In our Decision Making series we have addressed how human bias affects our decision making and how we can improve our own decision making skills.
In the last blog of the series, we’ll be looking at how we can better influence others’ behaviour and decisions. Being able to present an idea or concept in a favourable light to get “buy-in” from your team is a crucial skill to possess. When we come up with an idea that we think is good, we will have performed all the necessary research and weighed up the pros and cons to come to a particular conclusion. However convincing a room full of people that you have a good idea is a little harder.
Understanding the different techniques we use on a day to day basis to make decisions and how best to present information can help you better influence others’ decision making.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
When presented with two options which are exactly the same but presented differently we tend to choose the option that means taking minimal risk and one that emphasises the benefits over the negative implications. This is what we refer to as ‘framing’. For example you are more likely to choose a dieting plan if it states ‘90% of people lost a significant amount of weight in just a few weeks’, rather than a plan that states ‘only 10% did not lose any weight at all’.
People are often surprised that Terrarium they couldn’t get their team on board with a fantastic idea they’ve had but this often boils down to how they have pitched their idea. In ‘Prospect Theory: An analysis of Decision under Risk’ Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote it is the way something is presented rather than the actual worth that influences people’s behaviour. So next time you’re pitching an idea, focus on how you want to present it rather than solely focusing on what it’s worth. If you present an idea positively, people will make positive associations. On the other hand if you highlight the negatives of an idea they’re not likely to buy into it.
A Motivational Nudge
The nudge theory is a concept based upon encouraging a particular choice through positive reinforcement and suggestion, without taking away the person’s option to choose. For instance telling people they cannot eat unhealthy food will not illicit the same response as providing more readily available and affordable healthier options. People may choose the healthy option when it’s presented to them and not necessarily from being told to not eat unhealthy food.
There are organisations dedicated to using this technique on a much bigger scale. The nudge theory has been used successfully by the Behavioural Insights Team, also known as ‘the world’s first nudge unit’. Like the name suggests, they use the nudge theory to improve the outcomes of policies implemented by the government and other public sector organisations, and publish studies to show how the nudge theory can increase public engagement i.e. how to incentivise people to register to vote.
We make decisions every minute of every day and when we do we usually make them fairly quickly. These decisions can range from what you’re having for breakfast to when you get up in the morning to what brand of biscuits you’ll purchase at the supermarket. The way we make these decisions is through a heuristic process; mental shortcuts that have been developed through trial and error and associations. We all have a set of associations that aid our decision making. This comes in handy when posed with many options, a problem sometimes referred to as ‘cognitive load’. When presented with too many options we are unable to make a considered, rational decision.
For example when pitching an idea, if you make associations with a previously successful idea, people will tend to act more positively towards the new idea, even when they are completely different. People are inclined to make a prediction based on what’s happened before rather than make a rational decision based on the information presented to them.
There are many things to consider when thinking about how to influence other people’s behaviours and decisions. We’ve highlighted how different techniques can affect people’s decision making and how you can utilise these to garner a positive response to your ideas.
Presenting your ideas in a favourable light and understanding how mental shortcuts and associations can affect people’s decision making can enable you to gain the results you want. Now are you ready to pitch your ideas?
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