A highlight from How to Rethink a Bad Decision


We've all doug ourselves into some holes. That were hard to dig out of especially at the urging of good friends it. She knocked on my door to room which she never does so. I knew something was up when she was like. Hey where person down. Everyone's going to go. You're going to be so upset that you missed risks. That's my student alexis. This was the second time. Her friend asked her to go to a trendy new festival so she couldn't turn her down again but as soon as she said yes. Things started to go downhill. Not only did my friends not have any details about the event but even the contact that we made with the organizers of the event seemed pretty sparse on the details as well. So i was already feeling a bit uneasy about what was happening but it felt like at a ready made that public commitment to our group to go. We'd already paid for our flights to miami. And those are non refundable even as alexis and her friends were boarding the plane. Things kept getting worse so we got on the plane which strike three. I was on my phone. Because i've found a twitter account saying that people started arriving didn't have housing and didn't have any food. Turns out that festival her friends who are obsessing about was one of the biggest frauds of twenty seventeen fire festival all these models like in the bahamas team is insane festival. The world has ever seen island getaway turn disaster. It became very far barbaric. What we got to the island. Of course most people now. Nothing was as promised we were not in luxury resort style. We were just in pretty damp tents basically spending the whole time. They're trying to figure out how to get out. There's a name for what happened with alexis. It's called escalation of commitment to losing course of action when you find out you've made a bad decision but instead of cutting losses you've doubled down you invest your time your money or your identity decisions long after. It's become obvious that dead ends. You may not have ended up at fire festival. But i'm willing to bet you've escalated your commitment to plenty of bad decisions. So how do you pull the plug. Sooner i'm adam grant and this is worklife. Podcast with its head audio collective. I'm an organizational psychologist a study to make work not suck in this show. I take you inside the minds of fascinating people to help us rethink how we work lead and live today. Why are we trapped in bad decisions. And how you and your workplace can get unstuck. Thanks to morgan stanley for sponsoring this episode. Let's start from the beginning. My father who's one of the very earliest people who started discount store and it was very successful and he started a second one third until he had a chain of stores in the late. Nineteen fifty s berry star was a teenager in southern california and for almost a decade. He saw his dad grows business to fifteen stores. He was really doing well. And then the large national companies they would just open a store right across the street practically and undercut all the prices they literally drove all the independent small guys out of business by then berry was in his twenty s was his father's business. It was slow and painful. He refused to give up and so he kept putting more and more of his own personal money into the business until finally he had no more personal money left and it ended up closing up. So that was something that was really indelibly engraved in my psyche. Fast forward a few years and berry watching the american government fall into the same trap. It dawned on me that the vietnam war was very similar to my father's experience that we kept investing more more. We kept having larger and larger losses. But we kept as a country refusing to admit that this was unlikely to succeed today. Berries and organizational behavior professor at uc berkeley and he coined the concept of escalation of commitment escalation of commitment occurs. When you're in a situation in which it is possible to ask more resources to a course of action or a prior decision in order to rectify a loss berry is the world's leading expert on this problem but even he can't help but fall victim to esscalation from time to time i've had some cars and then when the warranty expires then a bunch of little things start going wrong and then little bit bigger things going wrong and then bigger and bigger and i have been agonizing about whether to actually sell it and get rid of it or put more money in. It even happened in his marriage. I probably hung on longer than i should have. Went through years and years of marital therapy. Perry a moment like that. Do you not realize you're in an escalation trap. I realize i'm in it. But i still realize that it is a very difficult situation and maybe i can tell myself might be ally that this might be one of the exceptions in which it actually might be rational to invest more in the situation if this can happen to an expert on escalation of commitment. What hope is there for the rest of us. I'm painfully familiar with phenomenon. Myself like the time. I wrote a whole book. Instead of a book proposal had to throw away over one hundred thousand words and start over or the time spent months trying to change the behavior of toxic team member. When i should have just let him go. Commitment happens in every workplace. Think about the times when you over. Invested in a failing project stuck around in a miserable job struggled to walk away from an abusive boss or a toxic culture or even away from work poured your heart and soul into a romantic relationship. That clearly wasn't working. So why don't we know better. Why do we fall into the same trap again and again pouring more and more of ourselves into a bad decision even when all the evidence points us the other way the most common answer people give sunk costs. We've already invested our time or money and we want to do everything in our power to get a return on that investment just like alexis at fire festival. Sunk costs are part of the story but decades of research shows that the most powerful forces aren't economic. Their emotional escalation is where people make errors because of their ego and their emotions. It's not just a cold calculation loss of money or it's the hot pain of threats to our sense of self. They're afraid to admit a mistake and they end up justifying a decision to themselves in a case like this. I'm trying to protect my ego to convince myself that. I didn't make a bad choice. I'm also trying to protect my image to convince others that i made a good choice because otherwise i might end up. Having people think that. I'm not a good decision maker. I'm a loser. I'm not somebody who's to be trusted. The more we've invested in a decision the more attached we become to it and the more

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