Book Review: “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”

by Mario on July 11, 2009

in General Leadership,Learning,Opinion

Ori and Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” is another excellent read on human behavior that can add to your understanding of how people make (or don’t make) decisions. There are reasons that seasoned professionals, from all backgrounds and disciplines, make otherwise senseless decisions; and none of us are immune. A successful businessman can hold on to a dying stock against the advice of his peers and professionals and lose his fortune. An ER doctor may just ignore everything she ever learned about patient diagnosis and cause the death of a child. An airline pilot can make a decision that goes against everything he has ever learned or taught about flight safety, ignore the warnings of his flight crew, and kill everyone on board his aircraft.
But fortunes and lives don’t have to be at stake for irrationality to have an effect on our daily lives. “Sway” explores how the power of our aversion towards loss, our dedication to fairness, the power inherent in groups, diagnosis bias (prejudging a situation), and value attribution can ruin our decisions about everything from

sway-coverOri and Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” is another excellent read on human behavior that can add to your understanding of how people make (or don’t make) decisions. There are reasons that seasoned professionals, from all backgrounds and disciplines, make otherwise senseless decisions; and none of us are immune. A successful businessman can hold on to a dying stock against the advice of his peers and professionals and lose his fortune. An ER doctor may just ignore everything she ever learned about patient diagnosis and cause the death of a child. An airline pilot can make a decision that goes against everything he has ever learned or taught about flight safety, ignore the warnings of his flight crew, and kill everyone on board his aircraft.

But fortunes and lives don’t have to be at stake for irrationality to have an effect on our daily lives. “Sway” explores how the power of our aversion towards loss, our dedication to fairness, the power inherent in groups, diagnosis bias (prejudging a situation), and value attribution can ruin our decisions about everything from compensation plans and hiring decisions to the price we pay for groceries.

Though the Brafman’s book does seem to rehash some of the same research covered in books like “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell and another must read “Deep Survival” by Lawrence Gonzales – it provides fresh perspective on how irrationality  can be predicted and possibly avoided in all areas of your life.

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  • http://edbrenegar.typepad.com Ed Brenegar

    Mario,
    My “gut feel” that I continue to test by experience is that people don’t think first, but rather feel first, and their thinking is basically a rationalization of what they feel they want to do.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about this related to risk. Some people are risk-phobic and others are risk junkies. Both are responding some emotional pull based on a combination of hormonal and environment (past experience) conditioning. Logic and rationality, objectivity, alignment and integration of thought with action are not applicable.

    As I’ve thought about this, it has brought me back to Aristotle’s golden mean approach that rationally moderates the two extremes. I’m not totally convinced yet, but on headed that way.

    I look forward to reading Sway when I get a chance. Thanks.

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