Intention Deficit Disorder

joe —  Sun 2-Oct-11 — 3 Comments
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Bad Decisions FramedWhy is it we often think we have better answers than those that know more about a situation? I ask this of myself often and never get a satisfactory answer. This came to a head this week with the recent events in the execution of Troy Davis.

What makes us believe that we are smarter than a jury of 12, countless appellate court judges and an investigative panel? Why is it that we think we know more than the commanding military generals in Iraq? Considering that the President of the US has far more confidential information about a situation why do we still think we have a better answer? Even as a teenager your mom was always wrong despite her years of experience.

Why is that?

I believe that there are three components that make up my faith in another’s ability to make a decision better than the one I would make.

  1. Information – Does this person have more information than I do?
  2. Skill – Is this person more skilled in this type of decision? Is she better trained in this area or have better discretion and discernment?
  3. Intent – Is this person’s intentions aligned to make the best decision – is there a competing agenda?

Note that I said “a decision better than the one I would make.” This still doesn’t make it a good or bad decision, just whether this person is more qualified than me to make the decision. If these three things don’t register properly we will tend to question the authority.

Stewie GriffinInformation is the easiest one to address. Usually people in higher position have access to more information than we do. The President clearly does, the CEO clearly does, and our boss usually does as well. What about peers, subordinates or friends?

Skill is a bit tougher. Most people tend to over estimate their own personal skill in an area and under estimate the other’s (see last week’s column). It would be very difficult to believe that you have more skill in military tactics than a General, yet it is still surprising how many people believe they have better economic chops than the Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner.

Intent is the big one. I believe it is the single biggest reason we challenge expert opinions. If we believe a person’s intent is not aligned to making the best decision then we will not accept their answer as valid. Is it ever possible to get a decision that I believe is better than my own if my belief is that a politician’s sole intent it to get re-elected or have their party win?

Grandma Strapped to RoofWhat’s worse is that studies have shown that if someone disagrees with your decision and you try to overcome it with more data they are more likely to become more staunch in their position. If you can’t crack the initial intentions nut you are only going to make it worse trying to convince them with facts.

As leader, this is very important. You may well have more information than one of your employees and have demonstrated greater decision making skills over the years but if there is any doubt that your intentions are not aligned with your team’s, good luck.

Take a corporate ladder climber for instance; their intentions are constantly challenged. Once someone is labelled a climber people around them believe that their goals are selfish and therefore their decisions are instantly treated with a bit of skepticism. So you’ve got to make sure that your intention credentials are in order if you want to lead others.

Do you know what other’s think about your intentions? Have you ever asked? I haven’t yet because I thought I knew. Maybe I have IDD.

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  • Bruce Sigmon

    Because the 7 of nine witnesses who have recanted their testimony had not yet done so at the trial?

    • Joe Kleinwaechter

      That’s the rub, Bruce. Which version was the truth? It is one thing to
      say something under oath and another to recant later when it is not.
      What was their intention either time? Were they coerced and scared into
      lying the first time or did they later have a change of opinion well
      after the event? Assuming they were neither coerced or lying in either
      case, I would tend to believe the version that was closest to the event.

      Again – there are a lot of details to this that the vast majority don’t
      have a clue about. That’s my point. People only want to listen to the
      sound byte about the recantations. Very few went deep to understand that
      investigation that happened way past trial that didn’t involve an
      appellate court.

      I absolutely have no clue to guilt or innocence here – nor do I want to
      make this at all about that case. I do know that I have kept a very open
      mind about the case, looked at a lot of the details a great deal and
      still can’t ay who is right – mostly because I have no idea the true
      intent of the individuals involved.

  • Jim McBride

    Perhaps research into cognitive bias is a good place to start looking for IDD.