The bolder, the dumber

A recession is approaching say some powerful fortune tellers in the media. What is to be done? “Buying gold” tells someone who was exorbitantly successful, but limited his toolbox only to the financial sector. Anyone who still believes today that such one-size-fits-all approach can solve future complexities – well, we will see whether it was wise and whether the additional gold purchase ultimately served the health of the world economy. Because that should be our interest: general welfare.

Those who follow the advice of the wise men early on will at least derive their individual benefit from it, despite the already high price of gold. Whoever skilfully surmounts the wave at the right time before it breaks will surf the following loosely. This is how the individual becomes rich. But that way we have done nothing for the economy and against the recession.

I recently heard a board member ask a CEO: Where exactly is the value chain already being attacked? Which parts of the value chain are high-margin and vulnerable? Questions such as these are the starting point for a discussion about disruptive risks and the survival of an organization. Any operational leader who responds with smug platitudes is revealing a lot about himself.

In behavioural research, this phenomenon is called «overconfidence bias»«blind spots» and the like. Experiments show that those who can contribute the least solution competence are disproportionately affected by overestimation of their own abilities. “The bolder, the dumber” is my rule of thumb for mistrust ever since. Further experiments show that managers with more prejudices have less successful teams because they treat their employees worse and they in return behave according to expectations. For managers without prejudicesminorities perform better than average. So, no matter what the economic situation brings us, we are well advised to free our management floors from optimistic chatterers and leaders with prejudices against minorities in order to be fit for the next wave or crisis.

Column by Esther-Mirjam de Boer, CEO of GetDiversity in the Handelszeitung of 14 November 2019.

If you want to learn more about human behaviour and decision-making, you can – like me – surf the FehrAdvice & Partner DigitalHub for free through the theme modules, learn playfully and let yourself be inspired. If you need some competition: you can collect points and win prizes there, too….