"Less is more" but what a struggle!

Instinctively, when I started writing this blog post, my first reaction was to go in search of other sources, other material that could help me enrich my ideas.

How Klotz's book came about

And I find it really hard to think of enrichment in any other way than adding more reading to multiply my thoughts, hard to reverse the bias that leads me to believe that only by adding I will improve. Leidy Klotz of Virginia University tells us that he had the same reaction when, playing with his two-and-a-half-year-old son to build a Lego bridge and trying to improve it, he went looking for bricks to add, finding, on his return, the bridge improved by his son who had instead had removed bricks. This observation allowed him to arrive at the intuition that in his response to the problem of the Lego bridge, there was an automatism, a forced association between solving a problem and adding. So, to improve the management of a project, we add procedures, to improve the results of our company we add products or more resources, to improve our effectiveness we work longer hours, we make endless lists of things to do.  But what if the opposite were true? What if we had been thinking all our lives about solving problems as a matter of addition, when it is more a matter of taking away, lightening up, leaving the essentials, and therefore having less full agendas, streamlining procedures, reducing working hours, etc., as Leidy Klotz suggests in his book "Subtract"?


The addition bias

Klotz's little son acts according to a natural instinct, subtracting bricks. But as we grow up, this ability to perceive problem solving as subtraction is lost and the addition bias remains. Observation of nature teaches us that subtraction and addition are natural processes. Life regenerates itself after what has completed its cycle is abandoned, dies, leaves space. Winter is needed so that the productive part of the topsoil can taste this emptiness and prepare itself for a new season of fertility, with less pests and diseases.  The book Subtract suggests that subtraction is not only the solution to our individual or work problems, but that it also works well on a social level: the solution to inequality and racism might be to take away privileges instead of giving them to everyone, the solution to ecological buildings might be to remove inefficient factors in old buildings rather than build new energy efficient ones, etc.

Be careful though: subtraction does not mean "easier". Adding is often much easier. Even when we think about it, subtraction can be harder to do because a number of biological, cultural and economic forces push us towards addition.

But we do have a choice to end this blind spot, and that is that by being aware of our addition bias we can choose to do it differently....



IKEA effect: when work leads to love

The IKEA effect


The title of this week's bias recalls the research conducted at Harvard by M. Norton, D. Mochon and D. Ariely. Ariely, in which the participants were asked to assemble products, fold origami and build Lego elements. This study showed how, once the assemblies were produced, the estimated value of their work became much greater or equal to that of similar works produced by experts. This is what the IKEA effect is all about: placing a high value on what we have helped to build, in direct relation to the effort and difficulty required to build it.

The implications of this effect in the company


The origin of the name is clear and evokes afternoons spent assembling Billy bookcases, Malm beds, Smastad children's desks, a little regretting not having opted for a home assembly service. The time, energy and effort we put into assembling a piece of furniture makes it invaluable in our eyes, and this applies to everything we have built ourselves. Dan Ariely examines the IKEA effect on sales of cake mixes. When all you have to do in the bag is add water and bake, the product is not successful. Just make it more difficult, such as asking the consumer to add eggs or milk before baking, and immediately the product becomes more attractive. The implications of this effect in the company are interesting, particularly when thinking about product co-creation, which is indeed a trend in recent years. The increase in value due to the difficulty of construction has however a limit, different for each subject, which is given by the point of abandonment: when the construction becomes too difficult, we risk getting discouraged and giving up, in this way the object loses all its value.

The risk


Another interesting implication is on motivation and job satisfaction. It is interesting for managers to find the right mix of difficulty in the objectives, which allows those who achieve them to feel their value. The risk, that once we have made a great effort to contribute to the achievement, the perceived value is much higher than the objective value and therefore the rewards are not perceived as fair. Another risk, related to this effect, is to struggle to abandon an idea just because we have formed it through readings, conversations, energy and effort, or to have to abandon a bad project, on which we have already spent many hours...

The Barnum Effect

During the past year, which has been very special, we have been studying intensively and creating new partnerships.

Unconscious bias


We are about to launch an important project on the subject of unconscious bias, heuristics, illusions and fallacies, together with our partner BB7. It is a game to learn in a fun way how to recognise our thought processes and avoid their traps. Through the game, behavioural economics becomes fun and nothing will ever be the same again!

We will also be blogging about this matter, in particular we will share one bias, one illusion, one effect per week, to explore this fascinating topic.

We could have started with the best known ones, anchoring, stereotypes, the Dunning-Kruger effect... but the Barnum effect is one of the ones that made us laugh the most during the months of preparation for the game, so we think it's a great start!

The Barnum effect


Have you ever read your horoscope and said "but it's really me, it really is, it's talking about my personality exactly!". Underlying this reaction are two different biases: personalisation bias (believing that something that is written in a newspaper or on a website is aimed specifically at us) and selection bias (the phrases in the horoscope are sufficiently general and positive that we want to believe them. The Barnum effect could also be the one that makes us believe that our personality matches the profile of a test.  Even tests that are widely used in business, such as the MBTI, according to neuroscientist Albert Moukheiber have no scientific validity, because if they are replicated they do not yield the same results. The Barnum effect leads us to believe that our personality is described in depth, but in reality it is a third type of bias, that of authority, which makes us believe the words of the psychologist or consultant who is communicating the result to us.

This effect is also used by readers of tarot cards, cards, coffee grounds and so on, but not only: companies such as Netflix and Spotify also use it to make us believe that the service is personalised, that it is made just for us.

In order to avoid falling into this trap, it is important to activate rational thought and ask ourselves how it is possible that, for example, given the number of Aries reading the newspaper at that moment, the horoscope talks about our day. :-)


Photo credit Alessandra Vitelli Illustratrice