In her book, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, Annie Duke draws on examples from business, sports, politics, and poker to share tools anyone can use to embrace uncertainty and make better decisions.
These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.
“The stubbornness of beliefs”
With just about everything, our pre-existing beliefs influence the way we experience the world. Because of our tendency for motivated reasoning, our methods of forming and updating beliefs are flawed and can snowball to our detriment. Once a belief is lodged in our head, it becomes difficult to dislodge because we are slow to change by nature. We need to be very aware that every bet we make in our lives depends on our beliefs.
“Being smart makes it worse”
Most of us believe we are rational and intelligent individuals, and we act that way. By being sensible and smart, our goal is to seek out the truth. It turns out that we also easily fall for the trap of spinning numbers and data t0 confirm and support our beliefs. Unfortunately, evolution has wired us to protect our beliefs even when we think our goal is truth-seeking.
So how can we combat the bias created by motivated reasoning and get us closer to the goal of truth-seeking? We should often remind ourselves of this critical question, “Wanna bet?” This crucial question triggers us to think about our belief and vet it for the level of accuracy or truth. The vital concept to recognize is that many things in life are never only black and white, 0% or 100%.
Since very few things are certain, it makes sense to think about and express our beliefs by incorporating uncertainty into our approach. We are less likely to succumb to motivated reasoning because it feels better to make small adjustments in the degree of certainty rather than thinking in binary terms. When we need to calibrate our beliefs, we become less judgmental of ourselves. Also, declaring out uncertainty in our beliefs to others makes us more credible communicators. Lastly, expressing our confidence level can also have an added benefit of inviting others to be our collaborators.