Posts Tagged choice

Analysing your stakeholders

let's go a'slayin' by mugley

The CEO of Dracula Corp regretted calling a meeting of stakeholders

Here is another bit of management theory that could be usefully applied to careers work…

Many career theories address the influence of other people on an individual’s career choice. For example, Community Interaction theory looks at the mechanisms by which peers, parents, ethnic groups, etc., influence individual career decisions. Clients often have to take into account the views and needs of significant people in their lives. Does management theory have any light to shine on this?

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Employability viewpoints

Gesu Novo facade

Your viewpoint is everything

In my last posting about the E word I focused on various models of employability (the fun bit in my geeky world!). In this post I wanted to look at some of the various definitions of employability and what those definitions say about the people who construct them.

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Difficult decisions

Half shaved man don't know...can you repeat the question...

In last week’s post I talked about the decision-making profile developed by Itamar Gati. Along with some other researchers, Gati has also explored the various factors that lead to decision-making difficulties. As with the profile, this list of difficulties can provide a useful checklist for exploring decision making with clients.

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Do you have a decision-making style?

A profile

This profile looks quite decisive

What is your decision-making style?

Do you actually have one…or many?

In much of the literature on decision making approaches, there is a tendency to allocate people to one of a number of different categories or styles.

For example, you might be classified as (Scott & Bruce, 1995):

  • Rational – You tend to make decisions in a logical and systematic way
  • Avoidant – You tend to avoid making important decisions until the pressure is on
  • Dependent – You tend to make important decisions by consulting other people
  • Intuitive – You tend to make decisions by relying on your instinct
  • Spontaneous – You tend to make impulsive decisions

This seems to me to be overly simplistic and that is also the conclusion of a paper by a group of Israeli psychologists.

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The decisive moment

Three cars

The red, the yellow one, no...

Choosing an expensive item such as a car can be hard enough. In 2006 Ap Dijksterhuis, a researcher from the University of Amsterdam, made things a bit harder. He gave people various items of information about a selection four of cars and asked them to choose the best option.

The information had been engineered so that each car had a different mixture of positive and negative attributes, but one car was designed to be a best option and another was designed to be the worst option.

Dijksterhuis then divided his subjects into four groups. To two of the groups he only gave four items of information per car (simple condition), whereas the other group had to deal with 12 attributes per car (complex condition).

After reading the information about the cars, half of each group were allowed four minutes to think about their choice (conscious choosers). The other half were given anagrams to complete in order to distract them from thinking (unconscious choosers). They were then asked to make their choice of the best car and their result was compared with the real answer.

In the simple condition (four attributes per car), there was no real difference in success rate between the conscious and the unconscious choosers. However, in the complex condition (12 attributes per car) the people who had been distracted made consistently better decisions than the people who had been allowed to consider the choice.

So, is the unconscious mind better at making complex decisions than the conscious mind?

Dijksterhuis, A. (2006) On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect Science, 311(5763), 1005-1007. DOI: 10.1126/science.1121629

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Does self awareness make for quicker decisions?


How easy is it to make decisions wearing one of these?

In a rather cute bit of research by Takashi Nakao at Nagoya University, Japan (and a whole host of researchers at Hiroshima University), students were prompted with random pairings of job titles and asked to choose which occupation they thought they could do better. The researchers then used EEG to measure the students’ brain activity in certain areas that are associated with conflict in relation to decisions.

In the first study they demonstrated that the amount of activity recorded was related to the difficulty of choosing between the options. There was more activity (more conflict) as well as a slower reaction time when students were choosing between two options that they found equally attractive.

Nakao, T., Mitsumoto, M., Nashiwa, H., Takamura, M., Tokunaga, S., Miyatani, M., Ohira, H., Katayama, K., Okamoto, A., & Watanabe, Y. (2010). Self-Knowledge Reduces Conflict by Biasing One of Plural Possible Answers Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36 (4), 455-469 DOI: 10.1177/0146167210363403

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The East and West of Careers Guidance

I was recently in Bangalore undertaking a graduate employability research visit. The highlight of my trip was a meeting with colleagues from The Promise Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation involved in some ground breaking careers work in India. The ‘Promise’ team is made up of behavioural scientists who examine theory to develop careers interventions that are relevant to the Indian context. We spent time learning about the Jiva project and observed elements of the programme being applied in a local school.

I had a fascinating discussion with Sachin Kumar a fellow ‘Theories Geek’ and the Jiva Programme’s Project Manager about the concept of a career in the Indian context. I understood from Sachin that a major difference between the east and west in regards to career decision making is the notion of individualism and collectivism. In the west career planning focuses on the individual, his or her interests, skills and aptitudes; this coupled with the mobility across occupations gives the individual a sense of freedom with their career decision making. Where as in India, family and the wider society are very much intrinsic to the individuals career beliefs, aspirations and decisions. For example, divergence from family and parental directions could be taken as disobedience. A further layer of complexity within India was its caste system where the work one was expected to perform was based on the caste you were born into. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are you a maximiser or a satisficer?

Imagine that you were receiving feedback on something you had worked on along with a colleague. Which of these two scenarios would you prefer?

  • Scenario 1: You receive great feedback from your supervisor, but your colleague receives even better feedback.
  • Scenario 2: You receive really negative feedback from your supervisor but your colleague receives significantly worse feedback.

On the face of it, Scenario 1 seems to be the best situation; you are receiving great feedback rather than negative feedback. However, in one study, certain people experiencing Scenario 2 reported feeling happier and more self confident than those experiencing Scenario 1. They would rather do better than their peers even if it meant performing much worse overall. Not everyone felt this way, though. In fact, it was only people who reported themselves as being generally unhappy who engaged in this social comparison. Happy people were just pleased to get a good report and didn’t measure themselves against other people.

What makes some people more sensitive to their relative success than to their absolute success? And what implications does this have for career decision making?

According to Barry Schwartz and his colleagues the unhappy people are ‘maximisers’ and the happy people are ‘saticficers’.

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Can you be positive about uncertainty?

Tunnel in the fog

What's around the corner? Can you cope with not knowing for certain?

As an antidote to some of the recent posts which have examined ways of overcoming irrationality in decision making, it is time to highlight a celebration of the intuitive and the acceptance of ambiguity.

The concept of Positive Uncertainty has had a strong influence on some of the modern theories of career choice — especially those which emphasise chance and complexity, such as planned happenstance or the chaos theory of careers. The idea was introduced in 1989 by H.B. Gelatt (who appears to call himself H.B. — possibly to induce uncertainty in those he meets) and it was a complete turnaround from an earlier article he wrote advocating a totally rational approach to decision making.

Gelatt, H.B. (1989) Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 36(2), 252-6.

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Dialectical bootstrapping


Are they dialectical?

How could I resist writing about a technique with such a delightfully preposterous name! It has the same ridiculous elegance as ‘planned happenstance‘ and ‘positive compromise‘.

In an earlier post I wrote about how people can be induced to disagree with their own decisions. This wonderfully over-the-top phrase describes a technique which involves getting people to disagree with themselves on purpose in order to increase the accuracy of their predictions without reference to external opinions. See! Dialectical bootstrapping is a much more elegant way of saying all that!

[Herzog, S.M. & Hertwig, R. (2009) The wisdom of many in one mind: Improving individual judgments with dialectical bootstrapping. Psychological Science, 20(2), 231-7.]

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