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Showing 1-10 of 72 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on June 22, 2008
The Brothers Brafman take us on a short and interesting tour of why we do what we do. The better parts: not only do we see what we expect to see but this "expectation" bias changes the way those seen act(three groups in the military are sent to training; randomly assigned rankings from excellent to so so; their commanders are told which is which but not that it is random; and guess what---not only do the commanders rate the ones assigned a random excellent as better but the soldiers ,when later tested, aligned with their commander's pre-planted views; they conformed their performance to how the commanders perceived them); altruism is a more powerful motivator to induce a person to perform a task than money if the money offered is not commensurate with the task(Swiss citizens were ok with a nuclear dump in their town when the appeal was to citizenship but became much less so when the appeal was we will pay you to do it because the moola was not enough; it does not take much to fuel the altruism part of the brain but it takes a lot to fuel the pleasure part of the brain); and once tagged, always tagged( the draft position of NBA players dictacted playing time and length of time in league---the lower the draft pick number, the more of each). Good epilogue with some practical ideas. Also some good stuff on hiring employees. Bottom Line: know these ideas and make them work for you.
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on June 18, 2008
Each chapter of SWAY is a complete thought and a fast read. I could identify myself or others in each one. I do a lot of work with large groups and have found that each group has all the architypes in it... the exemplar who knows too much; the over committed, the labeler; the doubter and dream killers; the visionaries and the engineers. Each of the characters in this book are in any group. I will return to SWAY each time I do another large group event to remind myself to be aware of how the decisions of the group might be getting trapped by some of the habits and assumption mentioned in the book. My work will be better for having read this book.
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on April 20, 2014
In 2008, Ori and Rom Brafman reached the New York Times Bestseller list with "Sway, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior" which runs from anecdote to anecdote describing people making decisions that they think are perfectly informed by the facts, when in fact, they are perfectly informed by many other factors that sway their judgement, most of it they don't even realize. It's no secret that first impressions deeply color what comes next. It's no secret that human's have a emotional side that draws deeply from their intuition about things rather than their quantitative analysis of any given situation. Nevertheless, it's always fascinating to read these stories as it connects us to the fate of others. As long as that's understood, I have no trouble with this book. Take the story of the Stradivarius on the subway. In this encounter a world class concert violinist abandons the music hall and tuxedo (I don't even know what a concert violinist would wear) in favor of street musicians clothing performing in a subway during rush hour. Could anyone discerne a quality performance rising above the noise of their daily lives? Very few of the thousands passing by gave more than a nod...and a grand total of one person actually recognized who he was. Is this any different than driving to work in the morning with the sun in your eyes and failing to see that the light has changed from green to red? There is no difference...running that red light was no more irrational than failing to pick out a world class performance while rushing to work through a crowded subway station.

Compare and contrast that with the decision of a seasoned 747 pilot to abandon his safety checklist in order to save time and reputation. What could have possibly driven a man as seasoned and programmed as the computer sitting in front of you now, to disregard his own programming?

Very little about the human condition can be ascertained from the examples presented in this book other than, as worldly and self aware of our surroundings that we think we may be, human perception is actually very poor and significantly limited in scope. Since we are resourced constrained we tend to take the first information that we assess as necessary for our survival and filter out the rest. Which is why a first impression, will always have the biggest impact on us. No matter where that first impression originates. Once our brain does the doesn't want to go back and reclassify the information...that's hard work. Once we are swayed there is almost no turning back.

You could read all the neuro physcology books in the world and not come up with a better explanation for why it happens...why the irrational decisions shape our human existence. Take skydiving for instance. Unless you have a burning desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I doubt anyone would be able to talk you into it. Even when you've convinced yourself the odds are pretty good that you will survive the drop, it's not the odds that count. No matter how safely you prepare, no matter how many facts you read about the safety of the sport, diving out the door of an airplane at 10,000 feet is not a natural act. Plummeting through the wind at up to 200 mph is simply something that our human bodies have never considered at any time during evolutionary development. Thus, only from the irrational, can we arrive at a decision to do so.

We cannot change our irrational side. Nor should we. Through stories, not science, books like Sway give us a deeper understanding that our irrational side is real. It's our instincts that have kept us alive for 10,000 years. Therefore it's not the irresistible pull of irrational behavior that gives us a story. The real story is why can't rational behavior win in the big the tug of war going on in our brain. In small ways, understanding that which makes us human, helps us to recognize the times when we are inhuman, as with a corporate decision to lay-off 10,000 employees to balance the spreadsheet, or at a time when we need to invoke our inhuman side, like when being in command of a 747 jumbo jet and making a decision to take off in a dense fog. We've got the ability to use both sides of our brain. The trick is to decide which one it's time to use. "Sway" gives us examples of situations where we should at least consider both sides. Four Stars for a very easy read with very good stories as examples...very similar in style Gladwell.
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on August 30, 2013
This book is enriching. It will open up your eyes and cause you to look at the world differently. I think most of the readers will hear this piece or that piece in other books. However when you see it all in one place the impact increases.

There are several stories that just reinforces the obvious. One example is high expectations tends to lead to better performance. I loved the chapter about the fallacy of job interviews. He relates that to the NBA draft of 84. Then image over ruled substance and lead Portland to pass on drafting Michael Jordan. The chapter on money motivation is really interesting. Through all of these stories he does relate the story to real life.

This book is also very short. It is written in a way that will grab your attention. You will fly right through it.
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on July 8, 2009
This book covers roughly the same behavioral economics territory considered in such recent books as Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. It had been stalking me on my Amazon recommendations queue for at least a year, but I had resisted it successfully until this weekend, when I came across it in the bookstore and finally succumbed.

I'm glad I did. I wasn't expecting to learn anything new, necessarily, but neither was I expecting a book as funny and engaging as this turned out to be. The Brafman brothers are whip smart, enthusiastic guides on this brilliant overview of recent research in behavioral science. As far as I can tell, throughout the book they are engaged in summarizing results of other people's investigations (unlike Ariely or Sunstein & Cass, who are often reporting on their own, or colleagues', work). They do it very well - clearly, succinctly, and with great examples. The book doesn't discuss ways to trigger more honest behavior, as Ariely did in "Predictably Irrational", neither does it contain the kind of discussion of implications for sensible public policy that was such a strength of "Nudge". It does, however, provide a very lucid discussion of pitfalls to avoid in group decision-making.

My favorite story in the book has to be that of the French "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" audience who were apparently so disgusted by the contestant's inability to answer the question "What revolves around the earth?" that they figured he deserved to be booted, so that 56% gave the answer "the sun". It worked. Hapless Henri took the bait and was kicked off. (Russian audiences are apparently the worst on WWTBAM; regularly providing the wrong answer when polled. There is speculation that this stems from a broadly held Russian view that anyone trying to get ahead by amassing great personal wealth is, by definition, behaving anti-socially, and thus deserves to be cut down to size (the tall poppy syndrome at work)).

This is an interesting and well-executed book.
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VINE VOICEon September 1, 2008
This is an interesting, quick, thought-provoking read. The authors highlight the forces and situations that lead us to make really bad decisions -- our failure to realize that sunk costs are sunk costs, our tendency to irrationally cling to our bad decisions, once made, in hopes that things will take a 180 degree turn. The authors show how we are disproportionately influenced by anecdotal evidence rather than looking at aggregate, statistical data. One example can be more influential than a thousand data points.

Particularly interesting to me were the discussions of cultural influences on decision-making. In the US version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, for example, the audience poll yields the correct answer 90% of the time. French and Russian audiences aren't so magnaminous. Russian audiences are not likely to give the correct answer -- perhaps out of a skepticism for wealth -- and French audiences enforce a sense of meritocracy -- they will not give the correct answer to an easy/obvious question -- though they may be more willing to help out on a challenging question. French audiences won't reward poor players -- if the player is too stupid to know the anwer to an easy question, he doesn't deserve to be a millionaire.

Another interesting example of cultural influences on decision-making were illustrated by requiring participants to divide a certain amount of money fairly between themselves and another person -- if the other person accepted the division, both the giver and the receiver would keep the money. If not, both went home empty-handed. American paricipants were most inclined to split the money 50/50; the giver frequently refused to accepted a disproportionately smaller split. In other cultures, however, participants would split the booty 90/10, and the recipient gladly accepted the 10%, as it was more than he had before. What is fair and seemingly rational in one culture isn't always fair and seemingly rational in another. What exactly is a rational decision?

This book presents a compelling argument for ensuring that there's at least one devil's advocate, skeptic, naysayer, dissenter in your circle of trusted advisors and it underscores the importance of having dissenters in the workplace. Really bad things can result when decisions are not vetted by dissenters, when organizations are staffed exclusively by yes-men, when we are so intent on staying the course that we don't see the collision directly in front of us.
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on June 15, 2008
I think it is a bit of a misclassification to compare this to Blink or Freakonomics. Blink is not so much about classifying types of reasoning errors and Freakonomics is really about investigative statistical analysis than pure human thought processes. But there are several other similar books that have emerged in the last year.

If I had to pick one book on this topic I would choose How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business by Hubbard. Although Hubbard deals deals with the even broader topic of measuremeant and estimation he still gives more substantial information on human biases and how they affect our estimates and decisions. After that I place On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions as near equals on the topic.

Unlike Hubbard, the authors of Sway spend too much time on anecdotes and not enough time on the aggregate facts and statistics. Selected examples are useful for making a point but only if there is measured evidence backing up the claim that the example is somehow representative of a broader population. I would recommend reading at least one or two of the other book's I just mentioned to see the contrast.
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on April 9, 2015
Good book, good science, good stories. But I didn't find it nearly as captivating as Malcom Gladwell's books or Dan Arielly's books. This was a bit more detailed about the power of persuasion and not as entertaining as other books. I enjoyed it, but I could put it down. I can't say that for the other author's books that I mentioned.
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on March 22, 2012
Interesting book that highlights the psychology interactions that thwart are rational behavior. We see this all the time when emotional reactions trump logic to our detriment. We allow the false assumptions and beliefs to color our reactions. As always, take all books with a grain of salt and do not swallow this book and be "swayed." However, it is a book to buy.
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on December 9, 2009
This book makes for a fine introduction to irrational behavior in human beings. Ori and Rom Brafman introduce cognitive biases such as the diagnosis bias, loss aversion and the value attribution error. They do a nice job of showing how these biases affect people in their everyday lives and why they are relevant. However, if you are already familiar with psychological biases then this book will seem a bit basic to you. For example, I think Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions or Joseph T. Hallinan's book Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average are more comprehensive on this subject.

That being said, there were several interesting things covered in this book that you may not find elsewhere. One of which was what the authors called the "Bazerman Auction." This happens when people become committed to a lost cause. The example they use is LBJ and the Vietnam War. When the power of "loss aversion" and "commitment" converge they can be a devastating combination.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this book - even though it is quite short - and would recommend it to anyone unfamiliar with cognitive biases. I would also recommend reading any of these four following books if the subject matter appeals to you: The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives,Why Choose This Book?: How We Make Decisions,How We Decide or You Are What You Choose: The Habits of Mind that Really Determine How We Make Decisions.
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