Shower espresso

What is it about showering and ideas?

In the shower one morning I was thinking about how the shower is an amazing place for thinking. A bit meta, I know but bear with me… I wondered if the supposed creativity-enhancing impact of caffeine could be combined with this shower effect. So the next day I drank my espresso in the shower.

I’d love to report a creative binge of DaVinci-esque proportions. But no. I shaved a few seconds from my morning routine. My wife asked what the espresso cup was doing in the shower. And the world kept turning as before.

But it did give me plenty to consider. Why do we seem to have more ideas in the shower? A physiological impact from warm water stimulating the brain? Something Freudian about comfort and a return to the womb? The all-encompassing sound of falling water? Or a relaxing place away from distractions? Does it even matter HOW it works?

I like Seth Godin’s attitude to this:

When people buy a $90 bottle of wine, we have real clear data on this, they think it tastes better than a $10 bottle of wine even though we could switch the wines. So when I go to the person at the table I don’t say, “Would you like the expensive bottle of wine because the placebo effect will cause you to enjoy it more?” I have to put on the wine show in order for the placebo effect to work.

…So you can’t just walk up to people and tell them the digital truth and expect the placebo effect to work. It won’t. That’s the magic of the placebo effect. The challenge here, and the way I have dealt with it anyway, is to say the difference between manipulation and marketing is: manipulation is I get you to buy something that you regret later, and marketing is I get you to buy something you’re glad you bought.

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Maybe then, the shower espresso is a ‘wine show’ placebo and the real value comes from making time and space to think?

The optimism bias: Was Eeyore right?

Attempt at E H Shepard's Eeyore by Rob Tatman

A. A. Milne’s downbeat donkey is the poster-child for part 3 in the series about cognitive biases.

Eeyore had it right, we’re overconfident and too optimistic. Some evidence from the US:

95% of our teachers report that they are above average teachers.

96% of college students say they have above average social skills.

Time Magazine asked Americans, “Are you in the top 1% of earners?” 19% of Americans are in the top 1% of earners.

David Brooks: The social animal (TED Talk)

Continue reading The optimism bias: Was Eeyore right?

Confirmation Bias

Welcome to Part 2 in the series about cognitive biases. Critical thinking hats on…

  • Confirmation bias: the tendency to gather or interpret information that confirms our existing lines of thinking.

For example, I enjoy travelling and collect quotes and arguments for travelling (previous post) that ignore the anti-travelling view. (Is there one?!)  This is a blind spot for my critical thinking, albeit one that I recognise.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of cherry picking relevant information when time / resources are tight or when we have already settled on an answer.  However, we may regret discarding information in the future, particularly if our decisions are held up to scrutiny.

What can we do to minimise this bias?

One way is to deliberately seek out opposing views. Abraham Lincoln famously countered confirmation bias by forming his cabinet with those that publicly disagreed with him. Bold!

Creativity expert Roger Von Oech goes further and suggests we ask a fool to provide a different perspective and challenge our assumptions to stimulate our thinking.

BTW – If you are tempted into thinking this is all a bit fluffy then you may have succumbed to a confirmation bias about creativity experts; Von Oech has a Ph.D. from Stanford University and has provided creativity consulting to Apple, Disney, Sony and Intel. Continue reading Confirmation Bias

Biased? Me?!

Like most people, I like to think of myself as fairly rational. I’m not biased. Am I?

It turns out that there are lots of ways in which my thinking habits introduce bias into my decisions and judgements.  And yours.  I’m fascinated by these cognitive (aka thinking) biases and I’ve been keeping notes since discovering the concept on the Henley MBA. It’s both amazing and scary how they can distort our thinking.

Fortunately, I’ve found that learning about cognitive biases can help me recognise the common traps and so make better decisions.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink refers to this as equipoise: the ability to have the serenity to read the biases and failures in your own mind.

Continue reading Biased? Me?!