The Smarter People Blog

Human Capital Analtyics thoughts, views and opinion, from SPP thought leadership and industry experts.

Do You Use the Logic of Failure to Succeed?

Logic of Failure

In The Logic of Failure, German psychologist Dietrich Dörner summarized experiments on how people deal with complex systems. Dörner created a computer model of an imaginary country in West Africa that he called Tanaland. The people of this imaginary land depend on growing crops, gathering fruit, and herding sheep and cattle. Participants in Dörner’s experiment were given the opportunity to control certain variables of the Tanaland computer model, such as whether to use irrigation and fertilizer. Most participants quickly wiped out Tanaland’s population, but a few were able to preserve a healthy rate of growth. The differences between the experiment’s two groups, Dörner wrote, were striking: “The good participants acted more complexly. Their decisions took different aspects of the entire system into account, not just one aspect. This is clearly the more appropriate behavior in dealing with complicated systems,” he added, because complexity means there are “many interdependent variables in a given system,” which makes “it impossible to undertake only one action.”

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In-NO-vation

In-NO-vation

Creativity is unlearned, not learned. 1,600 five year olds were tested for creativity by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists, and 98% scored “highly creative.” These same children were tested 5 years later, at age 10, and that score dropped to 30%, and then 12% when they were 15. 200,000 adults took the same test, and only 2% came back as “creative.”

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Step 1: Make Smarter Decisions by Accepting Sunk Costs

Step 1: Make Smarter Decisions by Accepting Sunk Costs

One cognitive bias in human decision-making is the sunk-cost trap, or escalation of commitment. Over the past forty years, there has been lots of research focused on sunk costs and their effects on human behavior. The sunk-cost trap is a tendency for people to escalate commitment to a course of action in which they have made substantial prior investments of time, money, and other resources. With high sunk costs, people become overly committed, even if the results have been relatively poor. They have a hard time cutting their losses. Alternatively, they keep investing because the initial investment was so large and the situation continues to escalate. I’m sure you can think of both business and personal situations in which you have doubled down on a failing investment due to high sunk costs.

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7 Steps to Making Smarter Decisions

7 Steps to Making Smarter Decisions

You’re making poor decisions every day in your personal life, in business, and about your learning investments – sometimes unbeknownst to you and only because you’re human. Have you thought about how and why you make the decisions you do? There are many types of cognitive biases involved in decision making, and you fall into the traps of these biases every day. They affect all of us and are rooted in human nature; thus, they cannot be avoided. It isn’t about a lack of intelligence—it’s about being people.

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Your Grittiness Can Create a New Habit Loop

Your Grittiness Can Create a New Habit Loop
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I just finished Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. For those of you who haven’t read it, the book talks about the combination of passion and persistence—not necessarily genius—that leads to success. I scored a 4.4 on her grit scale, which means that I am grittier than about 85% (one standard deviation above the mean) of the Americans in her sample.

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I Must Confess, I’m in Love with Alexa!

I Must Confess, I’m in Love with Alexa!

Is she perfect? No way! She is sleek and attractive, though. She lights up when I talk to her and happily, switches on/off my lights when I simply ask her to do so. Alexa knows my music preferences and politely helps with my shopping and to-do lists. Alexa is my continuously evolving wife and I patiently await her perfection. If you haven’t seen Alexa in action go here.

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How to become an expert

How to become an expert

When scientists began to study expertise, they first assumed that experts must be smarter or more talented than novices, but they quickly learned that the key difference between experts and novices is not mental power, but knowledge. Cognitive psychologists Michelene Chi, Marshall Farr, and Robert Glaser have defined an expert as somebody who has a great deal of highly organized domain-specific knowledge, where a domain is a network of knowledge, such as chess, mathematics, or music. For experts, knowledge has morphed from many pieces into a unified whole. An expert can start with any piece of knowledge and explain how it fits with every other piece. I always picture the way Sherlock Holmes could start with a soil stain and, through a chain of reasoning, solve the case.

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