Happy Solstice!

Since you are staring at endless days of uninterrupted leisure time, I thought you might appreciate some recommendations for things to read.  I decided to give you suggestions on the topic of behavioral economics, as this field has found new attention with Richard Thaler being awarded the Nobel prize in economics.  The big idea here is that we are not the completely rational thinkers that we think we are, a theme that comes up over and over again in the Coaching Letter.  Rather, we are very much in thrall to intellectual shortcuts that our brain provides for us to make the world easier to navigate, but which frequently allow us to reach the wrong destination, or fail to notice something important along the way.  Our cognitive biases have nothing to do with intelligence, and often we fail to correct for them even when they are pointed out to us.

Here are some books that I found both interesting and enjoyable, and that help me think differently about my work. Please don’t think that you have to read them at a desk; underneath a blanket in front of the fire will do fine.  Also, please find attached some resources that show how we, at the Center, use the work on cognitive biases in our work:

  1. Common Pitfalls and Potential Barriers to Learning and Improvement.  This was written by my colleague Richard Lemons, and documents some of the ways in which our thinking can lead us astray in ordinary, everyday leadership situations;
  2. Pre-Morten and Red-Teaming. I wrote this to support a technique I use all the time with clients, single and plural, to help them improve their plans for improvement—improvement planning is a topic worthy of its own Coaching Letter.  It includes a protocol called a Pre-Mortem that I borrowed from Gary Klein.  Here is Daniel Kahneman on YouTube explaining the Pre-Mortem; if you do nothing else with this Coaching Letter, watch and learn from this—especially what he says about how we treat pessimists.  I LOVE this.

Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational. New York: NY: HarperCollins.  Dan Ariely also has some great Ted talks on a variety of related topics.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  This book is already a classic.  It maps the field of behavioral economics and especially the idea that our thinking can be categorized into the instant, reactionary and the slower, deliberate; we need both, because neither serves us well in all circumstances.  Kahneman won a Nobel prize in economics for his work, even though he is a psychologist.

Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2005). Freakonomics. New York: NY: William Morrow.  This is the book that launched the podcast, which I listen to assiduously, and will make you think differently about all kinds of things.

Lewis, M. (2016). The undoing project: A friendship that changed the world. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.  Michael Lewis is the author of Moneyball and The Blind Side, and this book is written in much the same style.  It tells the personal story of Daniel Kahneman and his collaborator Amos Tversky, like a double biography.  Not so much a technical book, but a great read.

Thaler, R. H. (2015). Misbehaving: The making of behavioral economics. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.  By the same Thaler mentioned above, this is kind of a cross between a survey of the field of behavioral economics for a layperson and a memoir.

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (1975). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.  Do not, under any circumstances, read Cass Sunstein’s book about Star Wars.

Above all, have a lovely break, you deserve some rest!  Drop me a line if you have the time, and let me know how I, or this Coaching Letter, can be helpful to you.  All the best, Isobel

Pre-mortem and Red-Teaming

Common Barriers and Pitfalls for Learning and Improvement_FINAL

Isobel Stevenson PhD PCC
Program Coordinator
Connecticut Center for School Change
151 New Park Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
Office: 860.586.2340

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