Dr. Rakhi Gera Bhandari
The Art of Making Choices
“To be, or not to be, that is the question” immortalized by Shakespeare's Hamlet this totally emphasizes the reality of life and multiple choices strewn along our way. Simple choices with unimportant (or so it seems) outcomes or complex choices with transformational outcomes. We are subconsciously making choices on a daily basis, from shopping to eating to dressing to watching movies. But some choices by far need more contemplation and analysis. These choices are what we deem transformational or those that may bring about a turn like choosing a career, choosing a partner to marry, choosing a job, etc.
Science of Psyche
From choosing breakfast cereals to making multi-million dollar decisions, our mind constantly weighs the risks and rewards in order to take that one decision. Subconsciously driven by past experiences, embedded stereotypes, cultural biases, preferences or simply gender differences, men and women have different emotions at play when making complex choices. In the end it is always the risk to reward rationale which is the underlying influence to help come to a decision.
In one of the lectures during MBA at CEU, Budapest, we were introduced to an intriguing research on cognitive biases by Tversky and Kahneman. The research involved two groups of people who were given an option to choose between two treatments for 600 people affected by a deadly disease.
First group: Was given a choice framed in a positive way. That medication A will save 200 people's lives and medication B has a 33% chance that no one would die but a 66% chance that everyone would die.
Second Group: Exact same choice framed in a negative way. That if medication A is chosen then 400 people will lose their lives and medication B has a 33% chance that no one would die but a 66% chance that everyone would die
Well the first group chose medication A that will clearly save lives and the second group chose medication B although the survival chances were a meek 33% (approximately 200 people only). I am trying to bring home another point that among all the emotions at play, when a choice or an option is phrased positively it usually outweighs the other choices.
Intuition over Data
We are in an age of data overload. Unlike the popular belief, more is better, too much data rather too many choices hinder decision making. Sometimes leading to a situation called Analysis Paralysis, wherein a decision is deferred because of inability to find the perfect solution. In fact, we are so dependent on data to make decisions that we often let go of our 'gut feeling', our instinct and instead rely on the data analysis provided to make our choices. This 'gut feeling'/instinct is what we can infer to as Heuristics, experiences gained over years. With data becoming king what we need to preserve and sharpen is our 'gut' feeling and let data simply guide and not lead.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control the way you think about all the events. You always have a choice. You can choose to face them with a positive mental attitude.” - Roy T. Bennett
I would like to share a video I was recommended while my tenure as a Risk analyst at Morgan Stanley. The Ex-CEO of Morgan Stanley, John Mack, talks about the anxiety and stress during the financial crisis when they were being pressurised by the US Treasury and the FED to sell the bank to J.P. Morgan for a meagre $1. Although under duress but with a focus to save thousands of employees and the reputation of one of the biggest names in the banking industry, he chose to look for outside investors and clinched a cash deal with a leading Japanese bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. The rest is an epic chronicle of triumph and success.
Some situations seem like there is no evident choice. Think hard, look for options. It may not be the one with presumably desired expectation but in the end there is always a choice. We just need to find it. Every choice we make either leads to a desired outcome or it leads to an experience which makes us wiser, adding to our heuristic ability.
There are no bad choices only outcomes to learn from.
Children of our choices
Like adults, children too need to feel empowered and in control of their life. Giving them the freedom to choose fulfills that purpose. Obviously, as parents we want the best for our children and we often believe that we make the best decisions for them. True as it may be! Every child is born with an individual persona and a mind to govern that persona.
Let them make mistakes, make choices, they will learn from it, its the beginning of developing heuristic for them. Do not stall the process. It will help them become strong individuals who will be able to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
At H2O Budapest we have offered a choice for those children to wish to expand their knowledge in the domain of programming and AI. A child may not pursue a career in Robotics or Programming but a strong foundation helps them widen logical reasoning and analytical thinking which will prepare them for any future endeavours they undertake.
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