquire Nokia, which eventually led to Microsoft writing off $8.4 billion.


    Process failures can be just as bad. Safety failures led to the recall of over 20 million pounds of food across the US in 2018; from 1996 to 2017, more than 390 million cars and other motor vehicles had a recall, along with 154 million motor vehicle parts.


    Japanese airbag maker Takata Corporation, with revenue of $6.6 billion and over 50,000 employees in 2016, declared bankruptcy in 2017 due to the costs of a recall and lawsuits over faulty airbags. Boeing’s engineers knew that the 737 Max aircraft display alert system software failed to meet requirements, but failed to do anything about it before the deadly October 2018 Lion Air crash. The grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft after that crash and the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, caused in large part by the display alert system software, cost the company over a billion.


    Of course, while examples from big companies make the headlines, mid-size and small businesses have their share of catastrophic project management and process management failures. Such mistakes largely come from the many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired, what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases. Over 100 cognitive biases exist, and more are found all the time by scholars in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience. 


    These errors lead to dangerous mistakes in the workplace, in everything from mergers and acquisitions to assessing company performance. They also hurt is in our personal life. For example, a survey shows that we tend to go with our gut reactions and thus fall for cognitive biases in our shopping decisions.


    Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to notice and address these dangerous judgment errors. You can do so using structured decision-making techniques for making quick everyday decisions, for more complex and significant ones, and for critically important and highly complex choices.


    But what do you do after you make your decision? You also need to avoid failures and maximize success in implementing decisions, as well as in managing projects and processes that result from these decisions.


    The most relevant scholarship in implementing decisions deals with prospective hindsight, meaning looking back in advance. Prospective hindsight helps you anticipate and avoid threats as well as notice and seize opportunities. Thus, you can defend yourself against failures and maximize the likelihood of success in major projects and processes, and in implementing decisions.


    8 Key Steps to Preventing Project Management Failure


    “Failure-Proofing” is a pragmatic and easy-to-use strategy for obtaining the benefits of prospective hindsight. Having developed this technique based on behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience studies, I then tested it on the front lines of my over 20 years of experience consulting and coaching leaders in large and mid-size companies and nonprofits avoid project or process failures. I wrote it up so that anyone – not only the people who hire me – can avoid such failures and maximize success.


    Use Failure-Proofing after you decided to start any significant project and to check in regularly on existing processes. Don’t use Failure-Proofing on smaller, day-to-day decision-making, since doing so would take too much time. For those decisions, use the “5 Key Questions” technique instead. The failure-proofing technique is best done in teams, and should involve representatives of all relevant stakeholders; you can also do this technique by yourself, but consider showing your results to a trusted adviser for an external perspective.


    Step 1: Gather


    Gather all the people relevant for making the decision in the room, or representatives of the stakeholders if there are too many to have in a group.  A good number is 6, and avoid more than 10 people to ensure a manageable discussion.


    Make sure the people in the room have the most expertise in the decision to be made, rather than simply gathering higher-up personnel. The goal is to address what might go wrong and how to fix it, as well as what might go right and how to ensure it. Expertise here is as important as an authority. At the same time, have some people with the power to decide how to address problems and seize opportunities that might be uncovered.


    It’s very helpful to recruit an independent facilitator who is not part of the team to help guide the exercise. You can get someone from your Advisory Board, someone from another part of the organization, your mentor, or a coach or consultant. If you are going through this technique by yourself, write out various stakeholders that are relevant to the project or process, even different aspects of yourself that have competing goals.


    Step 2: Explain


    Explain the exercise to everyone by describing all the steps, so that all participants are on the same page about the exercise.


    Step 3: Next Best Alternative


    Then, develop two Next Best Alternatives (NBAs) to the project or process you are evaluating. Have each participant on the team come up with and write down one NBA anonymously. Anonymity is critical to ensure that unpopular or politically problematic opinions can be voiced (“perhaps we should wait for a better opportunity rather than acquiring this company”).


    The facilitator gathers what people wrote – thus ensuring anonymity if the facilitator is not part of the team and doesn’t know people’s handwriting – and voices the alternatives. Then, have team members vote on the choices that seem most viable, and choose two to discuss. Make sure to give them a fair hearing by having two team members – including at least one with authority – defend each NBA.


    After discussing the NBA, take an anonymous vote on whether the NBA seems preferable to the original project or process under discussion. If the original project or process still seems best (which is what happens in the large majority of cases), consider if the project or process can be strengthened by integrating any components of the two NBAs into your plan. If you are going through the technique by yourself, get outside input at this stage if you have difficulty generating an NBA.


    Step 4: Reason for Failure


    Next, ask all the stakeholders to imagine that they are in a future where the project or process definitely failed (an approach informed by the Premortem technique). Doing so gives permission to everyone, even the biggest supporters of the project or process, to use their creativity in coming up with possible reasons for failure.


    Otherwise, their emotions – which determine 80-90% of our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions – will likely inhibit their ability to accept the possibility of project or process failure. That’s why simply asking everyone to imagine potential problems works much less well. Supporters of the project experience a defensive emotional response that leaves their minds much less capable of creatively envisioning possible problems.


    After giving such permission, have each participant anonymously write out plausible reasons for this disaster. Anonymity is especially important here, due to the potential for political danger in describing potential problems (“the product launch will fail because the marketing department overhyped it, leading to unhappy consumers). Ask everyone to come up with at least three most plausible failures, while highlighting that the reasons for coming up with these failures is to address them effectively.


    These failures should include internal decisions under the control of the project team, such as cost and staffing, as well as potential external events, such as an innovation introduced by a competitor. Encourage participants to focus particularly on reasons they would not typically bring up because it would be seen as rude or impolitic, such as criticizing someone’s competency, or even dangerous to one’s career, such as criticizing the organization’s strategy. Emphasize that everyone’s statements will remain anonymous.


    The facilitator gathers everyone’s statements, and then highlights the key themes brought out as reasons for project failure, focusing especially on reasons that would not be typically brought up, and ensuring anonymity in the process. If you are going through this technique by yourself, write out separate reasons for project or process failure from the perspective of each relevant aspect of yourself.


    Step 5: Most Likely Problems


    Discuss all the reasons brought up, paying particular attention to ones that are rude, impolitic, and dangerous to careers. Check for potential cognitive biases that might be influencing the assessments. The most significant ones to watch out for are loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effect.


    Then, assess anonymously the probability of each reason for failure, ideally placing percentage probabilities. If doing so is difficult, use terms like “highly likely”, “somewhat likely”, “unlikely”, and “very unlikely.” Also consider how harmful each reason for failure might be, and pay more attention to the ones that are most harmful.  Here, the expertise of individual members of the team will be especially useful.


    The leader or person assigned as note-taker writes down all the problems brought up, as well as assessments of the probabilities. If you are going through the technique by yourself, get outside input at this stage.


    Step 6: Fixing Problems


    Decide on several failures that are most relevant to focus on, and brainstorm ways of solving these, including how to address potential mental blindspots. Also, discuss any evidence you might use that would serve as a red flag that the failure you are discussing is occurring or about to occur. For this step, it is especially important to have people with authority in the room.


    The leader or note-taker writes down the possible solutions. If you are going through the technique by yourself, get outside input at this stage.


    Step 7: Maximizing Success


    We addressed failure: now let’s make sure you not simply avoid failure, but maximize success! Next, imagine that you are in a future where the project or process succeeded far beyond what you expected. Have each participant anonymously write out plausible reasons for this success. Next, have the facilitator highlight the key themes.


    Discuss all the reasons, and check for the same cognitive biases as above. Evaluate anonymously the probability of each reason for success, and decide which deserve the most attention. Then, brainstorm ways of maximizing each of these reasons for success.


    The leader or note-taker writes down the ideas to maximize success. If you are going through the technique by yourself, get outside input at this stage.


    Step 8: Revising Project


    The leader revises the project or process based on the feedback, and, if needed, repeats the exercise.




    Make sure to use the “Failure-Proofing” technique prior to any large project and to evaluate existing processes and systems to prevent failures. To see case studies with in-depth guidelines of how you can apply this strategy as an individual or a team, see the Manual on Failure-Proofing.


    Key Takeaway


    To prevent a project management or process management disaster, imagine that it completely failed. Then, brainstorm all plausible reasons for failure, and generate solutions to these potential problems. Integrate these solutions into your project or process. —> Click to Tweet

    To maximize project management or process management success, envision that it succeeded spectacularly. Brainstorm likely reasons for such success, and generate strategies that would lead to such success. Integrate these strategies into your project or process. —> Click to Tweet


    Questions to Consider (please share your answers below)


    • What questions do you have about applying this technique?


    • Where do you think Failure-Proofing might best fit into your organization’s processes?


    • What will be your next steps in most effectively bringing it to your team and integrating it into your organization’s processes?



    Image credit: Flickr/freeimage4life



    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is a best-selling author of several well-known books, including Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters by getting a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for his Disaster Avoidance Tips.


    Posted in Goal Achievement, Intentional Decision-Making, Leadership & Organizational Development and tagged , , ]]>
    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    How to Evaluate Unconscious Bias Caused by Cognitive Biases at Work


    To evaluate unconscious bias caused by cognitive biases, first think about these three questions:


    • What percentage of projects in your workplace miss the deadline or go over budget?
    • How often do you see hiring decisions and employee assessments influenced by factors not relevant to job competency?
    • How frequently are your team’s members overconfident about their decisions?

    If you didn’t answer “rare to none” for any of these, you got a problem. In fact, these questions get at only 3 out of over a 100 dangerous judgment errors that scholars in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience call cognitive biases.


    Do you regularly – over 10% of the time – see projects in your workplace go past deadline or over budget? It’s a sign that the cognitive bias known as the planning fallacy is undercutting performance. The planning fallacy refers to our intuitive belief that everything will go according to plan, resulting in us failing to plan for the many potential problems that cause projects to go over budget or past deadline. Cost overruns and delays result in serious damage to the bottom lines of our businesses.


    How about assessments for hiring, performance, and promotion impacted by non-relevant factors? Well, two dangerous judgment errors play a major role in causing such problematic evaluations, the halo effect and the horns effect. The halo effect refers to the fact that if we feel a significant positive emotion toward one characteristic of someone, then we will have an overly positive evaluation of that person as a whole. That’s why taller men get promoted at higher rates into positions of authority, and both men and women perceived as physically attractive are more likely to be hired. The horns effect is the opposite: if we don’t like a characteristic that is significant to us, we will tend to have a worse evaluation of that person as a whole. For instance, overweight people are less likely to be hired.


    Finally, excessive confidence in making decisions – and other work areas – is a symptom of the mental blindspot known as the overconfidence effect. Overconfidence has been associated with many problems in the workplace. For example, overconfidence leads people into financial shenanigans, such as overstating earnings. Overconfident leaders tend to resist constructive criticism and dismiss wise advice, letting their intuition drive their decision-making as opposed to making thoughtful plans. Overconfident shoppers tend to go with their gut and make unwise choices, as a survey by has shown.


    So now that you know about the planning fallacy, the halo and horns effects, and the overconfidence effect, you’re safe from these 4 cognitive biases, right? Unfortunately, just learning about these mental blindspots will not work to assess where they occur in your workplace or to defeat them, as research shows. In fact, some techniques that would seem intuitively to help address unconscious bias caused by cognitive biases make them worse.


    Fortunately, recent research has revealed strategies that you can use to notice when you’re about to fall for these mental blindspots, as well as when you’ve been suffering from them for a while without knowing it. Moreover, it shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to overcome these dangerous judgment errors to avoid unconscious bias and make the best decisions, in your work and career, in your professional and personal relationships, and in other life areas as well


    The first step to solving cognitive biases does involve learning about them. However, simply having knowledge doesn’t help. For instance, students who learned about mental blindspots showed the same vulnerability to these errors as students who didn’t.


    What is much more helpful is making sure that people are strongly emotionally motivated to address cognitive biases. Our emotions determine 80-90 percent of our decisions, thoughts, and behaviors, and tapping our feelings is clearly effective in helping notice and address dangerous judgment errors. On a related note, it really helps for people to feel that the effort to address mental blindspots is important to them, getting them truly involved and bought into the outcome of debiasing cognitive biases.


    To do so, you need to evaluate thoroughly the impact of each cognitive bias on your own professional activities, as well as more broadly in your team and organization. Then, you have to make and implement a plan to address the problems caused by such unconscious bias, again, not only for yourself but also for your team and your business.


    Fortunately, you don’t have to address all the cognitive biases. Just going through the 30 most dangerous judgment errors in the workplace will get you the large majority of the benefit from such an analysis to help you avoid unconscious bias. All of these mental blindspots, along with clear next steps on what to do after the evaluation, can be found in the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace. It’s available for sale in print or digital form and you can get the digital version for free when you register for the Wise Decision Maker Course.


    Assessment on Cognitive Biases in the Workplace to Address Unconscious Bias


    The assessment starts with an evaluation of how frequently each of the 30 cognitive biases occurred in your workplace in the last year in the form of percentages. Don’t feel obliged to be absolutely precise, approximate numbers are fine.


    If you don’t remember something occurring, give it a low percentage score, including 0 if you think it doesn’t occur. For instance, if all of your projects came under budget and within the deadline, then planning fallacy is not a problem for you.


    Each of the 30 questions should take 10-15 seconds. Just put down the first number that seems to make the most sense for you. You can go back later and tweak it if needed. However, for the first run-through, do it fast. Remember, if you tend to be an optimistic person in general, temper your optimism and give a somewhat higher percentage than you intuitively feel is appropriate. Same goes for pessimism: give a lower percentage if you tend to be pessimistic.


    Following this evaluation, you will score the assessment to see the current state of dangerous judgment errors in your workplace. Next, you’ll evaluate the impact of these problems on the bottom line of your personal work, your organizational unit, or the company as a whole, to the extent that you can estimate this question. After all, knowing the bottom line impact will enable you to decide how much to invest into addressing the problem. You’ll then evaluate the performance of your workplace on the four broad competencies of addressing cognitive biases: how the people in your organization do on evaluating themselves, evaluating others, strategic evaluations of risks and rewards, and tactical evaluations in project implementation.


    Finally, you’ll get to the next steps. There, each dangerous judgment error is explained, focusing on its business impact. You’ll also get to decide which of the mental blindspots you’ll focus on addressing in the short term future.


    The assessment will prove invaluable as you take the next steps to solve the problems you identified. You should have yourself and others in your organization do the assessment after you introduce the concept of cognitive biases but before you launch any interventions. Then, you can use your assessment results as a baseline to assess the impact of any interventions.


    To develop your interventions, see the book that’s based around this assessment and provides both techniques and business case studies for how to address cognitive biases: Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters. You can also learn and use research-based strategies to make the best decisions in quick everyday choices, in moderately important decisions, and in critically important ones.


    Additionally, you would benefit from a method to avoid failure and achieve success when implementing your decisions, as well as another technique to address threats and seize opportunities in your long-term strategic plans. Finally, it would be really valuable for your to develop the mental habits and skills necessary to address the unconscious bias caused by cognitive biases. These techniques and skills, along with the knowledge in the book, will help you address effectively the dangerous judgment errors we tend to make.


    While enacting the interventions, have yourself and the others in your workplace take the assessment regularly – once a week if the intervention is intense, once a month if it’s less intense – to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. Revise the intervention as needed to account for your results.


    After the intervention is complete and you are satisfied, keep taking the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace every quarter. Doing so will help keep up vigilance and ensure that you keep protecting yourself from the disastrous consequences of falling into dangerous judgment errors.


    Key Takeaway


    To address unconscious bias caused by cognitive biases in your workplace, you need to evaluate their impact on your own professional activities and on your team and organization. Then, make and implement a plan to address these biases. —> Click to Tweet


    Questions to Consider


    • Which of the following biases most negatively impacts your workplace: the planning fallacy, the halo and horns effects, or the overconfidence effect? What does that negative impact look like?
    • What would be the benefit to you, your team, and your organization of addressing the 30 most dangerous judgment errors in the workplace?
    • How did you score on dangerous judgment errors in your workplace when you took the assessment? How do you feel about your score?


    Image credit: Flickr/Geoffrey Fairchild




    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Posted in Leadership, Wise Decision Making and tagged , , , , , ,

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    8 Key Steps for Effective Leadership Decision Making to Avoid Decision Disasters


    Effective decision making to avoid failures and maximize success is your key role as a leader: that’s why “decision makers” is synonymous with leaders. Yet how can you ensure that your decision making results in the right calls as opposed to decisions disasters? 


    Let’s say you make a poor choice on a hire for a major position. General Electric’s Board of Directors hired John Flannery as CEO in 2017 to restructure the company, but he didn’t work out. Shares fell by over 35% in the next year and the Board forced him out in 2018; immediately afterward, GE’s shares rose by 14%.


    Or perhaps you make a major decision-making error in strategy. Research shows that 46% percent of companies go bankrupt due to wrong-headed strategic moves by their leaders. For instance, Toys ‘R’ Us went bankrupt due to a number of lousy strategic decisions by the company’s leadership, such as taking on too much debt and failing to compete effectively in online retailing.


    Another type of problematic decision making is ignoring a looming problem: deciding not to decide. Kodak helped invent the digital camera, but dragged its feet on ramping up its investment into the digital camera market because its film business made more money. By the time it recognized the future was digital, more nimble competitors seized the market. Kodak proved unable to catch up, eventually filing for bankruptcy.


    All of these examples from large companies have their equivalent in mid-size and small businesses. Bad leadership decision making helps explain why about half of all new businesses fail within 5 years.


    Leaders commit serious decision-making mistakes largely due to the many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired. Scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call such mental blindspots cognitive biases.


    Fortunately, recent research in these fields has discovered strategies to realize when you’re falling into cognitive biases, as well as ways to defeat these dangerous judgment errors. These techniques are applicable in your work life, in your professional and personal relationships, your shopping choices, and in other aspects of your life.


    Doing so will not only help you make the best decisions, whether quick decisions on a day-to-day basis or in more important cases, but also prevent failure and amplify success in implementing these choices. Furthermore, they can empower you to minimize threats and maximize opportunities when you make and enact your long-term strategic plans


    Separately from these structured techniques, you’ll also need to gain mental skills and habits to notice and quickly overcome cognitive biases.


    8 Steps to Effective Decision Making for Leaders


    “Avoiding Disastrous Decisions” is a pragmatic and battle-tested strategy that helps you choose the best option among several that each have strengths and weaknesses. I developed this technique based on research on the multi-attribute utility theory.


    Then, I used this model extensively during my consulting and coaching engagements for the last 20 years helping leaders in large and mid-size companies and nonprofits avoid business disasters. After perfecting it based on these engagements, I am sharing it with you. It will help you to make the right calls even if you don’t hire me.


    Use the technique in cases where it’s worthwhile to spend serious time and energy on a decision, meaning where the decision is really significant. These might include:

    • Making a substantial strategy shift
    • Pursuing a merger or acquisition
    • Making a key employee hire
    • Choosing which new product to launch
    • Deciding on a critical supplier
    • Moving your headquarters
    • Making a major career move
    • Evaluating whether and how your systems and processes need to be adjusted to match changing market needs

    “Avoiding Disastrous Decisions” can be used by yourself or with a team. This web app, designed specifically for use with the technique, helps make the decision-making process and the math involved easy and simple. Moreover, the app ensures that the decision making is transparent to and inclusive of all stakeholders.


    My strong suggestion is to use this method together with the “Making the Best Decisions” technique. That’s because the “Avoiding Disastrous Decisions” strategy focuses only on trade-offs between different options rather than all the other aspects of making the best decisions. I make sure that all of my consulting and coaching clients use these two techniques together, and I am giving you the same advice I give them.


    Step 1: List Decision-Making Criteria


    Write out all the relevant and important attributes for your decision, meaning the key criteria you will use to make your choice. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis by listing all possible criteria: try to limit yourself to 10, unless it’s a truly complex decision. For a key hire, you can use criteria such as “salary requirements,” “fit into organizational culture,” “ability to perform job,” “contribution to diversity,” and so on.


    If you’re going through this process as a team, brainstorm the categories and then vote on which should make it into the top 10. Then put them into the web app for easing your calculations and guiding you through the process.


    Step 2: Weigh the Attributes


    Give weights to each of your attributes, from 1-10 on their importance to you (1 lowest importance, 10 highest). Make sure to use this step to evaluate honestly which of these criteria is more important to you. For example, you can weight “salary requirements” at 4, meaning you have a good budget, and weigh “fit into organizational culture” at 9, meaning it’s a critical factor for success in your firm.


    If you’re doing this as a team, come up with weights independently and anonymously. Then, average out your weights.


    Step 3: Rank It!


    Rank each option that you are considering choosing on all the attributes in a decision matrix table, from 1-10 on how good they are (1-poor, 10-great).


    Similar to above, if you’re doing this as a team, come up with rankings independently and anonymously. Then, average out your rankings.


    Step 4: Math It!


    Using the table, multiply weights by rankings – the web app makes it easy.


    Step 5: Check with Your Gut


    Your gut can give you some useful information, as long as you make sure to use your head to evaluate the data provided by your gut. Your gut is particularly valuable on questions that have to do with your values, and major decisions often relate to values questions.


    Does the answer you got feel aligned with your intuitions? Would you be surprised if you looked back and wished you made a different decision? Experiment with adjusting weights and rankings to address gut feelings, but be cautious about trying to get the numbers to fit some predetermined choice.


    Step 6: Check with Your Head


    Check for potential dangerous judgment errors, especially ones resulting from paying too much attention to the gut. Look out for the 30 most dangerous judgment errors for decision making in the workplace.


    Pay particular attention to cognitive biases to which you might be prone personally. Play around with adjusting weights and rankings to address such errors.


    Step 7: Red Flags


    Decide what kind of red flags you would use to reconsider the decision if relevant new evidence emerges that would influence your rankings and/or weights. It’s best to decide in advance what you would consider to constitute important evidence. By doing so, you’ll reduce the chance of being swayed by short-term emotions as an individual or simmering tensions and disagreements as a team.


    Step 8: Choose and Commit


    Make your choice and stick with it. This precommitment will help reduce feelings of anxiety and doubt, help you be happier, and reduce conflict in team settings.




    The “Avoiding Disastrous Decisions” strategy should be used every time you need to make a critical decision, by yourself or as part of a team. Using this technique will allow you and your team to be confident about the quality of your decision making and maximize the chance that you’ll make the right call. If you’d like case studies with in-depth guidelines of how you can apply this strategy as an individual or a team, see the Manual on Avoiding Disastrous Decisions.


    Key Takeaway


    Effective leadership decision making on critical decisions involves: 1) Deciding the decision criteria; 2) Weighing importance of criteria; 3) Grading your options using the criteria; 4) Checking with your head and gut; 5) Sticking to your choice. —> Click to Tweet


    Questions to Consider


    • Do you have any questions about where and how to apply this technique?
    • How do you think using this technique might benefit your organization?
    • What steps can you take to most effectively bring it to your team and integrate it into your organization’s processes?


    Image credit: Rawpixel/Jira





    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    8-Step Leadership Decision-Making Process for Making the Best Decisions


    Isn’t it tragic that so many prominent leaders rely on their intuition for their decision-making process? Gut reactions are seen as something almost magical, acquired either by hard-earned experience or possessed by a select few genius young CEOs who deserve a top-notch pay package. Top gurus reinforce such mystical beliefs with their advice.


    Making the best decisions is seen as the key characteristic of top business leaders: why else is “decision maker” synonymous with “leader”? Unfortunately, leaders overwhelmingly fail to get professional development in their decision-making process. Yet research in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience showing that even one training session can significantly improve one’s decision-making ability.


    Baseball is Ahead of Business in Its Decision-Making Process


    The “magical” mindset toward following instincts over analysis to make decisions reminds me of the era of baseball before the rise of sabermetrics, data-driven decision-making process immortalized in the book and movie Moneyball. The movie and book described the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, which had a very limited budget for players that year. Its general manager Billy Beane put aside the traditional method of trusting the intuitions and gut reactions of the team’s scouts. Instead, he adopted a very unorthodox approach of relying on quantitative data and statistics to choose players using his head. 


    Hiring a series of players undervalued by teams that used old-school evaluation methods, the Oakland Athletics won a record-breaking 20 games in a row. Other teams since that time have adopted the same decision-making process. 


    Coaches and managers in other sports are increasingly employing statistics when making personnel and strategy decisions. For example, in professional football, punting and field goals have become less and less popular. Why? Statistical analysis has shown that going for a first down or touchdown on fourth down makes the most sense in many short-yardage situations.


    What would you pay to have similar record-breaking innovations in your business that cause record-breaking growth 20 quarters in a row? You’ll score a home run by avoiding trusting your gut and going with your head instead. 


    Don’t you find it shocking that business is far behind sports in adopting effective, research-based decision-making strategies? I know I do. 


    We have so much more tools right now in the information age to make better decisions, both in terms of the data available and in techniques that we can use to optimize our approach to making decisions. Unfortunately, prominent gurus are doubling down on the actively harmful advice of trusting your intuition in our current information age.


    Why is our intuition such a bad tool for making decisions? Because we suffer from many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired, what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases. Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies both to notice and to address these dangerous judgment errors. Such strategies apply to your business activities, to your relationships, to your shopping choices, and to all other life areas as well.


    8-Step Decision-Making Process to Making the Best Decisions


    So let’s set aside the bad examples of the business leaders and gurus who rely on their gut in their decisions and follow the successful strategy of using data-driven, research-based approaches. You’ll win using these strategies in business as much as you’ll win in baseball. 


    Effective decision making doesn’t rely either on innate talent or on hard-learned experience, contrary to the popular wisdom attributed (debatably) to Mark Twain that “good judgment is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgment.”


    The reality is that a first-rate decision-making process is both teachable and learnable. You can boil it down easily to an eight-step model for any moderately important decision. 


    Hiring a new employee, choosing a new supplier, selecting a speaker for your upcoming annual conference, deciding whether to apply for a higher-level position within your company: all of these and many more represent moderately important decisions. 


    They won’t make or break your career or your organization. Still, getting them wrong will hurt you much more than making bad everyday decisions, while getting them right will be a clear boost to your bottom line. 


    Because of the importance of these decisions, wise decision makers like yourself don’t want to simply get a “good enough” outcome, which is fine for everyday choices where you’d use the “5 Questions” technique to make a quick decision. Instead, you want to invest the time and energy needed to make the best and most profitable decision, because it’s worth it to maximize your bottom line. 


    In such cases, use an eight-step decision-making technique, which I developed and call “Making the Best Decisions.” It takes a minimum of 30 minutes if your initially-planned course of action is indeed correct, and longer if you need to revise things. If you do need to change things around, believe me, it will be very much worth it in time, money, and grief you save yourself down the road.


    This method is battle-tested: I use it extensively with my consulting and coaching for leaders in large and mid-size businesses and nonprofits. I wrote it up so that others who can’t afford my services may still benefit from my expertise.


    You can elaborate on this technique for the most important or really complex decisions with a more thorough approach to weighing your options. I also suggest you use a separate technique for avoiding failure and maximizing success in implementing your decision and an additional method to address threats and seize opportunities in your long-term strategic planning. Last, but far from least, you – and those you care about – will gain a great deal of benefit from the fundamentally important mental skills of quickly and effectively overcoming cognitive biases to avoid decision disasters.


    Now, on to the model itself. 


    First, you need to identify the need to launch a decision-making process


    Such recognition bears particular weight when there’s no explicit crisis that cries out for a decision to be made or when your natural intuitions make it uncomfortable to acknowledge the need for a tough decision. The best decision makers take initiative to recognize the need for decisions before they become an emergency and don’t let gut reactions cloud their decision-making capacity. 


    Second, gather relevant information from a wide variety of informed perspectives on the issue at hand


    Value especially those opinions with which you disagree. Contradicting perspectives empower you to distance yourself from the comfortable reliance on your gut instincts and help you recognize any potential bias blind spots. 


    Third, with this data you decide the goals you want to reach, painting a clear vision of the desired outcome of your decision-making process


    It’s particularly important to recognize when a seemingly one-time decision is a symptom of an underlying issue with processes and practices. Make addressing these root problems part of the outcome you want to achieve.


    Fourth, you develop clear decision-making process criteria to weigh the various options of how you’d like to get to your vision


    If at all possible, develop these criteria before you start to consider choices. Our intuitions bias our decision-making criteria to encourage certain outcomes that fit our instincts. As a result, you get overall worse decisions if you don’t develop criteria before starting to look at options.


    Fifth, you generate a number of viable options that can achieve your decision-making process goals


    We frequently fall into the trap of generating insufficient options to make the best decisions, especially for solving underlying challenges. To address this, it’s very important to generate many more options that seem intuitive to us. Go for 5 attractive options as the minimum. Remember that this is a brainstorming step, so don’t judge options, even though they might seem outlandish or politically unacceptable. In my consulting and coaching experience, the optimal choice often involves elements drawn from out-of-the-box and innovative options.


    Sixth, you weigh these options, picking the best of the bunch


    When weighing options, beware of going with your initial preferences, and do your best to see your own preferred choice in a harsh light. Moreover, do your best to evaluate each option separately from your opinion on the person who proposed it, to minimize the impact of personalities, relationships, and internal politics on the decision itself. If you get stuck here, or if this is a particularly vital or really complex decision, use the “Avoiding Disastrous Decisions” technique to maximize your likelihood of picking the best option. 


    Seventh, you implement the option you chose


    Before and during the process of implementation, make sure to consider how your decision can go wrong and guard against these failures. Most importantly, ensure clear accountability and communication around the decision’s enactment. 


    For projects that are either complex, long-term, or major, I recommend using the “Failure-Proofing” technique to notice and address potential threats and to recognize and seize potential opportunities. That technique defends you from disasters in enacting your choices and optimizes the likelihood of you outperforming your own and others’ expectations.


    Eighth, you evaluate the implementation of your decision


    Revise both the process – and the original decision – as needed.


    Note that you’ll often find yourself going back and forth among these steps. Doing so is an inherent part of making a significant decision, and does not indicate a problem in your process. For example, say you’re at the option-generation stage, and you discover relevant new information. You might need to go back and revise the goals and criteria stages.


    Below is a quick summary you can print out and keep on your desk.





    Don’t be fooled by the pronouncements of top business leaders and gurus. Your gut reactions are no way to make a good decision. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but you want to be right much more than that for the sake of your bottom line. So follow the shockingly effective example of baseball and other sports, and use data-driven, research-based approaches such as the 8-step model above to make the best decisions for yourself and your organization.


    Key Takeaway


    8-step decision-making process: 1) Identify need for decision; 2) Get relevant info; 3) Decide goals; 4) Develop criteria; 5) Generate a few viable options; 6) Weigh options; 7) Implement decision; 8) Revise implementation and decision as needed. —> Click to Tweet


    Questions to Consider (please share your thoughts in the comments section)


    • Where and how might you apply this technique?
    • What resistance do you think you might face in bringing this technique to your team and organization? 
    • What steps can you take to overcome this resistance?

    Image Credit: Pixabay/olga-filo




    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    Surprising New Survey Shows Most Customers “Trust Their Gut” When Making Purchasing Decisions

    First, the survey turns on its head the common theory of the “rational consumer.” Colleges teach students this theory as a basis for all of their business education. Many people go on to use this theory to run their businesses. However, some recent research in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience has been questioning this assumption.

    The Top10 survey further supports the criticism of the “rational consumer” theory by showing that people don’t shop with their heads, they shop with their gut. Over two-thirds of respondents reported that they “trust their gut” often, very often, or always when making shopping decisions. So the large majority of people don’t fit the outdated theory. No wonder that half of all new businesses fail in the first 5 years or that most product launches flop: business leaders use the wrong framework to approach consumers.

    Second, the Top10 survey shows the outdated nature of the widely prevalent assumption that word of mouth offers the best way of marketing and selling a product. In the past, recommendations from friends and family mattered much more than anything else, at 90% according to a 2012 HubSpot survey.

    However, in 7 short years, the landscape changed. The 2019 Top10 survey highlights how recommendations from friends matter much less, dropping to 70%, and information from online sources such as user reviews has grown much more important, topping friend recommendations. Marketers and business leaders need to update their beliefs about what matters to shoppers to succeed in the new digital age.

    Third, the Top10 survey breaks new ground on consumer price sensitivity. While many assume that price is the most important factor by far, the survey shows they’re wrong. In fact, only a quarter of respondents go for the cheapest option. Over half consider price as one of many factors.

    Next, we’ll dive deeper into the survey findings on these three surprising results.

    Consumers Go With Their Gut

    Consumers, by and large, trust their gut when making shopping choices. Less than one third — specifically 31% percent — rely on their gut only sometimes, rarely, or not at all to make the right choice. By contrast, 69% rely on their gut often, very often, or always.

    The large majority of shoppers choosing to rely on their gut is unfortunate for the sake of making wise purchasing decisions. We know that we are all vulnerable to unconscious dangerous judgment errors that scholars in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience call cognitive biases. These are the mental blindspots that lead people away from being the idealized rational consumers of classical economic theory, always focusing on their own best long-term interest when making shopping decisions.

    Cognitive biases come mainly from relying on our gut reactions — our emotions and intuitions — to make decisions. It’s not only shopping: our emotions determine 80–90% of our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions in all life areas. In fact, people with brain damage that impairs their ability to process emotions have a great deal of difficulty making all sorts of decisions.

    Now, emotions undoubtedly have a key role to play in shopping. After all, the large majority of what we buy is not meant to satisfy basic, primary needs like clothing and shelter. Instead, it satisfies our wants and desires and comes from our personal lifestyle and values, our tastes and preferences. Some people like chocolate ice cream, and some like vanilla; some people want to live in the big city, and some in the suburbs; some like Apple and some PC. As people say, there’s no arguing with taste, and our emotions determine our tastes.

    The mistakes we make come from how we try to satisfy our tastes and preferences. For example, most consumers believe that more options would make them happier with both the process and outcome of their shopping. Yet in reality, it’s not true.

    Having some choices makes us feel good, yet once we get beyond that small number, we feel less and less happy the more choices we get. The trick is that we tend to buy into the (false) concept that more choices will make us feel better.

    For instance, in one study, shoppers at a fancy food market — not a lab — saw a display table with free samples of 24 varieties of gourmet jam. On another day, in the same market, shoppers saw a display table with 6 jam varieties. You won’t be surprised that the larger display attracted substantially more interest. However, people who saw the smaller selection were 10 times more likely to buy the jam, and felt better about themselves doing so than those who had to select among 24 varieties.

    The problem here is a cognitive bias called loss aversion. Our gut reactions prefer avoiding losses to making gains. Thus, we want way too many choices, wrongly perceiving a limited number of choices as losing out, despite the real loss coming from less happiness.

    Let’s take another example. Don’t you like it when you have the option to return what you bought if you didn’t like it? Well, another counterintuitive behavioral economics finding shows that, while we have a preference for being able to refund our purchases, we feel more satisfied with a shopping decision if it’s nonreversible.

    As an example, in one study, students got to choose between 2 art posters. Half the students were not allowed to change their mind, while the other half were told they could exchange the poster they chose for another one in the next 30 days. While 66% preferred to be in the half of the group that could change their minds, later evaluations showed that those who couldn’t exchange their posters actually were substantially happier with their decision. The culprit here is a judgment error called choice-supportive bias, where we become happier with a choice after we committed to it, rather than pondering the prospect of returning it.

    You might have heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” as referring to our desire to maintain a standard of living comparable to those around us, such as our neighbors, who we consider to be on a similar social level. Popularized by an early 20th century comic strip called “Keeping up with the Joneses,” this idiom points to an important aspect of our shopping behavior.

    Our gut intuitions drive us to improve our social status, and the cognitive bias known as the social comparison bias in particular causes us to try to outcompete others in our tribal group through our shopping. Scholars term such status-driven shopping “conspicuous consumption,” referring to buying products not primarily for their actual practical use, but for the prestige value of the purchase in raising the buyer higher in the social hierarchy. Such conspicuous consumption often drives us to make the wrong choices.

    Fortunately, savvy consumers — the 1.29% who never simply go with their gut — know that they can make much better decisions to satisfy their tastes and preferences by protecting themselves from intuitive reactions and instead relying on their head.

    Recent research in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to address these dangerous judgment errors, whether in your shopping, your professional life, your relationships, or other life areas.

    You need to evaluate where cognitive biases are hurting you and others in your team and organization. Then, you can use structured decision-making methods to make “good enough” daily decisions quickly; more thorough ones for moderately important choices; and an in-depth one for truly major decisions.

    Such techniques will also help you implement your decisions well, and formulate truly effective long-term strategic plans. In addition, you can develop mental habits and skills to notice cognitive biases and prevent yourself from slipping into them.

    What Sources Do Consumers Use to Make Shopping Decisions?

    It’s a brave new digital world when supposedly savvy marketers and business publications writing in 2019 still consider word of mouth as the most effective and important marketing technique, while the Top10 survey clearly shows they’re wrong.

    Why are they wrong? They’re relying on outdated information.

    In 2012, Nielsen ran a survey showing that 92% of survey respondents trusted recommendations from friends and family. In Nielsen’s 2015 survey, only 83% trusted recommendations from family and friends, a substantial drop of about 10% over 3 years. Only 66% trusted consumer opinions posted online, which overwhelmingly come in the form of user reviews.

    Top10’s survey shows that in the intervening 4 years, reliance on recommendations from family and friends dropped even further, to 70%. By contrast, the stock of user reviews grew substantially, to 77%, overcoming recommendations from friends and family. Other sources of online information are also catching up to recommendations from friends and family, with online comparison sites used by more than half of Top10 survey respondents?

    What explains this change, which apparently has not yet been internalized by many marketers? In part, people’s increasing familiarity and comfort with online information and online shopping as a whole.

    Shoppers are increasingly shopping online, with 2016 marking the year when consumers made more of their purchases online, a trend that continues to date. When consumers make online purchases, they often don’t have the opportunity to consult friends and family. They naturally turn to online sources for information, such as online reviews by others and comparison sites.

    Another factor explaining this dynamic comes from generational change. As more millenials grow into their full economic potential, and more older people leave this world, trust in online sources of information only grows. The Top10 survey shows that younger people show more trust for online sources such as online reviews and comparison websites compared to older people. Other research from December 2018 shows that 80% of those between 18 and 34 wrote online reviews themselves, while only 41% of those over 55 did so. We’re naturally more invested in the kind of activities we do ourselves.

    Unfortunately, many shoppers fall into dangerous judgment errors by trusting user reviews online. Bogus reviews are widespread. It’s easy to buy fake good reviews, while a number of people leave false bad reviews for a variety of reasons. Shoppers tend to focus most on extreme reviews, even though those are least likely to be accurate.

    It’s not surprising that research shows that objective ratings produced by high-quality online comparison sites have a low correlation to online user reviews. Due to cognitive biases such as the illusory truth effect — where we tend to believe something that’s repeated often enough regardless of whether it’s true — enough user reviews repeating the same thing, good or bad, often drive us to make bad shopping decisions.

    Price Sensitivity 

    Too many businesses assume, based on advice by some online marketers, that price dominates consumer choices. The Top10 survey shows that’s just not the case.

    Price is not nearly as important as it’s typically depicted. In fact, only a quarter of all consumers — just over 25% in the survey — are bargain hunters. Three quarters are willing to pay more if they are getting more for their money, and consider price as one of many factors.

    The confusion in other surveys that trumpet price as the most important factor likely comes from the problematic way they phrase the question. After all, who wouldn’t consider price as an important factor? Many consumers may use price points as the first thing they look at when determining what purchase to make.

    To delve more deeply into this question, the Top10 survey asked respondents to list all factors that matter to them when deciding which brand to purchase.

    Framing the question this way resulted in price coming out on top as the factor most frequently listed as important.

    So price indeed matters, just not nearly as much as typically depicted. The key is to ask how important price is — as the Top10 survey did when asking how much price means to consumers — not simply what factor is most important.


    The three major surprises from the Top10 survey show that we need to update our beliefs about how consumers behave. They’re not rational, they’re less price sensitive than we think, and they rely more on — inherently unreliable — online user reviews than recommendations from friends and family. It’s very likely that the trend of increasing reliance on online sources of information will continue, hopefully shifting to more reliable sources such as online review sites. We can also hope that consumers will learn more about making wise decisions when they shop and avoid the dangerous tendency of going with their gut.

    Key Takeaway


    Consumers mostly make their shopping choices with their gut. As a result, they make many poor decisions. One of these decisions is to rely increasingly on online user reviews compared to recommendations from friends, even though user reviews are often misleading. ---> Click to Tweet


    Questions to Consider  (please share your thoughts in the comments section)

    • When was the last time you made a shopping choice relying on your gut that you regretted?
    • Is there anything in the article that will help you make better shopping choices?
    • Which next steps will you take based on reading this article?


    Adapted version of an article originally published in


    Image credit: Pixabay/StockSnap





    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    Never Go With Your Gut: Video and Audio Book Trailer


    Want to avoid business disasters, whether minor mishaps, such as excessive team conflict, or major calamities like those that threaten bankruptcy or doom a promising career? Fortunately, behavioral economics studies show that such disasters stem from poor decisions due to our faulty mental patterns—what scholars call “cognitive biases”—and are preventable.


    Unfortunately, the typical advice for business leaders to “go with their gut” plays into these cognitive biases and leads to disastrous decisions that devastate the bottom line. By combining practical case studies with cutting-edge research, Never Go With Your Gut will help you make the best decisions and prevent these business disasters.


    The leading expert on avoiding business disasters, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, draws on over 20 years of extensive consulting, coaching, and speaking experience to show how pioneering leaders and organizations—many of them his clients—avoid business disasters. Reading this book will enable you to:


    • Discover how pioneering leaders and organizations address cognitive biases to avoid disastrous decisions.
    • Adapt best practices on avoiding business disasters from these leaders and organizations to your own context.
    • Develop processes that empower everyone in your organization to avoid business disasters.

    Book Video Trailer



    Book Audio Trailer



    Help yourself and others you care about avoid business disasters and maximize success: order a copy of the book right now!


    Full Transcript of Trailer


    Did you know that the biggest falsehood in business advice is “go with your gut”? I feel deep frustration whenever I see someone buy into some fire-walking guru’s toxic advice to go with your gut and shoot their career in the foot. 


    Research in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics shows that our gut reactions are adapted for the ancestral tribal environment, not the modern business environment. And, you need to avoid these primitive instincts to go with your gut, and instead be civilized and go with your head to avoid the dangerous judgment errors that scholars like myself call “cognitive biases”. 


    And that’s what Never Go With Your Gut is about. It’s the first book to focus on cognitive biases in business leadership, showing how these dangerous judgment errors bring down highly profitable companies and top-notch careers. More importantly, it uses cutting-edge research strategies and business case studies to show how pioneering leaders have actually successfully defeated cognitive biases. It gives you the tools that you need from them to defeat these cognitive biases and make the wisest decisions. 


    Now, you can be confident that these techniques will work for you. Because as the author, I’m a top thought leader on these topics. I have over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Time, Fast Company, CNBC, CBS News, and Inc. Magazine. For the last 20 years, I’ve consulted, coached, and trained leaders on how to avoid cognitive biases and make the best decisions as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts. 


    And I’ve also spent over 15 years in academia, including seven years as a professor at Ohio State researching these topics. So I know both the latest scholarship and how to apply for this scholarship in business reality. 


    My clients, on average, decrease their costs by 15% and increase their revenues by 20% in the next year after implementing these techniques. What would you give to hit the same numbers? 


    Get a free book sample at You can also get the book on links from that same website, or at a bookstore near you. I want you to take advantage of the strategies in this book to maximize your success and leave business disasters to your competition. 


    Image Credit: Disaster Avoidance Experts




    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    Your Dangerous Mistakes? Cognitive Bias in Decision Making at Work (Videocast and Podcast of the “Wise Decision Maker Show”) Dangerous judgment errors (known as cognitive bias) threaten our daily decisions. To address cognitive bias in your workplace, you need to evaluate their impact on your own professional activities and on your team and organization. Then, make and implement a plan to address these biases. This episode of the "Wise Decision Maker Show" provides a videocast and podcast about the "Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace" that you can use to achieve these goals.


    Videocast: "Your Dangerous Mistakes? Cognitive Bias in Decision Making at Work"


    Podcast: "Your Dangerous Mistakes? Cognitive Bias in Decision Making at Work"



    Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


    • The book Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters is available here
    • You are welcome to register for the Wise Decision Maker Course and get a digital version of the assessment for free as part of the course

    Video Transcript


    Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Wise Decision Maker Guide. Today, I’ll share my story of discovering cognitive bias and what I did about it. When I discovered cognitive bias, I already knew that my intuitions sometimes led me astray causing me to make bad decisions, based on research about this topic.


    But what I didn’t know was how many kinds of cognitive bias there actually were. When I found that there were over 100 cognitive biases, I was shocked, to be honest. I mean, that there were 100 ways my mind was screwed up and could make mistakes, I had trouble believing that. 


    So, I went to Wikipedia, my first source of research, right? And I checked out the cognitive biases - you can check them out there too. And then, of course, looking to the research on this topic, which was pretty credible. But, I wanted to see how they actually impacted my life, so I went through the cognitive biases to see whether it felt true for me, whether I was actually making these same mistakes. 


    I looked at one called the planning fallacy where we have a tendency actually to overestimate our plans and use too little resources of time and money and so on, and I noticed that, yeah, I tend to get to places late systematically, making that mistake. So that was clearly a problem. 


    Now, another one was the illusion of transparency where we tend to overestimate how clearly we communicate something. And unfortunately, my wife does tell me that I tend to under-communicate and not communicate very clearly. I had that problem with some of my business colleagues as well. So that cost me some money, that was a problem.


    Now, another problem was where we tend to be overconfident about the quality of our decisions and jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty big problem for me. I tend to jump to conclusions way too often, or at least I did when I discovered them. I still have a tendency to try to do that and I try to avoid them. And it cost me a lot of money, and it caused me a lot of stress as well. 


    So, I went through all the hundred kinds of cognitive bias and I saw that, yeah yeah yeah, they were pretty applicable so they were a real thing. And so, as much as I didn’t want to believe them, I was forced to accept that they were true and real and this is something I really need to work on.  


    This was something that I decided to work on myself, and then eventually teach others when I did consulting, when I do consulting, coaching, speaking, and training for business leaders about these topics. I focus on helping them avoid such cognitive bias and make better decisions. 


    As I started to work with business leaders, I discovered that not quite all hundred types of cognitive bias were as important to them. So, for example, there’s a cognitive bias called declinism where we tend to view the past more favorably than we tend to think the current time is or the future is. Now that’s a big problem in politics when we tend to want to go back to the past, but not really a big problem in business, I’ve noticed. 


    Another one is hot hand fallacy, where we tend to think that if we experience success with a random event like, let’s say throwing some dice, we have a hot hand and we’ll experience success again. That’s a problem for gamblers, so it’s a serious problem. But it’s not a problem for business leaders. 


    Another one is called the IKEA effect. Now, we tend to place too much value on objects and things and whatever that we created ourselves and that tends to be a problem for people in their personal financial lives. I’ve seen people, including some business leaders, have difficulty with selling their house, if they have put a lot of work into it or even their car because they really overprice it.  But it’s not a problem really for everyday business situations.  


    So, I looked at the list of 100 kinds of cognitive bias. I developed a list of 30 types of cognitive bias that I saw as most relevant, most important for business leaders. And how I used it was that I gave it to my clients and I just worked with my clients to work through this list of 30 kinds of cognitive bias and see whether they were vulnerable to some of them in there, when I do personal coaching, of course with individuals, I go through their individual behaviors. When I do consulting on a whole organizational level, I do it as part of the consulting and that’s with all people and organization. And that’s called the needs analysis where I evaluate what are the problems and how they need to be addressed.  


    So that was how I used it.  And once I perfected it, once I saw that it was really good, very useful, I wrote it up. I wrote it up as an assessment on dangerous judgment errors in the workplace, so that professionals, like yourselves, perhaps, who can’t afford my personal services, can still benefit from my expertise and can still avoid the dangerous, most dangerous judgment errors in the workplace, most dangerous mental blind spots. To help them avoid business decision disasters. 


    So what I want you to do and what I think you would benefit from is to check out, first of all, the blog on the assessment. It’s linked in the notes, so you learn how to use the assessment most effectively, and so you can figure out how to use it for your needs.


    Now, as always, as part of the Wise Decision Maker Guide, my goal is to provide you with excellent value in avoiding decision disasters. I hope the assessment helps you do so, and I‘d really like to hear from you about it. What do you think of using the assessment in your professional life?  Share your thoughts in the comment section, please, and please click “like” on this episode if you appreciated this episode, share the episode with others who you care about if you care about them avoiding decision disasters. Make sure to subscribe to avoid missing content for yourself on avoiding decision disasters. 


    Now you can learn much more about this topic in my book on how to address judgment errors in business settings and maximize success, called Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters. And I suggest that if you don’t want to buy the book, you can simply sign up for my Wise Decision Maker Course, which is again linked in the notes.  All right till next time, when you get another episode of the Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Image credit: Disaster Avoidance Experts




    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    How Associations Can Improve New Member Retention


    Any association would love a membership retention rate of 75 percent. Unfortunately, according to a 2017 report cited in ASAE’s Associations Now, retention rates for all members are falling. While in 2016, 73 percent of associations surveyed in the report had retention rates above 75 percent, in 2017 only 65 percent reached that rate. The numbers for new members are even lower.


    Certainly, these numbers are concerning. Yet statistics make it hard to grasp the lived experience of new members. So let me share the story of someone who recently joined, and then left, an association.


    A New Member Story


    Sharon recently graduated college, secured a job, and joined a national association (which I won’t name) of over 30,000 members with 9 staff. Her main reasons for joining:

    • Becoming part of a community of peers
    • Networking with others
    • Accessing vetted learning opportunities

    She got a useful welcome email with resources from the association. She appreciated the discounts on webinars, her preferred method of learning as an introvert.


    In the next newsletter, Sharon saw an invitation to the annual conference. In similarity to a growing proportion of inverted millennials who prefer digital over in-person engagement, she never liked large events. 


    Sharon decided to check out the local chapter to decide whether to invest the effort and money needed to attend the national conference. Arriving at the local chapter meeting, Sharon found that existing members congregated in cliques and did not actively welcome new members. When she was live-tweeting the speaker’s talk, she overheard one older member saying to another how “kids can’t keep their hands off their phones nowadays.” The whole experience left a bad taste in her mouth and she decided to skip the annual conference. 


    Instead, Sharon decided to try to engage with the community of her peers online. She went to the association website. Shocked to see no Instagram - her favorite social media and the preferred social media of many millennials - she clicked on the Twitter button. 


    She saw that the association posted rarely, every 3-5 days, instead of the best practice of posting at least twice a day. Then, she went on Facebook, and saw that it committed the social media faux pas of simply reposting what the association posted on Twitter! 


    Her last hope: LinkedIn. To her frustration, the button on the association home page was broken. She searched around on LinkedIn and finally found the association, but saw that it - unfortunately - reposted the Twitter feed. She searched for a LinkedIn or Facebook group for her association, but couldn’t find any.


    Sharon thought about the situation. Joining the association didn’t help her achieve her goals of becoming part of a community or networking. The discounts on webinars didn’t come close to justifying. She decided to avoid renewing her membership and pay the non-member price for webinars.


    Solving New Member Retention


    How many Sharons do you have in your association? Perhaps many more than seems intuitive to you.


    Research in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics shows that our intuitions make many dangerous judgment errors called cognitive biases


    Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to address these dangerous judgment errors, whether in your professional life, your relationships, your shopping choices, or other life areas


    You need to evaluate where cognitive biases are hurting you and others in your team and organization. Then, you can use structured decision-making methods to make “good enough” daily decisions quickly; more thorough ones for moderately important choices; and an in-depth one for truly major decisions.


    Such techniques will also help you implement your decisions well, and formulate truly effective long-term strategic plans. In addition, you can develop mental habits and skills to notice cognitive biases and prevent yourself from slipping into them.


    An example of a cognitive bias that plagues new member retention is the false consensus effect, which causes us to assume that other people are more similar to us than they actually are. Thus, association leaders replace an accurate understanding of new association members with memories of ourselves as new members. We forget that millennials are more introverted and digitally oriented. 


    Another one - the overconfidence bias - causes association leaders to be excessively confident about what new members want. What if the national association sent out digital surveys asking Sharon what she wanted? What if it made her feel listened to and built a relationship, something so many millennials seek?


    It’s easy to do so using association engagement software, such as PropFuel and others. As a consultant and coach, I helped many association leaders implement effective member engagement plans that substantially improved retention.


    Perhaps if Sharon’s association did so, it would have learned of her distress - and that of many other digital natives - at the sad state of virtual engagement. Perhaps it would have learned of the problematic environment in local chapters and would have guided chapter leaders to be more welcoming of new members and digital engagement at meetings. Perhaps through engaging her and listening to her, the association could have convinced Sharon that it would change its ways to appeal to millennials like her and she would have renewed her membership.


    So how will you convince the Sharons among your new members to stay?


    Originally published by ASAE’s Associations Now 


    Image credit: Max Pixel/CC0 Public Domain


    Key Takeaway


    To improve new member retention, associations need to avoid dangerous judgment errors. An example is the overconfidence bias, which causes association leaders to be excessively confident about what new members want. ---> Click to tweet


    Questions to Consider  (please share your thoughts in the comments section)


    • How have cognitive biases such as the false consensus effect and the overconfidence bias undermined your new member retention?
    • How can you improve new member retention by addressing dangerous judgment errors?
    • What next steps will you take based on reading this article?




    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0
    5 Key Questions for Everyday Decisions (Videocast and Podcast of the “Wise Decision Maker Show”)


    How can you make everyday decisions quickly? Answer 5 key questions: 1) What info do I need? 2) What cognitive biases might harm me? 3) What would a trusted adviser say? 4) How might this fail? 5) Why might I revise this decision? This episode of the “Wise Decision Maker Show” provides a videocast and podcast about these 5 key questions that you can use to ensure you make the best everyday decisions, in business and in life.


    Videocast: “Are you prepared? || 5 Questions to Avoid Disasters in Everyday Decisions”



    Podcast: “Are you prepared? || 5 Questions to Avoid Disasters in Everyday Decisions”




    Relevant Links


    • You can download a poster for your office or get decision aids with the 5 questions for yourself and your employees here

    • The book Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters is available here.

    • You are welcome to register for the Wise Decision Maker Course and get a digital version of the assessment for free as part of the course.

    • Article on the assessment to evaluate dangerous judgment errors in your workplace.

    • Article on a thorough technique for making important decisions 

    • Article on an in-depth technique for making critically important decisions

    • Article on a thorough technique to prevent failure and maximize success when implementing decisions

    • Article on a thorough technique to make wise strategic plans

    • Article on mental skills and habits to defeat dangerous judgment errors

    Full Transcript


    Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Wise Decision Maker. Today we’ll discuss a hack for how you can make better decisions in your everyday settings, so better everyday decisions. Now, disasters in our businesses and our relationships and our personal life often result from a series of small mistakes that adding up together can lead to a lot, a lot of problems. So that’s what you want to avoid. You want to avoid problems in your everyday decision making. And this technique will you help you prevent these problems through investing very little effort, less than five minutes most of the time when you do this technique, to help you make the best decisions in everyday situations. And yes, since I often get asked, you can use this technique for major decisions if you’re facing a true emergency. But there’s much more effective techniques that are applicable to major critical decisions. So I advise you to not use this technique for major decisions unless it’s a super emergency. 


    So, I’ll admit it. I have a problem with premature email-sending. I tend to be an optimist and risk-blind, so I tend not to really focus hard on thinking about how my email can be misread in more hostile ways. I tend not to think - not to look it three times over, five times over, before I hit send. And I don’t look at the tone, all that stuff. I just don’t look at it, it’s not my intuitive nature to do that. I just want to write them quickly, you know. I get in trouble because of it. So, I’ve really gotten in trouble because of it, because I don’t look through my emails very closely, and I’ll tell you a story when I got in trouble. 


    I had a coaching client who ran a midsize growing technology company. And he wanted to acquire a smaller technology company. And they had some pretty serious concerns about his intentions to acquire this new technology company. It was an opportunity-buy, it was a sudden opportunity, you know, just came along and he was deciding to go for it. Not great from my perspective, so I wrote him an email saying that “Hey, this really doesn’t seem to align with your company’s strategy and you didn’t really seem to have done much due diligence on it. It’s very likely that this opportunity-buy will destroy value for you rather than create it, as most mergers do.” 


    So research shows that over 80% of ALL mergers and acquisitions, all mergers and acquisitions destroy value rather than creating it. You might be surprised by that but that’s what happens. You have to be very careful when you do a merger and acquisition to make sure to do it right. So I wrote my client this email and he took some offense at my criticism of his intention, his judgement, we soon ended our coaching relationship. So I was looking back at this obviously and I kind of, I look at the situation you know, what did I do wrong? What happened? And I saw that I really screwed up. I really should have phrased the email differently. Not being so transparent and direct with my concerns, but really taking my client’s interpretation of my tone, of my email into account, and have written it in a much more thoughtful manner. So I really think that I failed as a coach there because I accidentally inspired a defensive reaction in my client and that was not a good thing that’s never something I want to do, you know, either lose a client relationship or inspire an unnecessary defensive reaction. 


    So what should I have written? I should have started with expressing my excitement at the possibility of him furthering his own goals and furthering his company goals through making this acquisition. So starting with that side. And then I should have asked him, “hey, tell me, how does this acquisition fit into your broader merger and acquisition strategy? And what kind of due diligence did you do on it to make sure you didn’t end up like that other 80% - like the 80% of acquisitions and mergers that end up destroying value”. I should have asked him if he ever actually worked with this company, or if he can try out low level collaboration to make sure that there’s a culture fit. Because you know it’s really often the case there are two big problems that people don’t consider when doing mergers and acquisitions. They look at the externals, they look at the financials, they look at the technology their company possesses, if it has technology. But what they don’t look at is internal culture of the company and internal businesses, processes, and systems. So two things, internal culture, people, how they interact, and processes and systems. These internals are what most of the time cause destruction of value rather than creation of value. So this is especially likely in this sort of opportunity-buy, destruction of value rather than creation of value because you didn’t do the due diligence, you didn’t really examine it for a long time, you just see an opportunity and you go for it and seize it. 


    So, stating my worries is what lead to his bad response. Now, why would this new format, as I thought about it later not have led to this response as I realized it? Well first of all because I start the email by expressing excitement for this potential acquisition and saying that “hey, this can - you know, I’m excited about this furthering your goals, your personal goals, your company goals.” It would have placed us on the same side, would have placed us on part of the same tribe, it would have reminded him that my primary primary motivation, always, is to help him accomplish his goals and to help his company accomplish the company’s goals. Then, then I, by using curious questioning, I would have asked, you know, “hey, what is your company’s broader merger and acquisition strategy?” Now, I happen to know for a fact that he didn’t have a broader merger and acquisition strategy. BUT, by using questioning, I would have not rubbed his face into this problem, I would have posed this as something for him to think about, whether he should have a broader merger and acquisition strategy or not. And so that would’ve helped him think about this. 


    I would’ve also asked him about the due diligence of the both internals, both externals, which you pretty much do, you look at the financials, you look at the technology, you look at their various material wealth, properties, equity and so on. Now, I would’ve also asked him about the internal due diligence. Did he look at the systems and processes? Did he look at the internal culture? You know, perhaps some collaboration to evaluate internal culture and processes and systems would have been helpful. And that would have caused him to think about all of these things, to evaluate them, talk to me and/or others about them and likely, not, simply, not ending the coaching relationship, but have caused him to avoid this acquisition. Now, I know, because of checking up on this later, that the acquisition unfortunately proved pretty much a bust for my client, they were trying to acqui-hire, which is an acquisition hire. They were trying to both get the technology of the other company and just as importantly get the people who created this technology. Unfortunately they had significant culture clashes between the people of that company, between the internal culture and my client’s company, and the large majority of people ended up leaving because it was a bad fit, so they got much much less than they bargained for when they acquired that company, it was a really bad buy. 


    Now, such examples of bad decisions in everyday life, like the way I screwed up my email are very common. They usually don’t lead to the really really bad result that my email led to, but they sometimes do, of course. More often it’s more like a series of bad decisions and bad interactions that ends up leading to ruin, leading to really serious problems. Maybe I keep sending or somebody keeps sending emails with the wrong tone, with the wrong strategy, ah gosh I just had this happen. I had somebody who kept sending me emails which were really pushy. This person seemed like professional on the face, had a good Linkedin profile, had some good books published, but then he kept sending emails that were really making too many demands on me, weren’t really pushy, just asking asking asking not giving giving giving, and eventually I started ignoring him and disconnected from him on Linkedin, because, you know, I just don't wanna do that. Why would you work with someone who keeps asking and never giving? So that’s an example of where--what you don’t want to do, you want to think about how the other person interprets your emails. 


    Now, what about in the office - we talked about emails - what about communication in the office? How often have you seen minor little tensions build up over time and lead to major major office drama? Maybe you’ve participated, you know, that - it can be really serious. That’s communication in the office, not simply by email. What about when somebody skipped working, you or someone else, skipped working on important but not urgent tasks in favor of urgent and not really important tasks? We do that all the time, checking emails, going to work meetings, you know, responding to other people. But not working on important and not urgent tasks, like long-term projects over time, preparing for a presentation that’s six months away, or something like that. We often don’t do that and don’t think about these things. So that’s another problem in everyday decision making. Or let’s say time management, how often have you seen people be consistently consistently late somewhere, or not turning in their projects on time? It’s again, it’s the result of small everyday decisions that result in really big problems down the road. So added together, they really matter. And when we make the wrong choices repeatedly consistently as I did with my premature emails, this is pointing to cognitive bias problems.


    Cognitive biases are what researchers in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics like myself understand and have found recently to be the cause for a lot of little judgement errors that we make on an everyday level, as well as major major catastrophic errors that we make in major critical decisions. These errors, cognitive biases, mental blindspots, the formal scientific term for them is cognitive biases if you want to look them up on Wikipedia or somewhere else. And there’s going to be a blog linked with the 30 most common cognitive biases, to this episode so you can check them out. They - these cognitive biases are systemic and predictable errors we make as human beings, in business, in relationships, in personal life, in all other areas. And because they’re systemic and predictable, like the systemic and predictable small everyday errors, we can avoid them, we can address them, we can solve them. 


    So, given that I suffered from these problems and my clients, my coaching and consulting clients, it’s what I do, consulting, coaching, speaking, and training, we both suffered from these problems, and small, everyday level problems. So what I decided to do is create a technique, a hack, a strategy, which you can use very quickly and very effectively to address the large majority of the small everyday decision making problems. And you do that by asking yourself five critical questions, it’s a checklist, of five - five critical questions that you ask yourself before making any sort of small everyday minor decision. 


    First question, what important information did I not yet fully consider? A common danger is looking only for information - for evidence that fits your perspective. So looking for evidence that fits the perspective that, you know, “I’m writing an email that actually helps my client” as opposed to looking for evidence that “my client might misread my email”. Or, when you’re working on important - when you’re working on urgent tasks, looking for evidence that maybe these are not really important tasks, but you should be working on other tasks that are important but are not nearly as urgent. So look for evidence that disconfirms your perspective, that goes against it, because if you can find - if you can’t find evidence that goes against your perspective, you’re likely to be heading in the right direction. 


    Another problem with this important information: just what the research shows is that we tend to not generate nearly enough options in our decisions, whether on an everyday level or in major decisions. So what you want to do is generate at least five acceptable options, five acceptable options, that you think, “oh, these are good enough”, before you choose one to go with. You know, for example, if you are writing an important email you want to make five drafts or at least five ways of saying things, and think about which ways are the most effective at various segments of the email. Or if you’re trying to, you know, work - communicate with your colleagues about something minor and annoying that they’re doing, you wanna think about different ways of saying it, so that it doesn’t end up getting into a blame game, getting into a major conflict.


    And the other thing you want to do, is you want to look only at information that actually is important. It’s very easy, unfortunately too easy, to keep gathering information for some people who are analytically minded. Not me, I tend to rush to decisions, I’ll - and I tend to, this technique helps me avoid rushing to decisions. But there are some people who are really analytically minded, and who tend to gather lots and lots and lots of information, much, much, much more information than they need. So you wanna look at only important information, so that you don’t get stuck in what’s called analysis paralysis and keeping analyzing information. Ideally you’d want to decide what information is important before you actually go ahead and try to make the decision. So that’s the first question. 


    The second question: what relevant dangerous judgement errors have I not yet addressed? And I told you that there’s going to be a blog linked with the 30 most common dangerous judgement errors, and it has a link to the assessment that you can take on the 30 most dangerous judgement errors in the workplace. And so you wanna be thinking about these dangerous judgement errors, and which ones seem most applicable to the question at hand. 


    Third question: What would a trusted and objective advisor suggest I do? Now, if - you probably have a mentor of some sort, you probably have a peer who you trust, in the company or outside the company. Maybe you have someone from outside your workplace who is not a peer in your work, but who is someone whom you trust in your everyday life, you know, a spouse or someone like that, a good friend. Or perhaps you have a consultant, a coach, somebody like that who you can turn to to give you advice on these topics. So that’s one aspect of this question. The other aspect of this question if you don’t have time to consult this person, if it’s a rushed decision, or what you want to do, in this case is imagine what this person will tell you. Now, interestingly enough, when we imagine what this person who we know, imagine this specific person, very clearly, imagine her speaking to you and giving you specific advice, your trusted objective advisor, imagine her telling you, “hey, this is what I think you should do, this is what I think you’re missing,” will get actually most of the benefits of this person themselves. We can’t perfectly model this person of course, but, we can do it most of the way. So over 50% of the benefits will come from you very specifically and concretely imagining what this person would actually tell you.


    Now, the fourth question, we’re transitioning with this question from making the decision to implement the decision. The question is: how have I addressed all the ways that this decision can fail? Now, if you choose the best option, but you fall down on the implementation of that option, you know, maybe you decided on the right tone for your email, but you screw up writing the actual email. Maybe you decide to work on important not urgent things, but you keep getting distracted by the next shiny object of the urgent thing despite your intention, despite the choice that you made. There’s so many people who do that. I mean like, when somebody comes into your cubicle and says “hey, can you help me with this?” And, I’ve - I help people who can’t say no to such requests, despite them committing to working on their own important and not urgent projects, and what you need to learn is asking this question. So for example, if you have an office door you wanna keep it closed, in that sense, or pre-commit to saying that, “hey I can’t help with this because I have this really super important and urgent project - I have a super important project that needs to be done”. So something like that, and there are many techniques that you can use. But the critical thing is you want to evaluate all the ways that this can fail, and address them in advance. So, the one thing you might discover while you’re working on this is that the option you pick of the five acceptable options might not be nearly as good as you thought, because they’ll fall down on the implementation. You know, so that’s something you’ll want to be ready to recognize, admit to yourself honestly as opposed to keeping blind - going blindly with this option even - even if you don’t think it will work very well which too many people tend to do, and instead go on to choose one of the other five acceptable options that you generated early on in the process. 


    So, going on to the last question, the final question, the fifth question: what new information would cause me to revisit this decision? This is a surprisingly powerful question. Why is this? There are too many leaders I know, as again people who tend to be risk-averse and analytical, who are plagued by self-doubt, about decisions - about decisions that they made, you know, who - let’s say send the email, and they immediately think of “oh, you know, this person how can she misread this email and get mad at me” or something like that. So you don’t want to be the kind of person who is plagued by that doubt. And that’s the one problem that this question will help resolve. 


    The other problem even more common that this question helps resolve is when teams of people are making small everyday decisions. So let’s say you’re in your meeting, discussing a topic and you have some conflict around - because naturally there are conflicts around decision making. But you say, “okay, you know, this is what we’ll do”. Unfortunately what I’ve often seen happen which you’ve probably seen as well, is people who disagreed with the original decision, any time there’s a problem with the choice that was made, they keep bringing it up. They keep hashing over all decisions were made in small everyday matters and saying “oh I told you so, we shouldn’t have done this, this is going to be a problem, we should change our minds.” So you wanna avoid that. And that’s when you - that’s how you avoid it by deciding it in advance what kind of information would make you as an individual or as a team revisit this decision. So you can set a financial trigger for this, for example, “if we don’t reach thirty million in sales for your decision”. Or a survey trigger, such as “if we don’t reach 15% increase in customer satisfaction”. Or a prospect trigger such as, you know, “If we don’t secure thirty new prospects in the next three months”. All of those are ways that you can set a trigger to revisit the decision. And if your trigger is not met, then you just go ahead with the decision. So it will help you a lot down the road that’s why you should use this. 


    Now, how my clients and I tend to use this decision aid [the Five Questions] is to have it in front of us at all times - have it in front of us at all times. So I made this decision aid into the form of a four-sided folding business card so I keep one on my desk at all times and a lot of my clients do the same thing. So here it is, you see the four - you see the five questions and you see it’s a five-sided - it’s a four-sided business card size. And here I can - inspirational quote on the back “Beware of going with your gut, our intuitions are adapted for the ancient savannah and not to modern business environment and often lead to business disasters.'' So that’s another nice reminder. But the crucial thing is these five questions. So keeping these on your desk facing you when you’re typing out your email, looking at your spreadsheets, making your everyday decisions is critical. So that’s what many of my clients do. 


    Another thing that many of my clients do is hang it in the form of post upon the wall. So, oh, I forgot to say this, what something that my clients do with this is also keep it on - in their wallet.-I have it in my wallet for when I’m away from my computer and I’m making decisions elsewhere, so to remind myself. Another thing you can do with this is hang it on a poster. Print out a poster with these questions and hang it on a wall in your office for all your employees and so on. And you by the way can get this decision aid for all your employees as well. And there’s a link to where you can get the four-sided folding business cards and the poster in the show-notes to the episode. 


    Now, leaders as I mentioned often get the decision aid for all of their employees not only something for themselves, but for all of their employees, because often their employees are making these small everyday decisions all the time. When you know, everything from sending emails to working with clients and deciding, you know, how to deal with a customer service problem, working with suppliers, so on. They integrate asking these questions into their business systems. It’s a part of their business process, it’s part of their business systems. That way, if you integrate this, you can be confident that all of your employees are minimizing the risk of business disasters in their individual and team decision making processes. You can also hold your employees accountable - you can make sure they’re held accountable for asking these questions. Because if an employee fails to ask one or more of these questions. For example, if they fail to ask “how can this decision have gone wrong?” Then you can make sure that they are appropriately penalized for not following the process. That is a simple process, if they don’t follow the process they can be penalized, it’s under their control. 


    However if a decision went wrong, that resulted in a serious problem, in a way that wasn’t under their control, that they could not have realistically predicted. You know, sudden tariffs hit and they couldn’t have predicted these tariffs. Or you know, there was a tornado and their supplies got delayed or something like that. They can’t predict these things. Then you should hold the employee blameless even if a problem - a serious problem occurred as a result of their everyday decision making if they couldn’t have predicted them and if they actually did ask the questions.


    So having a shared approach to decision making will enable everyone in your company to also be more efficient in their decision making as a team in a team activity. So what a lot of leaders do is make sure to ask all their employees before any meetings, where usually decisions have to be taking place, at least some decisions, they make sure - they ask their employees to think about these decisions in advance and answer these five questions. And then in the meeting themselves they of course have the four-sided business cards in front of all of the employees when they’re holding the meeting. And they use the four-side, the business cards with the five questions to structure the meeting agenda. It’s a natural structure for the meeting agenda. You go through all five questions and then you commit to the decision.


    So that’s a very very effective mechanism that makes your meetings much shorter because you know what questions to ask. Knowing what questions to ask is often the most critical and problematic part of making a decision. And knowing these questions and knowing that you’re going to be asking these questions makes things much easier and more efficient down the road. 


    So, additionally everyone has much more confidence in the decisions that they make because they follow a shared process. It’s transparent, it’s clear, you know how you evaluate information and how you make the decisions. Now, I don’t think that we like to say this, but as I mentioned at the beginning, if you are in a real slam, if it’s a real emergency, you can use these five questions for making major, major, major decisions. So for example, if you’re having a meeting with a business colleague and the business colleague makes a sudden unexpected proposal to you, and says you know, for some reason, for you know, whatever random reason, it’s only available in this period of time when you can trust that that they’re not trying to screw you, that, you know, it really is available for only a short period of time. But you can take less than five minutes to ask these five questions. You know, you’re going to almost almost almost always be in a situation where you can ask the five questions. You shouldn’t ask the five questions if, you know, if you’re about to get hit by a bus. You should just jump out of the way of the bus. BUT, if you are making any sort of business decision, there’s almost never a time when you don’t have the time to ask yourself these five questions. Just ask for a break in the meeting, go out of the room, ask yourself these five questions, analyze them and come back. Easy enough. If you think that the break for asking the five questions would be problematic, ask to go to the restroom. Say you need a bit of time to think about it, whatever, easy enough. 


    Cool, so, I want you to check out the blog on asking these five questions. I, of course, went over them. I suggest you read the blog, it has a lot of links to a number of principles, basic principles behind why these questions work, the research around these questions, as well as links to other effective decision making techniques that you can use for more important critical decision making processes. And I’ll also link one of these in the show notes in the episode. I’ll also have a link to where you can get the four-sided business cards as well as the poster. 


    Now, my goal as always is to provide you with outstanding value in avoiding decision disasters and making the best and most profitable decisions. I hope I’ve been successful in this episode, and I want to ask you to share your thoughts on whether I have been successful. Share your thoughts on the episode. Share where and how you might find yourself using these five questions technique. Click “like” if you like this episode. Make sure to subscribe if you haven’t yet, to avoid missing content that will help you defeat cognitive biases and make the wisest decisions. You can learn much more about this in my book on this topic on how you avoid cognitive biases and make the wisest decisions called “Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters”. Now, I can also offer you a few resources which will be linked in the show notes: a signup to my Wise Decision Maker Course, which gives you the fundamental basic principles of wise decision making. I hope to see you on the next episode of “The Wise Decision Maker”, and I wish for you to have the wisest decisions, my friends.


    Image credit: Disaster Avoidance Experts





    Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowers you to avoid business disasters as CEO of the boutique consulting, coaching, and training firm Disaster Avoidance Experts. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut, The Blindspots Between Us, and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook. Tsipursky’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training experience across North America, Europe, and Australia. It also comes from his strong research and teaching background in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience with over 15 years in academia, including 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University, with dozens of peer-reviewed academic publications. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Most importantly, help yourself avoid disasters and maximize success, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace, by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Guide.


    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:44:35 +0000 0