All too often we human beings are under the impression that we "have it all together" and are immune from forces that surreptitiously influence our choice of friends, our approach to the work that we do and even the products that we decide to purchase. Francesca Gino would beg to differ. Francesca is a psychologist and an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. Over the years she and her colleagues at institutions of higher learning all across America have been conducting studies that clearly indicate that indeed there are subtle forces all around us that influence our behavior and ultimately cause us to unwittingly alter our plans. Francesca Gino presents these findings in her new book "Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan", You will be positively amazed at the results of some of these experiments. "Sidetracked" proves to be a real eye-opener.
If there is one overriding lesson to be gleaned from "Sidetracked" it is that just about all of us have an inaccurate view of ourselves. We tend to believe that we are smarter, more honest and more accomplished than the person sitting next to us. We often resist advice that could help us with the task at hand. This was clearly illustrated in a number of the studies conducted by the author over the years. We also believe that we are largely immune to outside forces that tend to color our decisions. Once again, the studies indicate that nothing could be further from the truth. Very subtle changes in the lighting in a room or the facial expression of a colleague at work can have a profound influence on an important decision that you are about to make. So too can the psychological closeness we have to another individual color our judgment. One of the studies in "Sidetracked" clearly indicates that such psychological closeness creates distance from one's own moral compass, causing people to view unethical behavior by such a person as less wrong. Likewise, our social bonds can unduly influence how we interpret the "facts". We may choose to continue with a questionable investment choice because it was recommended by a close friend or a relative. And of course it goes without saying that altogether too many Americans got "sidetracked" by purchasing a bigger house or a more expensive vehicle in an effort to "keep up with the Joneses." Clearly, we all need to get smarter about these things.
Meanwhile, Francesca Gino also discusses the matter of what she calls "perspective taking" which she defines as "the ability to step outside one's shoes and see the world from someone else's point of view". Clearly, this requires extra effort but the author cites the example of an "racy" advertising campaign in Argentina that backfired because the individuals that put the campaign together failed to consider the core values held by those in the targeted audience. It was an unmitigated disaster! There are so many studies cited in the book and as a reader you will relate to some more than others. I had to chuckle when I read about something called "subtle cues". Without going into a lot of detail the "subtle cues" we got from a car salesman resulted in my wife and I spending $3000 we did not intend to on an extended warranty and an alarm system we had absolutely no intention of purchasing. We had even discussed it prior to arriving at the dealership. Chances are you have had the same sort of experience.
Overall, I found "Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan" to be a very worthwhile read. I would agree with another reviewer that this book is quite similar to Dan Ariely's 2008 book "Predictably Irrational" which I read several years ago. In fact, Mr. Ariely helped to put together a number of the studies cited in this book. I must confess that at times I found some of the studies to be a bit tedious but I would largely agree with the author that we really do need to become aware of the things that tend to distract us and alter our behavior. If this is subject matter that you are largely unfamiliar with then reading "Sidetracked" would be a great way to help to get yourself up to speed. Recommended.
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