SWAN of the Week, No. 128

Happy Friday!

It’s 2020 planning and New Year’s Resolution time. Many years ago I made a resolution not to make small talk about the weather. By February I had to give it up. You can’t live in Minneapolis and not talk about the weather without coming off like a jerk!

Have you ever made up your mind to do something, and then got pretty far into it and realized you should have pivoted long ago?

This week I started a new podcast called Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford, produced by Malcolm Gladwell’s Gimlet Media

The first episode talks about continuation bias, the unconscious cognitive bias to continue with an original plan in spite of changing conditions.

For example, an airplane pilot is trying to land a plane according to his flight plan. But the weather is super bad. But he figures he can make it After all, that’s the plan. He goes ahead and takes a big risk and lands the plane, even though outside observers could easily see that would be unwise and he should divert to another airport.

This isn’t just limited to air travel, but it’s a helpful metaphor…

Once a plan is made and committed to, it becomes increasingly difficult for stimuli or conditions in the environment to be recognized as necessitating a change to the plan. Often, as workload increases, the stimuli or conditions will appear obvious to people external to the situation; however, it can be very difficult for a pilot caught up in the plan to recognize the saliency of the cues and the need to alter the plan. When continuation bias interferes with the pilot’s ability to detect important cues, or if the pilot fails to recognize the implications of those cues, breakdowns in situational awareness (SA) occur. These breakdowns in SA can result in non-optimal decisions being made, which could compromise safety. (source: Skybrary)

For 2019, I made some pretty bold plans – including better organizing my consulting business and improving my weekly newsletter and expand its reach. And I met my objectives for them! But I also had some plans that didn’t work out once I got started, and if I had followed them through blinkdly, I would be in a poor place right now.

So as we start making big plans for 2020 and thinking of our goals, hopes and dreams for our careers, hobbies and families, I think it’s important to remember that setting goals is good, but pivoting from an original plan is great.

Research shows that having outside perspective can help combat continuation bias. So make big plans for next year. But share them with others! Then as you go into the year, set reminders for yourself to check in on them and share your progress. Get outside opinions on your status, and listen to the feedback. Then pivot.

Completing a plan isn’t living. It’s the journey that counts.

This has been your SWAN deep thought of the week. Don’t get used to them.

See you on the internet!



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