January 11, 2021

You are not so smart by David McRane‪y‬

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco

From the bookblurb

"Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out"

In this episode I talk about some of the topics that left me surprised and how they relate to how we lead and how we interact in our work environment.

Where to find the book


Episode Transcript

Episode 6 You are not so smart.

Are werational human being, and we see the world, logically, as it really is, or arewe all deluded? Welcome to. that's what you read. I'm Valentina, and like everytwo weeks today we're gonna talk about You're not so smart, by David Mcrainey,the reasons why we have too many friends on Facebook why our memories mostlyfiction and 46 other ways we are deluding ourselves regularly. The book is justwhat the title says:  a list of 48 waysin which we are deluding ourselves. 48 misconceptions that we believe, clearlyand scientifically debunked.

The weresome where I was shocked. I have to say, I consider myself a person of averageintelligence and enough introspection. So, when I read that actually, I have hindsightbias where I believe I knew things all along, even though I didn't, and that mymind let's go off the hardest memory just to keep myself sane, and that I amimpacted by what I see in the world, and I'm not that rational… well, that washard to accept at the beginning.

I won'thave time to go through all of the 48 biases today. So, if you are interestedin knowing more, I really recommend you pick up the book, but there are a fewthat I would really want to cover and talk about, in particular, confirmationbias embodied cognition groupthink, the Dunning Kruger effect and surface and self-servicebias.

Why these?  because they impact us more than we think,especially in work environment hiring and team management. I think I don't haveto go too much in detail in regarding confirmation bias, we by now should allhave heard, you all have heard what you all have heard about it. We go look forinformation that confirms what we think. If we start with an idea in mind, andthen we start doing research, we will tend to look for things to prove it, anddiscard or consider exception what doesn't fit our narrative. It's interesting,because while I was aware that it impacts us when we do research, I didn'trealize that it can also impact how we judge and perceive people. One of theexperiments cited in the book shows that what we read or find out about aperson. For example, a candidate or a job candidate or a client or somebodythat we're about to meet can impact the perception that we have about thatperson did particular experiment mentioned how, when people read aboutextroverted characteristics of this person, they thought she was more suitablefor a type of client facing role, while where they were exposed to introvertedmessages and characteristic from this person, they thought she was more suitedto be a librarian. And this that made me reflect about how we potentially getconfirmation bias from what we search, about candidates that we areinterviewing for. And we are interviewing. When we look at their social media,their LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever else because let's admit it, we all dothat. And, as a person that has been going through recruiting, as well, I amwondering, then how what I write and put out there in social media ispotentially priming other people for the way they see me, and also create thistype of confirmation bias, and I knew about the power of social media toconvince us of information that might not actually be true I just didn't thinkthat it would be so pervasive. Also, when we actually end up having this personin front of us another fact that is often combined with confirmation bias isembodied cognition. Embodied cognition means that we tend to associate mentallypeople to jobs that fit, jobs or shouldn't say jobs to characteristics that fitthe stereotype, and the images that we have in mind. What do I mean by that,people wearing bright colours are seen as energetic and extroverted peoplewearing red might be perceived as confrontational people wearing a morebusiness type of outfit could be seen by carrying more charisma and leadership qualities?So, because that's the main image that we have of a leader of a fighter is ofan extroverted person, that’s how we tend to judge the people that we have infront of us. Scary.

To behonest, I'm not saying that we should change the way we dress, I think it'sgood to be aware of both when we're talking to people and both, we are going tointerview or in a meeting where we really create relationship with people inthe work environment if we've been judging them positively or negatively forthe way the dress, act, the accessories they carry and their environment.

The otherinteresting part that I was surprised about is the Dunning Kruger effect, andthe self-serving bias. Basically, they are two different ways in which ourbrain makes us thinks that we're smarter than we actually are. The less we knowthe more we overestimate our knowledge, the more we know the more we areimpacted by imposter syndrome. Funny. I would have loved to see here the researchby gender. There is this concept, when we think about gender that women areless open to share. We know that they don't apply for jobs unless they fit 90%of the criteria and all of that. So, I was left wondering if that's becausewe're less impacted by the Dunning Kruger effect and we have a more realisticview of ourselves. Like we are maybe harsher on ourselves and we judge ourcapacity capabilities comparing to a higher bar than men. Or, if we are also subjectedto the Dunning Kruger effect in our mind. We just don't externalize it as muchas men do.

When itcomes to speaking out in meetings, self-marketing, talking about our successes,and of course job application group think it's another one that it'sinteresting because we all know that we tend to want to avoid conflict andwhenever there is a meeting a decision that needs to be taken, especially whenpeople are in the same room, we are impacted by groupthink. People around youmight be thinking something very, again, very contrary to what's being said,but they might not be open to voice their concern for fear of conflict as a said,or repercussion, or not wanting to stir the pot, or drag the meeting longerthan it's needed, or any other type of reason because they're not comfortablewith it. On the other hand, it's now been proven that conflict and debate andhealthy, healthy conflict and debates actually improve the quality of thedecision that we take. So, even though we think we are being open, honest andoutspoken, it's hard. I know myself that there have been occasions where Ididn't agree at all with what was being said. Yet I had this concept in my mindthat I was the only person disagreeing and, well, wasn't worth bringing it up.Who knows? Now when I think about it, maybe I should have, I mean not maybeactually definitely I should have. It could have led other people to open up aswell and share and have a healthy debate and come, potentially to a betteroutcome.

So, one waythat McRaney suggests, is to have a designated pot stirrer. What do I mean withthat? I mean, designate a person to be the one to be devil's advocate, givesomeone in the team, the task of voicing the most contrary unpopular opinionthat he can think of, or even several and see what happens to the group dynamiconce the first objection has been raised. Now, this isn't said in the book, butfrom my experience I would strongly suggest that you rotate the person andstart with someone that feels comfortable being the devil's advocate. And also,go through the whole team, your whole team, or all of the peers that you havein the group, over a quarter a month or whatever how many meetings, you mighthave. So, don't let people that are not comfortable, off the hook. Sure, don'tstart with them. Normalize the fact that bringing up challenging opinions iswelcome. And then let everybody experience the freedom of having an opposing thoughtand having a healthy debate.

The lastpoint I want to talk about, and honestly, I had to do a very, very thorough selectionof all the myths that I wanted to dispel, as there are so many and they're sointeresting. But the last one that I want to mention is priming. Now, for theones that don't know what priming is, basically it means that we are not soaware of how and when we're being influenced as much as we think we are. We arecompletely unaware of the constant impulse nudging that we receive from ideas formedin our unconscious mind generated by our environment. And what I mean by ourenvironment, it’s smells it's the texture of things that are around us. Itsounds, it's visual clues, literally anything that it's around us it's apotential reason for priming. It's all around us, it was officially discoveredI believe, as a marketing technique before it was studied, from a scientificpoint of view, and it's been proven that it works. It works best when we are onautopilot, because we are not consciously thinking about a topic, so thinkabout driving on your commute back home from work or doing mundane tasks. Thoseare the moments when we are perfect for priming that's why it's also so oftenused in supermarkets and these types of areas. It also works because and thosestimuli don't only impact us on the spot, they will be recalled by our brainfor quite a while after so something that we hear on the radio, as we aredriving on our commute might be priming us for an activity that will a reactionthat we will have later on in the evening priming also works. When we aretalking to other people, the typical example in the workplace is negotiation,we all know that priming and dropping hints and creating a certain settingworks best in certain cases to impact the outcome you want to have. I mean Icould cite quite a long list of stimulus and situations, what I'm thinking thatit's very common and fairly innocuous is having hard discussion on a walk. Wellfirst walking side by side so you're priming the person to be feel equal andthen then kind of opened and then the environment is relaxing and so on and soforth. Think about restaurants that want you for example to stay longer spentmore money and have a relaxed atmosphere, the dim light the smells. That's whywe choose those type of places for first dates and such. But think about alsothe type of place you are organizing your next conference, when you need tohave a meeting which requires a hard decision. Is it well lit? Is it too dark?Is it too cold? Is it too hot? How are things set up, what's the structure ofthe room, where are you wearing what kind of music….

A positivething that I've seen happening is priming for energy. We all know that being onzoom for endless meeting it's exhausting. We're all zoomed out as we say thesedays. Yet music is an intense source of priming stimulus. So, exposing thepeople in the conference in the meeting to energetic music upbeat music, musicthat makes them act or that brings up this memory of action, because of thebeat, will automatically make people feel more energized and more open to speakup and interact when they're back.

The onlything that I just want to mention in addition is that unfortunately self-primingdoesn't work. Otherwise, life would be really easy. Do I need to work out and Idon't want to? Then I will just put rock in the background, and then do mykickboxing workout without complain. Now that doesn't work. I wish it did, butit doesn't. Priming has to be subconscious to work. This doesn't mean that thetype of atmosphere that we create around us, and the music that we listen tothe type of atmosphere that we have, what we see, isn’t impacting. We know itis. There are several other psychological effects there, even though it's notnecessarily full priming, that support us because we are creating basically apositive feedback loop so it's still worth having upbeat energetic music whenwe want to wake up in the morning put create a relaxing environment where wewant to chill down in the evening. Pump ourselves up in one way or another withpower colours or power clothes. Power music before a big meeting or bignegotiation, and the likes. At the same time, it's just a positive feedbackloop, loop, it can give us energy, but we can't prime ourselves.

I hope youhave enjoyed this episode, talking about the different biases. Most likely, Iwill look at the metrics for this, and I will tend to ignore any random chanceand try to find the meaning in the pattern, what is called the Texassharpshooter fallacy another one of the biases. So maybe the best way is to letme know if you have enjoyed this type of content and you want to hear more ofit or if you want to maybe hear more about other types of biases which arementioned in the book.

For moreupdates on books, leadership styles, productivity techniques and the like andsome very interesting interviews. And some interesting author interviews,follow me on Apple podcast, Spotify, or any other platform when you get yourpodcast from, and I'll talk to you in two weeks.

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Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
inclusive leader

I'm a connector, leader, change-maker, mother and coach. My experience of going through many burnouts motivated me to find solutions to improve the culture in the workplace and achieve more.

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