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Stuart Browne 13-Oct-2022 09:57:37 5 min read

Hey idiot, what dumb decisions are you making today ?

The digital clock in the car flipped over to 06:30 as I reversed into the tricky parking space at the office this morning.

Chapter 14 of my audio book had just started and I momentarily cursed having such a short commute to work.

It's the 3rd time I've read or listened to The Undoing Project now.

Each iteration pulls me a little deeper and I learn or re-learn things that blow my mind.

Michale Lewis has long been one of my favourite authors. I was hooked from Liar's Poker 20 years ago, and The New New Thing accidentally provided me with so many things that shaped my thinking when I founded Resulting in 2004.

Wind forward through the Money Ball and Big Short era and Lewis' story telling is now famous the world over, supercharged by a couple of movie deals.

But The Undoing Project fascinates me. Not for the author, but the subject.

Easing in with NBA (Moneyballesque) draft player selection, it quickly jumps in to telling wartime childhood story of Daniel Kahneman and his journey to Psychology Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Before you know it, you're being mesmerised by a deep insight into how Cognitive Bias affects human decision making, how educated people make dumb mistakes by trusting their gut instead of facts and probabilities. How questions can be posed in such a way that hides clarity in plain sight. And how we all think we're right when we're statistically wrong.

"Essentially, we're all idiots."

The emotional back story is exceptional too. Danny's relationship with his long time collaborator Amos Tversky blossomed into something close to a professional and academic love affair. Their work dumfounded and irritated the establishment. The pressures of constant intellectual work-outs and sparing sessions, plus mixed adulation from the world of academia eventually led to a breakdown in their close friendship.

It's thrilling, educational, complex and emotional.

But as I turned off the engine this morning, it was the title of the book and topic of the last chapter that prompted my hands on this keyboard now. Writing this instead of doing stuff on my to-do list before I head off to Scotland tomorrow for a few days of fresh air.

I watched University Challenge on TV on Monday night. Two teams of high-functioning students answered questions on esoteric topics like they were batting flies away, before squirming with a music round where the questions posed were based on songs in which the song title doesn't appear in the lyrics until the last line.

I rattled off Squeeze, The Cure and The Stone Roses within 2 bars of the listen-along, as these geniuses looked at each other in a confused state, before the marginally cool kid in one team eventually squeezed out band names through apologetic squinting eyes.

The Undoing Project is similar.

The title of the book doesn't fully emerge until the last chapter.

Bora Bora (the Chapter's title) explores how the probability of events could have been detected in advance of those events in order to stop them happening.

With the benefit of hindsight, what decisions would have had the highest probability of 'undoing' an outcome like an accident or critical failure?

This closes out the book in a thought provoking way.

If, throughout our lives, we're all making dumb decisions because of cognitive bias, we're constantly influencing the future in ways that could be negative.

In 2018, we ran a research project at Resulting - asking 120 SAP customers how their ERP projects had worked out for them in terms of success.

The SAP Success Report found that more than 50% of SAP projects failed to achieve their business objectives.

For 2 decades big businesses have been spending tens of millions of dollars on IT projects with a 50/50 chance of delivering on their business case.

If the pilot announced that your flight had 50/50 chance of landing safely, would you buckle up and relax?

The SAP Success Report explores 15 factors that affect the success (or failure) of ERP projects. We explored the factors that have the biggest impact on success.

  • Which factors cause SAP projects delays?
  • Which factors cause budget over-runs on SAP projects
  • Which factors cause 50% of SAP projects to not deliver the expected benefits?
 

I thought about this as I closed the car door this morning.

Having identified these factors and explained them to SAP customers back in 2018, how many SAP disasters had our report 'undone'?

How many people have read the facts and statistics in our research and changed their actions on their ERP project? And, what impact has this had on SAP project success the world over in the last 2 years, if any?

As the leader of a consulting business, I get frustrated when customers fail to take the advice we give. I take it personally when we're unable to advise people to make good decisions.

Sometimes it's political. Sometimes it's a lack of budget.

But mostly, it's people ignoring the advice..

This, I think is partly our fault too. If we can't articulate problems and solutions in a way that gets customers to understand them and act, then we need to work harder on our communication skills.

"People don't choose between things, they choose between the descriptions of things."

We wind up being hard on ourselves - super critical of how we make recommendations. Our team really fret about this kind of stuff - which is generally a healthy negativity to have.

But it's still annoying when you can see a future train wreck emerging moment by moment as bad decisions, inaction and ignorance conspire to buckle the tracks ahead.

But then I remember cognitive bias.

I remember that no matter how hard we try to mark out problems in the future, educated people make dumb mistakes by trusting their gut instead of experience, facts and probabilities.

This makes undoing future mistakes almost impossible.

Download the SAP Success Report here.

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Stuart Browne

Stuart has held leadership roles in the SAP ecosystem over an 18 year period, spanning consultancy, delivery management, practice development, sales, marketing and analyst relations. With an eclectic mix of skills and one of the largest SAP networks in the UK, Stuart has established a formidable reputation that has enabled Resulting to guide SAP customers through complex challenges.