(credit: Kurt Komoda)

Good processes and bad outcomes

Even good processes can lead to tragedies — we should not let hindsight bias make us believe otherwise

When you think about it, your personal life is actually quite complex. You’re faced with a huge number of possibilities pretty much every waking minute of the day. How on earth can you, every time, make a choice that is in your best interest?

When things go wrong

Imagine I take the top T-shirt from the pile to wear to a garden party one afternoon. Pretty standard issue, no offensive slogan on the front, so it easily passes my ‘is it OK?’ test. A few hours later, helpful as I am, I am carrying a tray full of glasses outside. Then the sleeve of my T-shirt gets caught on a door handle. Unable to keep my balance, I stumble, and I let go of the tray. Mayhem ensues: I fall to the floor amidst the breaking glass, suffering a large cut on my arm, and worst of all, breaking my phone.

Not suitable for children’s parties, probably, but what about the sleeves? — source

Tragedies: triggers for our thinking (but no more than that)

There is only one fact that should not figure in this enquiry: the fact that the person who was on temporary release committed four murders. Because he was not the murderer at the time of the release — he was the eventual murderer. We all know that now with certainty, but nobody knew this at the time the decision was being made. Nobody could therefore have taken this fact into account at the time.

A trigger for our thinking, but not a guide — photo: Cory Doctorow

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius