Magazine article Management Today

Books: Why Don't People Make Good Choices?

Magazine article Management Today

Books: Why Don't People Make Good Choices?

Article excerpt

In our complex world, many things stand in the way of making the right call. Jon Moulton on a thoughtful look at how to improve decision making.

Eyes Wide Open How to make smart decisions in a confusing world

Noreena Hertz

William Collins, pounds 14.99

This book is about the difficulties of taking correct decisions. It covers the traditional issues of decision making while overlaying the new tools and challenges that the internet and social media provide. It is well written and is in easy-to-follow language. It is also sensibly structured, comprising manageable pieces of information and advice.

It certainly does not lack ambition - the first section is modestly entitled This Decision Will Change Your Life, with a certainty that, in fairness, is not present in the text. Fallibility of data, bias, logic and statistics are frequently discussed in the text and Noreena Hertz leaves the reader in no doubt that error is inevitable in decision making, and indeed that error, if thought about, may make for better future decision making.

I may be benefiting from much painful error in my own decisions but I quite regularly spotted in the text my all too frequently made mistakes: pace, fatigue, quantity of decision rather than quality, bias towards believing experts, and being all too easily swayed by the not really relevant or by social pressures. Perhaps it may 'Change my Life' to be reminded of these, but I doubt it will - the fleeting pleasure of interpreting everything as showing how right you were is always going to subvert the fun-free, detached and relentlessly logical process we all know we should follow.

(I speak as a chess player, chartered accountant and long-married husband.)

Much of the book's material is a useful accumulation of data that some readers will be at least partly familiar with. There are numerous short descriptions of experimental and real-world efforts at behavioural analysis, mostly showing how the trivial can dominate substance, and these are entertainingly presented. Never again, for example, will I try to peddle a financial product without ensuring we have a green background to the presentation slides. Our office is also to acquire a more prestigious odour (a common problem in these days of the gym before work). There is some genuinely good stuff here that is well worth thinking about.

The newer material is about the online world. Most of us are all too aware of the extreme difficulty that vast volumes of stuff thrown at us by email and social media present when it comes to prioritising response, retention and reaction. …

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