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The problem with choice

Important decisions such as whether to promote a junior assistant or to leave one firm for another, are made on a rational basis, aren’t they? Not as much as you would think, says Dr Bob Murray

31 January 2019

We all make choices and decisions every day – on strategy, on client matters, on family and relationship issues. Some we make unthinkingly and others we put a great deal of thought into. We assume that those that we think most about – when we weigh the pros and cons carefully and ‘come to’ a decision on – are the best.

Strangely enough, from a common-sense point of view, this is wrong. The unthinking instantaneous, gut reactions are some 60 per cent more accurate. This holds true even in the case of the advice you give to clients.

We think we’re acting rationally and that our suggestions are based on fact, precedence, evidence. But all available research shows that this assumption is mistaken.

In terms of rationality we humans are a disaster — we’re not programmed for it. Chimps are much better, in strategy games where the outcome depends on logical reasoning chimps win 90 percent of the time. This is because, compare...

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