The Undoing Project unwrapped part 1 – a close look at decision-making

A warning about this blog: As many of you know, I can, at times be “Dr. Bill,” meaning I can get into nerdy things that I find fascinating and others may not. This is a nerdy blog.

I have been reading a book called “The Undoing Project,” by Michael Lewis. The book is a history of the unlikely partnership between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky that produced some of the most important research on how we humans make decisions.

Fortunately, the book is more than just a biography. “The Undoing Project” also describes, in relatively accessible language, the content of their work, particularly how various human traits systematically impede our decision-making.

Kahneman won a Nobel prize for this work (Tversky died shortly before the prize was awarded). I first encountered Kahneman and Tversky as part of my doctoral work at Stanford. Tversky actually, was a Stanford professor when I was there, though I never took any of his classes.

My dissertation was a study of how formal training in “rational decision-making” influenced the way people made decisions. The premise was that companies were spending billions to train people in formal decision-making techniques, but the descriptive literature on organizations showed that no one used these techniques.

The goal of my dissertation was to find out if the training had any impact at all. My research showed that training in management decision-making did not improve the efficiency or quality of decision-making, but had other important impacts (more on that later).

Kahneman and Tversky provided one of the explanations for why people did not consistently practice rational decision-making. So, I was an instant fan of their work.

Now, some 30 years later, it’s great to see this book about them and their work. I have several take-aways from “The Undoing Project” that are directly relevant to Cerebyte’s work in general and particularly our work in leadership development, which I will discuss in my next blog post.

Check back in later this week for Part 2 of The Undoing Project Unwrapped.


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