Developer Tea

Choice Frameworking

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we're talking about pros and cons lists based on what we're focusing on, either positive or negative and on the weight of our overall goals.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we're talking about pros and cons lists based on what we're focusing on, either positive or negative and the weight of our overall goals.

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Episode Transcription

We've talked about choice on the show quite a bit and in the last episode we discussed the paradox of choice. And today's episode we're going to talk about choice a little bit more and hopefully I'm going to give you some practical advice for how to make better choices like we did in the last episode but some new advice today. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose so they can have a positive influence on the people around them and so they can do better work. So connecting to your purpose is like fuel for that work that you're doing but so often we don't really choose the best place for that fuel to go and sometimes our choices are really hard to figure out. Have you ever made a pros and cons list to understand what are the good parts of this choice and what are the bad parts of this choice? This is such an interesting study topic to study because there's so many kind of sub topics and so much of the way that our brain works is wrapped up in how we make decisions. Because decisions are ultimately how we want to spend our energy, our resources, our time, decisions are about that spend. Should I take the stairs or the elevator? Should I eat an apple or a piece of cake? Should I go to university A or university B? Should I travel abroad or should I go to a resort? These are very simple examples of choices and in this case every choice that I have presented in this list only had two options. Now this is the first thing I want to talk about with choice today. Very often we create two choices that are actually only one choice. Let me explain. Very often we have a choice to either do something or to abstain from doing that thing. There isn't a second option of doing something different. We can either learn that thing or not. We can either go to that place or not. Interestingly in the choices that I presented before we very often fall back to the single choice method. In real life most of the time we present ourselves with only single choices. We talked about this on the previous episode. The idea that when you only have one choice or nothing that loss aversion may kick in, that you don't feel like you have any other good option then you're going to take the only option that has any good. You're going to take the only available option most likely. This is difficult and it's actually not very optimum for your decision making process. The recommended advice, and this is kind of a takeaway for today's episode, is to always seek at least two and preferably three, maybe four reasonably equal options. I say equal. I don't mean that they're the same thing obviously. But instead they actually compete with each other. Why do these options need to compete with each other? Well that's what we're going to talk about right after today's sponsor message. Today's episode is sponsored by Reactor. Reactor has a K instead of a C because these folks are based in New York City but they're originally from Finland. That's where the name Reactor comes from at least. There is no C in the Finnish language. Now you know, a little bit of trivia there but Reactor has partnered with HBO, Supercell, Viacom and NeverThink to work on their biggest product challenges. They partnered with Finair to design and build the perfect digital customer journey complete with their mobile apps and a next generation in flight entertainment system and revolutionized onboard connectivity for that airline. They're developing their own satellite to explore emerging new space business opportunities from hardware to rethinking, putting code into space. This is launching into orbit later in 2018. Reactor is hiring developers. Here's the cool thing. If you go and apply at ReactorScibe which is slash careers, with a K slash careers, then what you'll see is that they ask you to kind of define your own role. They don't give you the definition of the role. They want you to explain what you think you're going to be great at and what your kind of dream position would be. Head over to slash careers. Remember that's with the K. Thank you again to Reactor for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So once again, we're talking about choice in today's episode and specifically we're talking about options and how options can change our way of thinking. When we mention the idea that you really should have more than one option to choose from because when you're only choosing one option, you're either choosing yes or no. This is really not a choice between two things. It's a choice between two realities but it's only a choice between doing one thing or not doing that same thing. So it's kind of the same. There's really only one choice there. So the recommended advice there of course is to have three or four similar options. A similarity is important here. We need them to be relatively similar to each other so that we can adequately compare them. This idea is that if you have, let's say you chose one option and then you kind of filled in the gaps, you kind of had to go and choose the second option just so you could say that you have it. This is a very common procedure. For example, when companies are trying to hire employees, they will fill the number of spots that they're supposed to evaluate even if on the very beginning of that process that candidate doesn't seem to be qualified. So when you intentionally choose kind of a fake option, then of course the option that you had already favored is going to win out. So it's important that you actually seek out two comparable or competing options. They're actually competing. They have similarly good qualities and perhaps similarly bad qualities or at least severity and quantity of those qualities is similar. You still have to recognize that there are some biases that play into your choices even when you're faced with similar options. For example, you may kind of choose naturally the medium of any given set. So let's say you had three coffee cups to choose from. This is why the Grande at Starbucks is the most popular size because generally speaking we all see the tall, the Grande and the Vinty. But this holds true regardless of how much coffee is actually in the cup. Regardless of whether you fill the cup up entirely or not, people still tend to choose that middle option. And in fact, if we only had, for example, the Grande, the Vinty and the Trinty that 30 counts, massive coffee cup, then people would start choosing the Vinty more often. So this is a strange bias that kind of accidentally comes out of our behavior. Another example of a bias that might change your options, the way you think about your options, is the framing effect of anchoring. So an anchor is when you have a number in mind or a concept in mind that kind of sways your future perspective. This is particularly true with numbers even when they are arbitrary. So if you think of a very high number and then I tell you to choose a number between 0 and 1000, you're likely to choose towards the top. Whereas if you think of a very small number and I tell you to choose a number between 0 and 1000, you're likely to choose from the bottom. So this is kind of a strange phenomenon and it happens especially with pricing. So these are ways that our choices may become biased without us even really realizing it. Most of us really do order medium coffee cup size. But I want to give you some more advice, a little bit more of an unknown bias that you can face when you're kind of comparing two options. So let's say that we go back to that pros and cons list that we talked about at the beginning of the episode. You have two options and you write out a pros list and you write out a cons list. The interesting reality of a pros and cons list is that your choice may change depending on if you are counting up the pros or counting up the cons. Let me prove this to you. Let's say you have choice A and choice B and choice A has two pros and choice B has three pros. However, choice A has two cons and choice B has three cons. So if you're focusing on the cons, then certainly choice A looks better. It has two cons whereas choice B has three cons. However, if you're focusing on the pros, then choice A has two pros and choice B has three pros. You may want to write this out in case you can't visualize this. But the idea is very simple that your pros and cons list on the left side very well may just be less detail. It's not really necessarily that one is better than the other based on your pros and cons list. So there are a few ways that you can approach this. And first of all, it's important to note that very often this happens unconsciously. When you're not actually using a pros and cons list and intentionally engaging the positive and the negative information. If you focus on the negative information, if there is a lot of negative information for one option and then not very much negative information for the other, well, you're very likely to go with the one that has very little negative information. However, if you are focusing on the positive information and it just so happens that there is more positive information for the same option that has a lot of negative information, then it's very possible that you will choose that option anyway. Again, some of this gets a little bit difficult to explain. You may want to look at a visual of this. You can actually draw it out and kind of cover up the negatives and the positives for yourself and cover up those pros and cons. So how can we combat this? Well, the pros and cons list is a good idea. It forces you to actually intentionally engage and visualize those negatives and those positives. Or that sometimes the negatives, however, or the positive for that matter may be weighted differently. So you may have a major negative and then a minor positive and then vice versa on the other option. So we're making decisions, especially very important decisions. Of course, you're not going to sit down and go through this process when deciding, you know, what are you going to eat for lunch? Well, this is not a decision that warrants all of this kind of intentional processing. But when you're making bigger decisions like, for example, where to go to college, then it's worth sitting down and actually going through some of these processes to try to work out and work through your biases. Talked about this on the previous episode. But if you instead of creating a arbitrary pros and cons list from your memory, if you instead create at least categories for the pros and cons, maybe you provide, let's use this college example, maybe you provide dorm room costs as one of your pros or cons. And you can do a negative or a positive number. Perhaps the dorm room cost is not exactly what you want it to be in. It gets a negative one. And then on the other, it's actually pretty good and it gets a positive three. And then you can add up these scores. So establish some categories that you want to score against. Secondly, because what you really should be doing when you're making choices is choosing the first thing that actually checks all of the important boxes for you, right? Instead of trying to optimize for the absolutely best choice, what you really should be optimizing for is maximum happiness with the least amount of time spent trying to make the choice. And if you create your list of requirements, then very often, you're going to have one option that meets those requirements and another one that doesn't quite meet the requirements. Or if you have some weighted requirements, for example, you want to prioritize certain things over others, whichever option has your best priorities at the top, those are ways that you can kind of remove that bias, right? So instead of approaching the options first, approach your desires, your plans, your goals, approach that first, and then bring that to your options and measure your options against that rubric. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to today's sponsor reactor, Heather, to Remember, that's with a K slash careers to check out what reactor has to offer to Developer That are looking for a job. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you are enjoying these episodes, these few episodes that we've done on choice and some of the interviews we've done recently, encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. We're going to continue releasing three episodes a week, so it's very easy to get behind. And some of these episodes, you certainly will find some value in assuming you found even just a little bit of value in this episode, then isn't it worth it to just subscribe to this free podcast? So thank you again for subscribing. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.