Heuristic Traps #discussion-starter


 
Edited

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--

Tom Short Consulting
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+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Marc Solomon
 

Tom,

I became aware of the Johari Window framework through Barbara Flood's seminal work on information privacy. The work of David Snowden and Mary E. Boone in executive decision-making connects to your points about the self-defeating intuitions buried in our blind spots (and our stars). I argue in Unit One of Searching Out Loud that these types of exercises are pivotal towards unclogging our own personal distortions and coming to terms with those self-imposed boundaries you describe as heuristic traps. The Johari Wiindow is the researcher equivalency of doctor heal thyself.

Yes. Yes to a warped sense of how others perceive us. Yes as well to our blindspots or what Snowden/Boone call the unknown unknowns. Applying these tools is both humbling, clarifying, and critical to the perspective-taking we need for keeping our investigations honest, and for petitioning on behalf of our clients.

Much gratitude for sparking this discussion.

Marc Solomon

LinkedIn |Amazon | Blog

On 1/8/2020 7:07 PM, Tom Short wrote:
Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Jonathan Norman
 

Thanks for the question, Tom.

 

The heuristic that I have regularly had to wrestle with when trying to encourage organizations to do something new is a variation of the availability heuristic and is the sense that ‘no action or the status quo is a neutral position’. Organizations that are risk averse tend to place greater emphasis on the risk of ‘doing something’ versus the risk of ‘doing nothing’. On a number of occasions I have had to challenge that behaviour, which is often unconscious, in order for an innovation or an experiment to be adopted.

 

BTW. There is a great book on the subject: ProjectThink: Why Good Managers Make Poor Project Choices by Lev Virine and Michael Trumper, which won the PMI’s David Cleland literature award a few year’s back: https://www.amazon.co.uk/ProjectThink-Good-Managers-Project-Choices/dp/1409454983

 

BR

 

Jonathan

Jonathan Norman

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Major Projects Knowledge Hub

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From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: 09 January 2020 00:07
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Jasper Lavertu
 
Edited

Thanks, Tom, very nice post!

Somewhat related to it: I once read an article about sources of unintentional unethical decision making. They mentioned four of them: implicit forms of prejudice, bias that favors one’s own group, conflict of interest, and a tendency to overclaim credit.

There was also a link to a test where you can examine your own unconscious attitudes: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

 

Reading that article and doing the tests made me more aware of those biases and since then, I ask more questions to my colleagues and collect more data to check if my intentions are based on facts instead of my biases (well,  to have them based on facts as much as possible – after all, I am still human with all my deficiencies)

 

The article can be found here: https://hbr.org/2003/12/how-unethical-are-you


Dennis Pearce
 

For anyone interested in this subject I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.  Also check out the Cognitive Bias Codex -- hundreds of heuristics and biases for all occasions!


Daniel Berhin <Daniel_Berhin@...>
 

Daniel Kahneman’ s book is indeed  seminal

 

McKinsey has also a collection of  articles called bias busters  –

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/bias-busters

 

Best

Daniel

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Dennis Pearce
Sent: 09 January 2020 15:10
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [EXT]Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

For anyone interested in this subject I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.  Also check out the Cognitive Bias Codex -- hundreds of heuristics and biases for all occasions!

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Dennis Pearce
 

Forgot to mention that for those who like podcasts, there are several I listen to that cover this territory:


T J Elliott
 

Dennis and daniel, excellent points in a very useful thread. Kahneman and his late research partner Amos Tversky proved essential to my own work over the years. But there is one caution that Kahneman (whom I am lucky to get to hear in person frequently given his emeritus status at Princeton where I live) himself offered about one section fo his last book Thinking Fast and Slow.

https://retractionwatch.com/2017/02/20/placed-much-faith-underpowered-studies-nobel-prize-winner-admits-mistakes/

By no means does this retraction refute the heuristic traps mentioned but it is worth noting. Kahneman's latest work on the 'prevalence of noise' conencts to the work of the members of this group, I believe.

https://hbr.org/2016/10/noise


Dennis Pearce
 

Thanks!  Not only for the Kahneman article, but for enabling me to discover Retraction Watch and Replicability-Index, two sites I'm going to have to dig into.


 

Wow! What a great trove of insights and resources that surfaced. Thanks to the commenters here for advancing this discussion and adding your go-to resources on this topic. Very cool. (And now I've got a bunch of reading to do :-). 
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Robert L. Bogue
 

Tom –

 

Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.  So the fact that you’re focused on them in the moment (and your reticular activating system is keyed to situations where you might encounter them) has temporarily given you the ability to see and adjust behaviors.  However, give it a week, a month, or a few months and you’ll become blind (or mostly blind to them again.)

 

I’ve not seen any research that has indicated that any educational protocol has been able to provide permanent awareness of heuristics. 

 

Rob

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 7:07 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Murray Jennex
 

I have to really disagree on this.  The literature on expert systems, dss design, knowledge extraction all point to the need of being aware and understanding heuristics, especially when trying to model expertise.

Additionally, as I am also a practicing engineer, I'll remind you that design codes and standards are actually heuristics and that engineers are fully aware of them.  As an engineer your choice is to use the thumb rule/heuristic short cut to design your project OR to do the actual calculations and measurements and do a custom design.  The code/heuristic provides built in safety margin that can be reduced by doing your knowledge based design.  This is also true when buying "standard" parts and materials.

That is my "practical" answer.  My academic answer is that the key to understanding processes and behavior is to understand the heuristics that are used and I teach my students to extract them, analyze them, and modify as necessary in order to build a dss or do business process redesign.  The academic part of this answer is just as valid as the practical part.

murray jennex


-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

Tom –
 
Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.  So the fact that you’re focused on them in the moment (and your reticular activating system is keyed to situations where you might encounter them) has temporarily given you the ability to see and adjust behaviors.  However, give it a week, a month, or a few months and you’ll become blind (or mostly blind to them again.)
 
I’ve not seen any research that has indicated that any educational protocol has been able to provide permanent awareness of heuristics. 
 
Rob
-------------------
Robert L. Bogue
O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog
Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.
 
From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 7:07 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps
 
[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]
Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--
Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Murray Jennex
 

but also a point to keep in mind is that heuristics are not just biases.  They are useful tools to make decision short cuts, used in all sorts of industries.  Yes they can be biased but isn't that our job as KM'rs to identify the biased heuristics and remove them?  Just trying to keep some perspective here.  From the academic side this is what I stress to students: to understand a heuristic to see its basis and to ensure it isn't biased in some manner, or if it is, if the bias is useful.  Another reminder is that not all biases are bad, engineering biases heuristics to having more safety margin, not a bad bias.  There are many more examples....murray jennex


-----Original Message-----
From: Jasper Lavertu <jlavertu@...>
To: SIKM <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 2:24 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

[Edited Message Follows]
Thanks, Tom, very nice post!

Somewhat related to it: I once read an article about sources of unintentional unethical decision making. They mentioned four of them: implicit forms of prejudice, bias that favors one’s own group, conflict of interest, and a tendency to overclaim credit.

There was also a link to a test where you can examine your own unconscious attitudes: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/
 
Reading that article and doing the tests made me more aware of those biases and since then, I ask more questions to my colleagues and collect more data to check if my intentions are based on facts instead of my biases (well,  to have them based on facts as much as possible – after all, I am still human with all my deficiencies)
 
The article can be found here: https://hbr.org/2003/12/how-unethical-are-you


 

Rob wrote:
>>Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.<<

I, too, disagree with this statement, at least on the basis of my own (heuristic??) experience. I am still pondering the various KM projects I've worked on to determine whether and how heuristics or heuristic awareness (or lack thereof) came into play in the solution. But I am very clear that in terms of the source article about avalanches and the six heuristic traps, being aware of the traps has already formed the basis for me to create new heuristics for myself for when I go for ride (motorcycles). 

For instance, having read the definition of the Acceptance Trap, my sensitivity to this trap was elevated, and I now am committed to building a new mental habit - namely avoiding making judgements about the relative skill or experience others I am riding with, or allowing judgements based on that to affect my riding attitude and pace. In other words, being conscious of the possibiilty of this happening is a way for me to consciously monitor whether it is, in fact, coming up for me, and if it is, to then act on it with corrective action (i.e., telling myself to relax, chill out, or hang back - whatever is appropriate). 

Perhaps the work you'e referencing had to do with work settings, groups rather than individuals, etc.?
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Robert L. Bogue
 

Murray –

 

For clarity, I was referring cognitive heuristics (but didn’t say so in my message.)   I may know that I’m subject to anchoring bias but I won’t evaluate that when I’m considering the leather upgrade on a new car or while bartering in the shop in Freeport, Bahamas.  If you’ve got evidence to the contrary, I’d *LOVE* to see it.  I’d use it personally.

 

As for other heuristics.  I totally get it.  3ft x 4ft x 5ft is a great shortcut for generating a square corner.  What’s important is to realize when the degree of precision in the heuristic is insufficient.  (As it was with my 20ft x 40ft deck that isn’t square. – my real life example.)

 

Rob

 

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Murray Jennex via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:28 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

I have to really disagree on this.  The literature on expert systems, dss design, knowledge extraction all point to the need of being aware and understanding heuristics, especially when trying to model expertise.

 

Additionally, as I am also a practicing engineer, I'll remind you that design codes and standards are actually heuristics and that engineers are fully aware of them.  As an engineer your choice is to use the thumb rule/heuristic short cut to design your project OR to do the actual calculations and measurements and do a custom design.  The code/heuristic provides built in safety margin that can be reduced by doing your knowledge based design.  This is also true when buying "standard" parts and materials.

 

That is my "practical" answer.  My academic answer is that the key to understanding processes and behavior is to understand the heuristics that are used and I teach my students to extract them, analyze them, and modify as necessary in order to build a dss or do business process redesign.  The academic part of this answer is just as valid as the practical part.

 

murray jennex

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

Tom –

 

Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.  So the fact that you’re focused on them in the moment (and your reticular activating system is keyed to situations where you might encounter them) has temporarily given you the ability to see and adjust behaviors.  However, give it a week, a month, or a few months and you’ll become blind (or mostly blind to them again.)

 

I’ve not seen any research that has indicated that any educational protocol has been able to provide permanent awareness of heuristics. 

 

Rob

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 7:07 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Stephen Bounds
 

Hi Tom,

Great article. When I was reading about the heuristic traps, I was reminded of construal-level theory, which explains a number of our cognitive biases relating to value discounting, stereotyping, risk taking, and power dynamics.

A low psychological distance leads to a factor being considered more than it should be, rationally; whereas a high psychological distance leads to underestimation of risk and consequences.

I like this framework because it provides a way to understand why heuristic traps exist. Of the six traps listed in the article, I would assess their origins as follows:

  • Familiarity trap; failing to remain vigilant when faced with the known - high hypothetical distance
  • Social Facilitation trap; everybody’s doing it, so it must be OK - low social distance
  • Expert Halo trap; the experts must know what they’re doing - low spatial distance
  • Consistency (or “commitment”) trap; aka sunk costs fallacy - low temporal distance
  • Scarcity trap; fear of missing out on rare opportunities - low temporal distance, typically also high hypothetical distance
  • Acceptance trap; peer pressure to conform - low social distance

Robert's comments about awareness being insufficient are also relevant to why pre-agreeing and sticking with processes can be critically important to avoiding traps. To take a simple example, we teach kids to always look both ways before crossing the road, regardless of the likelihood of a car being on the street at that point in time, precisely to avoid things like familiarity traps.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================
On 9/01/2020 11:07 am, Tom Short wrote:

[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Murray Jennex
 

Let me preface that this is a situation where an academic answer is better than a practical answer.  From my following of the conversation the term heuristic is being very loosely applied, essentially anything that helps you make a decision.  I disagree with this, a heuristical approach, or heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.  Ok, to me this means one has to understand the decision and the heuristic/thumb rule being applied for it to be "practical"   From my interpretation of your examples below you are applying what you are calling heuristics but you don't understand them and those I teach my students are biases or likes or dislikes, not heuristics.  A heuristic that would work for the leather upgrade on a new car would be items like "leather upgrades tend to result in a 10% greater resale value after 2 years" or conversely, "leather upgrades tend to wear more resulting in a 5% lower resale value after 5 years" if the decision maker has a goal of resale value when buying a car. 

One of my personal biases is that there are certain faces I take a distinct dislike too, even if I end up liking the person later.  I've struggled to understand why and the only understanding I can come up with is that someone with those facial characteristics in the past has treated me poorly.  Is this a heuristic?  I do not consider it one as it seems to be purely a bias that ultimately does NOT help me make a decision that supports my goals although following the logic of the discussion it would be considered a heuristic  

I suggest that KM focus on heuristics that are understand with some reason for why it works rather than just anything used to help make a decision......murray jennex


-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 1:35 pm
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

Murray –
 
For clarity, I was referring cognitive heuristics (but didn’t say so in my message.)   I may know that I’m subject to anchoring bias but I won’t evaluate that when I’m considering the leather upgrade on a new car or while bartering in the shop in Freeport, Bahamas.  If you’ve got evidence to the contrary, I’d *LOVE* to see it.  I’d use it personally.
 
As for other heuristics.  I totally get it.  3ft x 4ft x 5ft is a great shortcut for generating a square corner.  What’s important is to realize when the degree of precision in the heuristic is insufficient.  (As it was with my 20ft x 40ft deck that isn’t square. – my real life example.)
 
Rob
 
-------------------
Robert L. Bogue
O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog
Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.
 
From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Murray Jennex via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:28 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps
 
I have to really disagree on this.  The literature on expert systems, dss design, knowledge extraction all point to the need of being aware and understanding heuristics, especially when trying to model expertise.
 
Additionally, as I am also a practicing engineer, I'll remind you that design codes and standards are actually heuristics and that engineers are fully aware of them.  As an engineer your choice is to use the thumb rule/heuristic short cut to design your project OR to do the actual calculations and measurements and do a custom design.  The code/heuristic provides built in safety margin that can be reduced by doing your knowledge based design.  This is also true when buying "standard" parts and materials.
 
That is my "practical" answer.  My academic answer is that the key to understanding processes and behavior is to understand the heuristics that are used and I teach my students to extract them, analyze them, and modify as necessary in order to build a dss or do business process redesign.  The academic part of this answer is just as valid as the practical part.
 
murray jennex

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps
Tom –
 
Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.  So the fact that you’re focused on them in the moment (and your reticular activating system is keyed to situations where you might encounter them) has temporarily given you the ability to see and adjust behaviors.  However, give it a week, a month, or a few months and you’ll become blind (or mostly blind to them again.)
 
I’ve not seen any research that has indicated that any educational protocol has been able to provide permanent awareness of heuristics. 
 
Rob
-------------------
Robert L. Bogue
O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog
Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.
 
From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 7:07 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps
 
[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]
Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--
Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


Robert L. Bogue
 

Murray –

 

I’m quite clear on what heuristics are – and how they result in systemic biases.   I believe the confusion comes from treating cognitive heuristics and cognitive biases was synonyms.  I’d agree that without the prefix they’re not the same – however, with the prefix both terms are frequently used to describe how the mental shortcuts that we take yield systemic biases.

 

In terms of the leather seats in a car example, it’s an anchoring or comparison bias.  Let’s say it’s $2,000 to the price of a car to have leather seats.  We compare that with the $50,000 that we’re spending on an SUV and conclude that it’s a trivial addition and frequently buy the upgrade – not for resale value but for the value we perceive we’ll get from it.  However, if I told you that a fabric couch was $2,000 but a leather couch was $4,000 – you’d perceive that to be a very large difference and in many cases not do it.  This ignores the fact that people typically replace cars every few years and couches every few decades.

 

You could argue that these aren’t heuristics.  I understand that position.  However, underpinning our decision making criteria are patterns of thinking that are designed to help us make decisions without fully evaluating them.   We estimate the added utility against the initial framework instead of evaluating it against all purchases.

 

In your example of faces … there’s heuristics of similarity – and dissimilarity – that are present in our perception of other people.  Some of the research has suggested that we’re looking for genetic diversity and a lack of observable genetic defects.   The research is particularly compelling regarding women and scents from men.  There’s research that we tend to like people with facial features more similar to ours.

 

Are these heuristics or biases?  I don’t know that I care.  They’re below conscious understanding.  If they’re a genetically primed heuristic fine.  If they’re a bias because you were scared by someone with a similar face structure when you were three – it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that it causes you to systemically discount people who have that face type.

 

Rob

 

P.S. Thanks.  I’ve got a conversation on diversity that hadn’t considered pulling in the research about similarity and dissimilarity into – but I think based on this conversation I should.

 

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Murray Jennex via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, January 9, 2020 7:28 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

Let me preface that this is a situation where an academic answer is better than a practical answer.  From my following of the conversation the term heuristic is being very loosely applied, essentially anything that helps you make a decision.  I disagree with this, a heuristical approach, or heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.  Ok, to me this means one has to understand the decision and the heuristic/thumb rule being applied for it to be "practical"   From my interpretation of your examples below you are applying what you are calling heuristics but you don't understand them and those I teach my students are biases or likes or dislikes, not heuristics.  A heuristic that would work for the leather upgrade on a new car would be items like "leather upgrades tend to result in a 10% greater resale value after 2 years" or conversely, "leather upgrades tend to wear more resulting in a 5% lower resale value after 5 years" if the decision maker has a goal of resale value when buying a car. 

 

One of my personal biases is that there are certain faces I take a distinct dislike too, even if I end up liking the person later.  I've struggled to understand why and the only understanding I can come up with is that someone with those facial characteristics in the past has treated me poorly.  Is this a heuristic?  I do not consider it one as it seems to be purely a bias that ultimately does NOT help me make a decision that supports my goals although following the logic of the discussion it would be considered a heuristic  

 

I suggest that KM focus on heuristics that are understand with some reason for why it works rather than just anything used to help make a decision......murray jennex

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 1:35 pm
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

Murray –

 

For clarity, I was referring cognitive heuristics (but didn’t say so in my message.)   I may know that I’m subject to anchoring bias but I won’t evaluate that when I’m considering the leather upgrade on a new car or while bartering in the shop in Freeport, Bahamas.  If you’ve got evidence to the contrary, I’d *LOVE* to see it.  I’d use it personally.

 

As for other heuristics.  I totally get it.  3ft x 4ft x 5ft is a great shortcut for generating a square corner.  What’s important is to realize when the degree of precision in the heuristic is insufficient.  (As it was with my 20ft x 40ft deck that isn’t square. – my real life example.)

 

Rob

 

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Murray Jennex via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:28 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

I have to really disagree on this.  The literature on expert systems, dss design, knowledge extraction all point to the need of being aware and understanding heuristics, especially when trying to model expertise.

 

Additionally, as I am also a practicing engineer, I'll remind you that design codes and standards are actually heuristics and that engineers are fully aware of them.  As an engineer your choice is to use the thumb rule/heuristic short cut to design your project OR to do the actual calculations and measurements and do a custom design.  The code/heuristic provides built in safety margin that can be reduced by doing your knowledge based design.  This is also true when buying "standard" parts and materials.

 

That is my "practical" answer.  My academic answer is that the key to understanding processes and behavior is to understand the heuristics that are used and I teach my students to extract them, analyze them, and modify as necessary in order to build a dss or do business process redesign.  The academic part of this answer is just as valid as the practical part.

 

murray jennex

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert L. Bogue <rbogue@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io>
Sent: Thu, Jan 9, 2020 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

Tom –

 

Most of the work I’ve seen on heuristics seems to imply if not directly state that being aware of the heuristic is not useful – unless your attention is directly focused on busting the heuristic in that moment.  So the fact that you’re focused on them in the moment (and your reticular activating system is keyed to situations where you might encounter them) has temporarily given you the ability to see and adjust behaviors.  However, give it a week, a month, or a few months and you’ll become blind (or mostly blind to them again.)

 

I’ve not seen any research that has indicated that any educational protocol has been able to provide permanent awareness of heuristics. 

 

Rob

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Tom Short via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 7:07 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: [SIKM] Heuristic Traps

 

[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: added some hashtags for future findability]

Since reading this fascinating article recently about how avalanches are really a human-caused problem via some combination of heuristic traps, I've been seeing heuristic traps pop up everywhere. For me, an avid motorcyclist, the traps outlined in the article about avalanches applied perfectly well to riding, giving me a deeper way to think about and better understand what I'm thinking about when I ride. 

Then, this afternoon, in a discussion with some other SIKM colleagues about gender and forum-posting behavior, it came up again. Upon further reflection of the great conversation we had, another light-bulb went on for me, helping me understand at least in part why I've been so taken with this topic. 

I think it's because it has put a name and some structure to something that I've always "known" intuitively. Namely, that over the course of our lifetimes we each develop a set of rules of thumb, or heuristics, that serve as short cuts to help us navigate in situations, whether they are novel or very familiar to us. 

The trouble is, many times we are unaware of the rules of thumb we are using to make judgements or decisions in a given situation, and therefore we may be doing things that actually are not helping us achieve the outcome we desire. 

There is a lot of work already done on this sort of thing - blind spots that we have, how they come about, how we can become more aware of them, how we can change the underlying basis for them. Johari Window is one that comes to mind - learned way back when taking org psych courses. 

The thing I like most about the notion of heuristic traps is that giving it a name and providing a framework for thinking about it serves to raise my awareness of it and (hopefully) become more conscious of when my thinking is being influenced by one of the six traps identified in the article. 

I recall having a similar experience when I first learned about social capital back in my early KM days. Just by being able to label something that is intuitively so obvious, and putting some structure around it, I was able to see that much more clearly ways I might adjust KM solutions I was developing so they took account of this previously-hidden "stuff" that is so omnipresent but often overlooked. 

So now I find myself wondering whether heuristic traps will also find their way into the way I think about the solutions I'm working on with my clients. At a minimum being aware of them ought to help me become more self-aware, which is no bad thing for a consultant - or anyone else for that matter. I would think that anyone who is responsible for designing systems or processes that have some level of human involvement would want to understand this simple yet important concept. 

Have you ever adjusted a solution you were working on based on your knowledge or understanding of a heuristic trap that might affect your solution's implementation or success??

#heuristic_traps #unknown_unknowns #johari_window 
--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts


 
Edited

@Dennis Pearce wrote:

>>For anyone interested in this subject I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.  Also check out the Cognitive Bias Codex -- hundreds of heuristics and biases for all occasions!<<.

Just checked this out - pretty amazing. Thanks, Dennis, for the pointer!



 There’s a good related article on Medium about it, too:  https://medium.com/better-humans/cognitive-bias-cheat-sheet-55a472476b18


--

Tom Short Consulting
TSC
+1 415 300 7457

All of my previous SIKM Posts