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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do you also feel that Laxman should be dropped?

I read the news that Laxman will be the first senior to be dropped from the Indian team in the next match with Australia in the current cricket series. Do you also agree with his judgement?

If you understand your two minds, the automatic mind Type 1 and the deliberate mind Type 2, you will realise that such intuitive judgments are undertaken by your fast automatic mind, not by by your slow deliberate mind. And as is the practice of automatic mind, it always take such fast decisions based on 'reference points', 'coherency' and 'available evidence', not by formal and comprehensive analysis. .

For instance, Laxman and others like Dhoni and Gambhir have fared equally badly in Australia. But why do we judge Laxman poorly than others? Because, we do not judge based on 'absolute performance', but on the basis of reference point that we have set for the person. For Laxman we have a 'reference point' of  say, 80 runs, while the same reference score for Gambhir is lower, say 30. That is why, we evaluate Laxman's performance as 'poorer' than Laxman, although both have fared equally poorly.

Why have we set higher reference point for Laxman? It is because he has been a savviour in many matches in the past. If your Type 2 mind is analysing, it will understand that when other batsman have fared badly, Laxman has fared better than them. In other words, Laxman has performed better than base-rate performance in the same match, which is even a better indicator of his comparative ability. But Type 1 mind does not take the effort of understanding this, it just increases 'reference point' further. And paradoxically, we use that higher reference point to judge Laxman's performance as poorer than Gambhir !

Observe how 'coherency' of Type 1 mind works. When i told my friend that even Gambhir can be removed because of his poor performance, my friend defended Gambhir, by saying that ' All batsman have fared poorly. How can we remove Gambhir alone?' His Type 1 mind does not realise that he is not using the same yardstick for Laxman! Why cannot Dhoni be removed, despite his poor performance, I asked him. Because Dhoni is 'not a specialist batsman', my friend said.  Why cannot Sehwag be dropped from the next match? He had an interesting reason 'Sehwag is a dashing batsman. We cannot penalise him for his dashing batting'. Did you observe the functioning of Type 1 mind? It creates a 'coherent story' with all loopholes plugged in and conveniently ignoring the inconvenient ones. Type 1 mind uses all the ideas and tricks to make the story coherent.

More importantly, Type 1 mind uses only the 'available evidence' without seeing the quality of the evidence. Instead of finding 'evidence' to judge Laxman's performance ( such as his 'above base-rate performance' in the past) it finds only the available evidence. We have seen countless number of times that Gambhir, Dhoni and the new stars lack the 'competency' to tackle the balls in outside conditions, but Type 1 mind will ignore this ready evidence. We do not have 'real evidence' that Laxman is batting poorly in nets, or that his feet are not moving well, or that his reaction times have decreased because of age. But Type 1 mind does not even 'bother' to wait for this evidence !

If you read some of the articles floating on the web on this hot subject of 'Should Laxman be dropped', you will be surprised that it is not only layman like us, but even experts are prone to Type 1 over-reliance. Infact their stories are more coherent than us!

How does our intuitive judgement of event/situation impacts our talent building?

Can you imagine how the same three characteristics of Type 1 mind - resetting reference points, creating a coherent story, and using available evidence only - can also impact your life directly?

  • For instance, when you take take up the first job you are happy that you have got a 'good job'. After six months, you 'reference point' changes. Then you feel that you are 'dissatisfied' with the job, because you are evaluating with higher reference point. Our reference points constantly change in life. That is how our goals also change constantly. And that is why goals are useful only for a short time ! 
  • When you change jobs, and take on new job, you are relying only on 'available evidence' about the new job. But you are evaluating your current job with more 'comprehensive evidence'. That is why, your Type 1 mind always feels that 'New job is better than current job'. If you rely on Type 1 mind alone for such decisions, you are likely to commit gross errors. 
  • When you listen to a story of a successful programmer, or a career, or a researcher, please remember that the story is made 'coherent' by closing the visible loopholes and ignoring other not-so-obvious one's. Your Type 1 mind loves 'coherence' and forgets to check the 'entire story'. If you are not careful about it, these stories create in you unrealistic aspirations, mistaken beliefs and incorrect thumb rules that drive your life's decisions !  

As Daniel Kahneman and Keith Stanovich ( the two psychologists who have done extraordinary work on this concept in last 10 years) say, our Type 2 mind is a cognitive miser. It refuses to increase cognitive workload and instead prefers to rely on Type 1 mind all the time. Unless we consciously learn to 'override' Type 1 at times, we are at the mercy of chance. Type 1 is also useful though. It is therefore important to get the right balance between Type 1 and 2 mind, if you want to achieve anything in your life !

If you want to learn more about the functioning of Type 1 and 2 mind, go ahead and read Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking fast and slow, or revert to this blog for more.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First step of talent unfolding has to negotiated quickly

If you see my earlier blog on three steps on unfolding the talent , you will understand that the first step of 'choosing the talent zone' has to be negotiated quickly. Talent zone is your zone of 'skill set' which matches with your interest plus abilities that you have acquired during graduation plus domain ( be it telecom, automobiles, or software).

Ideally, this preparation of choosing a talent zone should be over by the time you graduate, so that you waste little time. But like Anshuman in the earlier case, who took 4 years to choose 'corporate training' after he graduated ( and then later dropped after investing 5 years of effort in acquiring the skill), most of the graduates do not prepare themselves for choosing of their talent zone. And consequently they choose whatever comes their 'way', and then drop it later because it was not compatible for them.

As we have seen in the blog of choosing the talent zone, the risks in choosing the talent zone are limited and lower than arts and sports professionals. Unlike arts and sports professionals who chose their talent zone by the age of 10, you can chose your talent zone at the age of 23. So what makes it so difficult to chose the talent zone even after 5 years after graduation?

Having coached several graduates in the experience range of 1-5 years, here are the four bottlenecks that i have observed the most:

1. Lack of information of what skills are required for a position: Many professionals cannot see the Job description of a position, convert that into 'task list' and then deduce the 'skill+domain+interest' required to perform the tasks. And remember some of the skills required are 'hard' skills like logical skills, while some are soft skills like 'People management'.

2. Understanding of skill market: Like a product has its market, every skill has its own 'skill market' which determines the 'money' you can get for that skill in the market. Some market conditions are fluctuating, some are almost static. For instance, 'remuneration' for 'software' jobs have increased because of the good market conditions. On the other hand, remuneration of 'front end jobs' like sales will always remain higher than 'back end jobs' because these positions are perceived to be contributing more to the organisation's revenue and profits.

3. Inadequate understanding of one's own interest/abilities: Even if money in 'software' domain is high, it is of no use to you, if your own abilities do not match. Many graduates do not have the elementary tool set to 'understand' their selves or understand that 'virtues like honesty and confidence' are not the targets to pursue. More importantly, they lack the basic understanding of how our mind works. For instance, they are not aware that ability-gap can be bridged by forceful application of Will, but interest-gap cannot be bridged forcibly. They are also unaware that if they have to find their interest in 'software' without working in software, they have to 'engage' with 'software' in different innovative ways !

4. Incomplete understanding of unfolding process of talent: Because of incomplete understanding of process of how the talent unfolds, graduates are clueless and lack any coherent direction. They are therefore not aware that even if they cannot choose a 'core skill' like training or programming after graduation, they can still chose to develop complementary skills as fall-back options. Complementary skills are those skills that are required irrespective of which core skill you choose. For example, interpersonal skill is required to work in a company. One can choose to focus on this skill, if one is unable to chose the core skill. And remember, interpersonal skill is not about learning to 'talk beautifully' or 'crack jokes' or 'give short speeches at birthday parties'.

Which of the above four bottlenecks you are encountering in your life?