Monday, July 27, 2015

"But you didn't ask me if I like oatmeal... "

Have you ever thought about how you make decisions? Do you end up in “trouble” because your choices left the people around you asking, “What were you thinking?”

The truth is, you probably weren’t thinking – you were just acting on an instinct or used some kind of mental shortcut to reach your decision.

Chances are you weren’t asking the right questions to get the right answer.

Let me illustrate with a story about my son Nick, his grandfather, and the conversation I overheard one morning while Pap-Pap was making breakfast for Nick. Pap-Pap prepared a big bowl of oatmeal, his own favorite breakfast.

"Do you like sugar?" Pap-Pap asked Nick. Nick nodded yes.

"How about some butter, too?" Again Nick nodded yes.

"Of course, you like milk?" "Sure," Nick replied.

But when Pap-Pap placed the steaming bowl of oatmeal with butter, sugar and milk before him, Nick refused to eat it.

His Pap-Pap was exasperated. "But Nick when I asked you, didn't you say you liked sugar, butter and milk?"
"Yes," replied Nick, "but Pap-Pap you didn't ask me if I liked oatmeal!"
As this story shows, the way you ask a question can greatly influence the answer you get.
The same is true for every decision you make, or problem you solve on a daily basis. If you frame your problem poorly you’re unlikely to make a smart choice.
Typically when faced with an uncertainty, we don’t carefully evaluate the information or look for facts and statistics. Instead, in making decisions we use biases and shortcuts that are hardwired into our thinking process. These shortcuts can be dangerous because they create blind spots … so we fail to recognize them as we fall into a trap of faulty thinking.
Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking,Fast and Slow gives a great example, a simple arithmetic question:
A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
If you are like most people you respond quickly and confidently, and tell me that the ball costs ten cents. 
Well that answer is both obvious and wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat.) 
Your answer used some mental shortcuts that aren’t a faster way of thinking or doing the math … they’re a way of skipping the math altogether.
The same is true for employees at all levels of your organization.

At every stage of their decision making process they run into misperceptions, inaccurate frames of reference, biases, and other blind spots that can distort the choices they make.

We all want our employees to become good thinkers. But what does that mean? What thinking skills would you like your employees to have? What can you do to help them become better thinkers?

Research in many different areas shows several common abilities among skillful thinkers. Here are 7 techniques to include in your learning programs to help your learners become faster, better, and more skilled thinkers:
  1. Model what you want learners to do ("Notice that I completed these first three steps before opening the circuit box.”)
  2. Give them lots of chance to practice by asking your learners to explain their answers to you, whether you think the answer is right or wrong.
  3. Give feedback that relates to a deeper understanding. ("Does that make sense to...?")
  4. Ask them to read, listen to audios, watch videos, or attend a lecture/seminar outside of your program to develop their knowledge base.
  5. Point out what details your learners should notice, and which ones are not relevant. (“This is the most important thing to remember when opening a discussion with a direct report.”)
  6. Be sure that the questions you ask go beyond understanding facts, and ask for a deep understanding of the topic. Think of questions that take the form, "How does... relate to... ?" or "What is the connection between... and...?"
  7. Give problems that make students stretch beyond the strategies or topics that are easy for them. Adults have had a long time to decide whether certain topics are easy or hard to learn, and these entrenched beliefs in your adult learners make it harder to change.
Adopt these techniques and strategies to help ensure that the way you frame a problem doesn’t prevent you from solving it. Ask the right questions to get the right answers.
Game On!

For more ideas on developing more skillful thinkers using gamification design, get started with The Gamification Starter Kit.

About the Author:  Monica Cornetti
Founder and CEO, Sententia

A gamification speaker and designer, Monica Cornetti is rated as a #1 Gamification Guru in the World by UK-Based Leaderboarded. She is the author of the book Totally Awesome Training Activity Guide: Put Gamification to Work for You, writes The Gamification Report blog, and hosts the weekly Gamification Talk Radio program.  

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