Well the last thing I want to do is to be a buzz kill! I hope I am not giving that impression — quite the contrary. I have the advantage over Kahneman that I am neither a psychologist nor an economist, and so I have no vested interest to defend, or an emotional connection with the subject area.

I am quite happy with my biases, and so should everyone else be: as I say, they’ve served us well for centuries, and they’ve not suddenly become destructive. The problem is not our biases, but the fact that our environment has become more complex, and our biases haven’t adapted yet.

It’s only when they lead to wrong outcomes — wrong in your view, that is, not anyone else’s! — that it’s worth thinking about doing something. Being aware of the situations where biases might mislead you is similar to being aware when your innate taste for sugar and fat might entice you to gorge on donuts, waffles or biscuits. We shouldn’t seek to eliminate either, or even blame them for our predicament.

Instead, we can use BS (the good kind!) to help us avoid the worst. I am quite partial to a biscuit with my cup of tea in front of the TV (well mostly reading stuff on my tablet with the TV on in the background) of an evening. Unfortunately, with the whole biscuit tin open within reach, it’s easy to mindlessly keep going until there are none left. So for the last couple of months I have been taking not just the tin, but also a small plate. Before I sit down transfer 3 (well, sometimes 4 if they’re small ones) biscuits onto the plate, and put the lid back on the tin. And this extra hurdle — simply the fact that if I want more, I have to open the tin again, even with it sitting right in front of me — is enough to make me stick to the 3 (or 4).

Now, if that is not a great example of using the status quo bias to my advantage… :-)

So do celebrate your biases, rather than feel down about them. They’re tools you can choose to use in your interest!

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

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