When you think of “noise,” as it relates to our ability to make good decisions, what comes to mind? For many it is “distractions.” As you get a bit deeper in the topic, you’ll find that it’s also about bias. In the book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, authors Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein present years of research studying human decision-making. They define noise as “unwanted variability” in judgement.
If you missed the book club discussion this month, check out the fabulous notes by Maggi Cary on the CliffsNotes Book Club portal. The top-line summary is:
What’s the big deal about noise?
The examples shared in the book are bone-chilling. The authors share examples in variability among sentencing terms—based on whether the judge has eaten or not, and depending on the ambient temperature in the courtroom.
It made me think that, even if we are not, as judges are, in a profession where our work can determine someone’s fate, there is no doubt that our daily decisions and interactions have impact on the people around us, at work and beyond. A bad night’s sleep, a health scare, or even a run-in with someone’s road rage may have some emotional spill over into our work, and may cloud our judgement as we may decisions on which vendor to select, who to promote, or how to receive an offer of help…among others!
How do you quiet the noise?
In the book, the authors offer strategies to promote “decision hygiene.” Among the tips, they suggest that you use algorithms, data, statistics where possible; resist the urge to follow intuition; and leverage third-party reviews and compile the results. Process and criteria are your friends when it comes to consistency in decision-making.
Taking a step back, I would offer my biggest takeaway. It’s that I now to listen for the noise. My awareness is more tuned into it, and this can help me to pause and check myself.
When you hear the noise – Three questions that can help
Let me know what works for you, and how else you manage to lower the volume on the noise around us.