As a speaker on irrationality I obviously owe a great debt to Dan Ariely who – along with other great thinkers such as Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – have done a huge amount to research and popularise this subject.As a poker player and not someone who has spent my life academically studying this subject, I cannot compete with these titans of economics and psychology. But I see my job as a speaker on irrationality, NOT as a pioneer in the same way but as a champion, evangelist and disseminator of such theories.So how irrational are we as human beings and how can any speaker on irrationality help us make better decisions?
Well, have think about this: we’re scared of flying when the most dangerous part of any flight is the car journey to the airport, and we’re all terrified of terrorist attack when we’re 1000 times more likely to die of stroke.
In business we place huge emotional emphasis onto sunk costs that we’ll never get back when we should be thinking more rationally about the future – because it’s here that the results of our decisions are actually going to play out.
None of which is to say that one 60 minute speech is going to rid us of all such biases! And neither, if I’m totally honest, do I think it should. There is a tendency of some of the thinking and literature on this subject to hold up a completely unrealistic rational model as the perfect decision making mechanism which is to deny the inherent beauty of human beings – that is, their capacity for emotion!My contribution to this subject is the coining of the term “rational-emotional” decision making,, and as a speaker on irrationality I have tried to popularise this to a broad audience worldwide. I hold that many of the decisions we make are ultimately going to come down to personal preference over and above objective truth. Indeed – to get a little technical for a moment – that is precisely the way we maximise our own utility expectations.What all of this means, ultimately, is that the best thing we can do is BE AWARE of how irrational we are and constantly ask ourselves how well it serves us. I believe that the most meaningful thing that any team can do is ultimately to TALK about these things with a calibrated language, and that as a speaker on irrationality the best thing I can do is start that conversation.