Posts Tagged ‘risk’

It’s Extraordinary

December 9th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

It is extraordinary.  If it wasn’t for the plentiful evidence, it would be unbelievable.  And the effect that it has on our behaviour is both extraordinary and extra ordinary.

It is extraordinary that we have a predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  It’s a twist on the usual ‘forest and trees’ connection; in this case, we can’t see the trees all around us as we focus on the chance that a sasquatch lives in the forest and the danger this would represent.  What makes something extraordinary is precisely why this focus is misplaced.  If it was just a question of misplacement, it would be less of an issue for priorities can always be rearranged.

However, concern does grow when displacement enters the cognitive arena.  Displacement is close to replacement; once the crucial focus on the very common ordinary is replaced by an unwavering focus on the very infrequent extraordinary, the risks we (fail to) perceive and the decisions we make accordingly affect our behaviour adversely.

How many falling branches, snakes, spiders, cliffs or weather conditions do you tend to overlook because you think that the real danger is found in the possible presence of an angry Bigfoot?  It’s extraordinary that the extraordinary is so extraordinarily influential.

This music video for the song ‘Extraordinary’ assembles many extraordinary events and piles them one on top of the other but, as you watch it, you have to remember that ‘extraordinary’ is almost never the problem.  However risky you perceive this behaviour, it should never distort your perception of risk towards the extraordinary:

One of the many benefits of effortful experience is the ability to see the bigger picture.  But operating at the level of the bigger picture should not and does not arrive at the expense of only seeing/looking for the biggest risks.  It’s an interesting contrast – experiential learning allows you to cope with the many ordinary risks automatically while you concurrently focus on the extraordinary risks intentionally.

‘tis nobler hopes that you achieve extraordinary things, perhaps just by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.  This will involve some risk management – skilled yet ‘ordinary’ performance that should not be distorted by an intentional focus on the extraordinary.

And yet it remains extraordinary that we continually act on our predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  In what way will you be extraordinary?

Not Just The Splash

December 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When discussing the concept of risk in the last post, ‘tis nobler pointed out that the common view of risk and risk taking behaviour was invariably negative.  The ‘other side of the risk coin’ sees it as positive, effective and adaptive.  Finding your own way both through and away from risk involves both balance and self-management.

You can’t take a unilateral approach to risk as risk is not unilateral.  In the same way, consequences aren’t unilateral either.  We tend to think of consequences as significant events – the big splash – and ignore the continuing ripples.  It’s not just the splash that creates problems; you also have to cope with the ripples.  In an aggregate sense, constant ripples may pose much greater problems than the occasional splash.  And while ripples always follow a (risk-related) splash, ripples can flow from any disturbance.  You can’t have a splash without ripples but you can have ripples without a splash!

Consequences are to risk as ripples are to life; the ordinary poses many more challenges for us than the extraordinary.  The latest evidence suggests that ‘ripples’ follow cycles – we are more able to cope with ripples at certain times, times that coincide with the higher points of our daily or weekly life pattern.  We don’t call Wednesday ‘hump day’ just because it falls in the middle of the working week; Wednesday tends to be associated with higher levels of negative emotions.  In terms of peaks and troughs, Wednesday is a trough.

Compounding these broader cycles is the more volatile ‘ups and downs’ within them.  And the more you are (or allow yourself to be) buffeted by this shorter term volatility, the more likely it is that ripples will continue well beyond the point where others have moved on.  If you have an experience that you can’t forget, you’ll be affected by the hangover of ripples for some time:

It’s not just avoidance of the splash, or minimising its harm should it occur, that represents the self-management challenge.  The pattern of ripples, the volatility of ripples within that pattern and the flow-on effects of past ripples all combine to produce greater challenges than the occasional splash.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, you will make a much bigger splash by effectively and efficiently managing the many smaller ripples.

An Upside To Risk

December 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is ‘absolutely’ fabulous?  According to The Pet Shop Boys, it is:

There are many ways in which ‘absolute’ is anything but fabulous.  As a novice, you might have had absolute faith in absolute rules – this is what people are meant to do – and absolute confidence in your ability to follow those rules.  And then you realise that the real world is much messier; rules are replaced by skills and normative standards (the spirit) replace the ‘letter of the law’.  Absolute often becomes relative, with a ‘black and white’ view replaced by the colours of the rainbow.  Learning and changing becomes matters for continual and dynamic balancing, not adherence to blinkered absolutes.

Think of the words usually associated with risk taking or risk takers.  These words are probably, and overwhelmingly, negative – stupid, senseless, crazy, immature, thoughtless, idiotic or insane.  Risk takers are commonly seen as idiots.  Of course, there is an element of truth in these descriptions, particularly when risks are simply taken without being managed.  You could be excused for having an absolute position on risk taking in daily pursuits – it’s bad and always to be avoided.  Wouldn’t life be absolutely fabulous without risks and risk taking?

The answer is ‘No’, for you can’t adopt an absolute position on risk taking.  It can be relatively dangerous (with ‘danger’ being defined in many different ways) but rarely in day to day life is it absolutely wrong.  Think of the other side of the risk taking ‘coin’ – have you ever heard of risk taking being described as effective, positive or adaptive?  For managed risk taking can and should fit these alternative descriptions.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are traditionally viewed as methods to reduce or eliminate risks.  In contrast, ‘tis nobler conceives of experiential learning and behavioural change as methods to better enable self-management of risk, regardless of the type or level of risk.

Risk taking for the sake of taking risks is either unproductive or destructive.  Risk taking for the sake of learning and/or change can be managed.  It is essential to remember the big difference:

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and there will be consequences. Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Striking the right risk taking balance as your learning journey unfolds is crucial – too little is boring and too much is, well, you know what ‘too much’ is.  And ‘little and ‘too much’ are always relative terms, relative to you and the situation.

Managing risk by striking the right and relative balance can be absolutely fabulous!

Anonymously Aberrant

November 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The relationships between an individual and a group can be many and varied.  For a start, we all believe that individuals are ‘better’ than groups:

When I compare myself to a group, I always win.  When you compare yourself to a group, you win.  When each member of the group compares themselves to the rest, the individual usually comes out in front.  On average, we are all above-average.  However, it may be that this effect doesn’t reflect the bias of the rater; rather, it reflects a bias towards individuals at the expense of the group.  So, it’s not that I think I am better, it’s that I think groups are worse.

At the same time, perceived (not actual) group membership can exert a powerful influence on our behaviour, both positive or negative:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.

And yet we like to think that we retain our individuality within groups – we remain a face within a sea of faces rather than faceless and anonymous.  Does being ‘lost in a crowd’ sometimes equate to losing ourselves?  The evidence indicates the answer to this question is a clear ‘Yes’ for, as part of a group, our individual identities blur or vanish:

With the anonymity afforded to individuals by a group, they say and do things that are an aberration.  Conversely, behavioural control can often be imposed externally through invigilation – if we think or know we are both known and being watched, we behave differently and we behave better.  Of course, external control is neither sustainable nor desirable for the same sorts of reasons that external motivation also eventually falters.  By definition, the responsibility for self management cannot be delegated to outsiders.

In the largest of crowds, the darkest of nights and the most chaotic of situations, you are never completely anonymous.  There is always one person who knows exactly who you are with, where you are and what you are doing.  Do you know who this person is?

It is impossible for you to ‘lose yourself in the crowd’ for you are never faceless to yourself, just to others.  It is thus impossible to use ‘being lost in the crowd’ as an excuse for your behaviour.  Under supervision or beyond supervision are artificial distinctions in learning and behavioural change – should the presence or absence of supervision determine how you behave?

Be yourself when you are by yourself. Be yourself when you are with others.

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘One or more’ changes many things.  Or one or more changes change many things.

When things change from one to more than one, things can get messy.  Then again, when things change from one to more than one, things can get highly focused, more efficient and very effective.  Was it the opening line to that less-known novel, The Tale of Two Entities’, that stated ‘’twas the best of outcomes, ‘twas the worst of outcomes’?

When you strive for the greatest good – Summum Bonum – ‘one or more’ changes many things, not least of which is perspective.  What do you do differently if you are learning or changing by yourself compared to doing the same things with others?  Is your answer ‘many things’?

Game theory demonstrates that individuals need to shift their focus away personal gain if their outcomes move from independent of others to interdependent.  They need to shift their focus from competition to cooperation for, if everyone tries to win, ultimately everyone loses.  Cooperation makes even more sense when you take into account how much worse people perceive losses relative to gains.

If you are not ‘flying solo’, you optimise your returns when you cooperate for win/win outcomes become possible.  Compete with yourself and cooperate with others.  ‘Flying solo’ allows you to be selfish – just concerned with yourself – while ‘flying in formation’ requires you to become less selfish.

Some recent research has suggested that this shift can go even further in certain conditions.  Rather than just being less selfish, individuals can behave selflessly to ensure group aims are achieved.  They sacrifice more of their personal entitlement when their group is competing with others – a classic example of putting the team before themselves – and trying to achieve the very best results.  With all (competing) groups trying to achieve the very best result possible, everybody wins and wins more than they otherwise would!

Within your groups, it can be a case of ‘war’ or it can be a case of ‘no more trouble’:

How you do decide between selfish, less selfish and selfless?  Depending on the circumstances, each of these can produce positive returns.  Applied inappropriately, however, everybody might lose.

You cannot win all the time.  You shouldn’t try to win all the time.  And sometimes you shouldn’t try to win at all.  Being your best is always available (and need not involve ‘winning’) while, for most of us, trying to be the best is the best way to fail.

Affecting History

August 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

They say history is written by the winners, which makes some sense.  Those who attain (or regain) power are in a position to define, or perhaps rewrite, past events to suit their current needs.  They have the capacity to say ‘This is what really happened’, even if it didn’t.  Of course, it’s an ongoing and dynamic process. In ‘The Changing Of The Reasons’, ‘tis nobler referred to evidence that indicated that our reasoning in support of our actions is unstable over time; yesterday’s reason might not apply today and today’s reason might be changed tomorrow.  Combined with the hindsight bias – past uncertainty is dismissed for the result was ‘never in doubt’ -, history is affected by the winners in many ways.

Of course, winning allows the winners to hide their mistakes, sanitising the past so that they appear in the strongest possible light.  Errors of omission (things they should have done but didn’t) and errors of commission (things they did that they should not have) are removed, leaving an impressive but misleading track record.

They say winners are grinners, which also makes some sense.  Personal achievement warrants celebration although the exaggerated triumphalism that accompanies relatively modest results can be annoying.  Still, success produces smiles!

What does it mean if you try to combine the rewriting and the grinning?  Is there a relationship between changing the past and enjoying the present?  What is the relationship between predictions of the future and affect?  For emotional measures, recent evidence suggests the relationship takes this form:

We are inaccurate in predicting how we will feel after an action or event takes place.

We are revisionary in that we alter our past predictions to accord with our current emotional state.

There can be an emotional dimension to many of the decisions we make – doing this will make me feel good or better.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether these findings encourage you to either place more emphasis on other decision making factors or downplay the role of your anticipated feelings as a reason for acting.  Welcome (yet again) to the labyrinth.

If you knew how you were going to feel, would you be happier?

This is yet another example of how our current version of the past is modified by current experience.  Time can be both a coin and a sword – it can have two sides or be double-edged.  Think about this when you use the way you think you’re going to feel in the future, once you have done what you have decided to do.  Your predictions are most likely wrong and you’ll rewrite the past to cover this up.

The anticipation of affect affects what you do but this does seem unreliable.  How else would you act if using (future) affect as a criterion was history?  That’s something to think about right now, for past, present and future feelings are linked in ways that you may not expect.


April 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This is what the dictionary says about ‘faultless’:

“Without fault, flaw or defect; perfect”

In experiential learning and behavioural change, it is better to adopt a literal definition – fault less – rather than confuse faultless with fault-free.

Performance is not about absolutes but, rather, all of the shades that exist between unlikely, polar extremes (utterly hopeless, utterly perfect).  The same extremes, and their irrelevance to performance, apply to consciousness,  The dictionary defines ‘conscious’ as:

“Aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc”

And yet one fundamental aim of experiential learning is to remove ‘conscious’ from the performance equation, to operate below the conscious level.  But this should never be taken to mean that you can also remove awareness and attention from the equation.

There is no such thing as a human autopilot, performance that is free from human (self) intervention.  When operating below conscious level, you may not be aware that you’re aware, but you are aware.  When operating below conscious level, you may attend to your attention but you are attending.  One implication of operating like this after much practice is the inability to describe what you’re actually doing when you’re doing the ‘acting’ for the ‘why’ is being handled subconsciously.  It is possible to describe the ‘how’ but, in the scheme of things, the ‘how’ is relatively unimportant.

But even highly automated behaviours carry the risk of error, for this risk is never set to zero.  It is possible for even the most experienced performers to slip from subconscious to ‘unconscious’ performance.  Not literally, of course, unless they faint but the chance of slipping below minimum levels of (subconscious) awareness is ever-present.  We’ve all heard people say – “What was I thinking?  I’ve done this a million times before.” – as though practice, competence or expertise should provide  immunity from mistakes.  But “it can happen to anyone of us …. cos I made a stupid mistake’:

Faultless isn’t.  Tomorrow, when you’re leaving for school or work, please double-check that you’re wearing trousers!

Paying For It

November 19th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Making decisions can be a weird or wonderful process.  How did I make the decision to use ‘or’ rather than ‘and’ in that first sentence?  Does it make any difference?  If it doesn’t, was there a decision to make in the first place?  Cue the sound of one hand clapping.

Weird or wonderful might equate to inexplicable (usually to others) or accurate/helpful (usually to ourselves).  There is a huge range of factors that can impinge on individual decisions, so let’s just examine one for a start.  As you would expect, this one is, itself, the tip of a decision making iceberg.  An iceberg can be a slippery slope but only until you hit the water.  Then you start floundering and sinking.  Or then you start swimming.  Sink or swim – the outcome is determined by the decisions you make.

There is evidence that we discount the advice of others in reaching our ‘own’ decisions.  One of several factors that affect the discount rate is whether we have invested in this advice.  A series of three experiments concluded that we are more likely to follow advice if we have paid for it, presumably because we need to demonstrate ‘value for money’.  This resonates with the more general ‘sunk costs fallacy’ – a personal investment is pursued beyond the point where it makes sense on the basis that we are averse to loss.  And the most obvious loss would be the money we have paid, which explains why we endeavour to extract continuing value from it.  In all sorts of investment decisions, the perceived ‘point of no return’ recedes into the distance so that you feel that you never reach it.  In fact, you passed it some time ago!

Think more broadly about how discounting and investment affect the decisions you make in your learning and behavioural change journey.  There is always a price to be paid – an opportunity cost or a consequence – for the decisions you make.  How will you make these decisions?  Does the value of something increase just because you paid for it?  What price are you prepared to pay?

Sometimes, the price you pay is more than the price you pay. Above all, perhaps, it’s best just to pay attention to your journey rather than pay others to take you for a ride.

Confidently Where?

November 1st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning, has overconfidence replaced money as the root of all evil?  If you read press reports, you could be forgiven for thinking exactly this.  But a degree of (self) confidence is required to explore for, without it, your learning journey will take place on a carousel.  An unchanging view, endless yet limited repetition and static experience would combine to stultify rather than enthuse.  Going too far the other way – being excessively overconfident – creates different problems; too much confidence, relative to experience and ability, can be a real concern. 

Perhaps it’s a question of appreciation, in both senses of the word; more accurately, perhaps it’s a question of modest appreciation.  Firstly, you have to appreciate – acknowledge, understand and accept – the confidence you have; recognition that you have confidence, rather than fear or blind faith, is an important starting point.  Being balanced, being somewhere in the middle rather than at the extremes doesn’t shut off experiences through fear and it doesn’t invite otherwise avoidable consequences through blind faith.

But there’s another meaning to ‘appreciate’ – to grow.  The consensus is that moderate overconfidence is the position to strive for.  This tilts the balance (slightly) in favour of new experiences and more learning opportunities.  It can elevate your goals, it can motivate through challenge and it can sustain your journey (for the journey continues rather than circles).

This video has the title, Diary of a Disappointed Book, although it seems to me that the book doesn’t have much to be disappointed about until the end; even then, it may just be the start of another adventure.  Can you imagine modest overconfidence as a red book?

‘tis nobler doesn’t see disappointment. ‘tis nobler sees the hallmarks of modest overconfidence.  It is extended, appreciated in a variety of circumstances, supportive and useful but not needed all the time.  Who knows what happened next?  With modest overconfidence instead of disappointment, the chances of something positive occurring are increased.

Fearful, fanatical or moderately overconfident, disappointed, reckless or actively learning – where will you strike the balance that’s right for you?

Write Your Own, Right Your Own

October 29th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Here is a video that relates to your journey, whether it’s a journey of learning or behavioural change.  It embodies concepts covered in previous posts in an entertaining way.  But it is up to you to extract their value to you; you could dismiss the video as a bit of pop psychology or philosophy or you could burrow down below the surface of the video and explore some of the most important issues confronting you.  It’s your choice:

Write your own story.

Right your own life.

Countering Some Encounters

October 25th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last Thursday, in Backwards And Forwards Without Moving, ‘tis nobler talked about shared understanding as the only way to resolve conflict sustainably.  And then ‘tis nobler came across this recent video:

Now for today’s post – countering some (tempting) encounters. A recurring theme at ‘tis nobler is the challenge of staying the (learning) course when there are so many distractions and temptations – see, most recently, Vigilant Removal.  One tactic that has been shown to be effective is to imagine that the costs of giving in to temptations are much higher than they actually are – it’s called counteractive construal.  Will just one piece of chocolate see your weight balloon out of control or wreck your commitment to weight loss?  Objectively, the answer is ‘no’ and hence the temptation lingers and you may succumb.  Once is OK, every now and again is OK but the danger is that this becomes a frequent occurrence, with relapse after relapse.  How do things change if you see this one piece of chocolate containing many more calories than it actually does?

Will missing just one practice session dramatically affect your experiential learning progress?  Probably not but, again, if the subjective costs are seen as much higher than they actually are, the likelihood of session participation is also increased.  There are some clear benefits of ‘looking on the bright side’, but not where temptation is concerned:

It’s generally good to be optimistic, although optimism bias can have negative consequences.  Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence.  Be neither a saint nor a sinner for you won’t be perfectly good or perfectly bad.  You’ll just be – doing your best more often than not, dealing with the obstacles and temptations as best you can at the time and making forward progress despite the occasional steps back.

If you exaggerate the costs of losing your way whenever temptations appear, it may enable you to continue finding your own way.  How do you construe this message?

Backwards And Forwards Without Moving

October 21st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today, let’s have words.  ‘tis nobler doesn’t want to have words like centrifugal, celebratory or chromatography, interesting as these words are.  No, today, ‘tis nobler WANTS TO HAVE WORDS.  Of course, having words is another way of saying having a forceful discussion, which itself is another way of saying heated argument.  AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR NOW!

And all of these ways usually reduce to some simple statements or questions: I AM RIGHT.  YOU ARE WRONG.  HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID?  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?

These interactions can be frequent, explosive or smouldering and they usually come free of charge.  Sometimes, though, there is a fee involved:

At the personal and interpersonal levels, conflict usually involves going backwards and forwards, without actually moving, without making any progress.  ‘Winning’ is often seen as more important than settling; there may be precious little resolution for seeking a resolution.  Neither is appeasement a sensible strategy for the underlying issue remains and it will re-surface in an hour, a day or maybe a week.

Perhaps it is better to move towards the conflict than retreat, either to an entrenched position or the apparent safety of greater distance.  This is the idea underpinning the concept and practice of Restorative Circles (read about it in this report).  Moving closer together is the only place where shared understanding can be found.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, conflicts will arise.  The aim is not to prevail but to resolve constructively.  The aim is not to waste time going backwards and forwards but to make progress.  The aim is not to allow conflict to supplant learning or change but to learn and grow.

Find your own way, respectfully.

Around You

October 12th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you interact with the world around you.  Despite its seemingly benign and consistent appearance, there can be gradual or abrupt changes.  Being aware of the situation is usually and unsurprisingly called situation awareness.  Hey, I wonder how good her situation awareness is?

Did she know?  Did you know?

How would she know?  How could you know?  Perhaps she heard something.  Did you hear anything?  Was there anything to hear?  I heard there wasn’t.

Even if she knew, well, what’s a girl to do?

There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s behind you.

There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s to your left.

There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s to your right.

There will even be times when you aren’t aware of what’s in front of you.

Sometimes you’ll fail to look.  Sometimes you’ll look but fail to see.  Other times, you’ll under-estimate, misinterpret or misjudge what you do see. 

What’s a girl to do?  What’s a guy to do?  What are you going to do?

Make Or Break

October 11th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

When everything is on the line, the situation is often described as ‘make or break’.  Others may say they are either going to crash or crash through.  These sorts of statements could be considered examples of hyperbole – obvious exaggerations.  I’ve been waiting an eternity for a better definition of hyperbole!

People often make resolutions at New Year – this year, I’m going to lose weight, get fit, run a marathon, stop smoking, travel overseas.  Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing that is actually achieved is the breaking of this resolution.  The pizza right now is much more attractive than three pizzas in six months, even though you’ll have lost 10 kilos by then and can enjoy them as a special treat (hopefully not all at once!).  This sort of discounting, when the value of a future something is much less than it should be, is hyperbolic.  Are patience and discipline rare commodities these days?  Is it unusual to hear somebody say they’ve been waiting (for you) such a long time?

There is evidence that indicates that high discount rates – the ‘now, now, now’ phenomenon – are associated with reduced self control.  Immediate gratification is seen as much more valuable than something more valuable for which you must wait.  Commitments can also be ‘make or break’ undertakings.  Are there ways in which a commitment – for example, to commit to regular, effortful practice – can be kept rather than discounted for other, more immediate rewards?

For a start, you can shift your attention away from the immediate temptation or you can remove yourself from its presence – a visible, tangible temptation is more difficult to resist.  You can strengthen your connection to the task rather than the temptation in various ways.

And you can also put your ‘money’ where your mouth is. It’s called strategic precommitment and it involves an investment in commitment, a reward for delayed gratification.  Give a friend $200 and tell them that if you don’t lose 10 kilos in the next 6 months, they can keep the money themselves or donate it to charity.  It’s as simple as that, although you might lose the 10 kilos and the friend when they fail to return the money!  Organise it as thoroughly as you do every other aspect of your learning or change journey.

Doing should be done but, sometimes, delaying is also doing.  Find your own way.

Accelerate Risk, Decelerate Success

October 5th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

One way to think through your experiential learning journey is the transition from the unusual, with little bits of the usual appearing from time to time, to the usual, with little bits of the unusual appearing from time to time.

But sometimes, even when experienced, the usual doesn’t proceed as usual, and it’s not necessarily because of the unusual bits that just happen to be there.  Outcomes are not always determined by outliers.  What should you do when the usual itself becomes unusual?

The simplest and least effective approach is to try and get the unusual back to the usual as quickly as possible.  Taking (excessive) risks in order to restore the usual is, um, usually the wrong thing to do.  While it appears to make sense – how else will you get things back to ‘normal’? – it generally reduces the chances of success even further.  To restore the usual, it is often best to chip away rather than make bold moves for time is often on your side; it’s important to remember, as Anastacia does,  that there is almost always one more chance:

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This ‘work your way back gradually’ approach does have empirical support but there are exceptions to this strategy.  If the time is restricted and the gap between the usual and the unusual is very large, more drastic action may be required.  Even these circumstances, though, require deliberative and deliberate efforts.  Recklessness might work in the movies but it rarely does in real life.  For every amazing story, there are many (unreported) failures associated with the outlandish.

Being flexible and responsive does not mean abandonment of self-management.  Being frantic or in a flat panic does not mean abandonment of self-management.  Unusual circumstances do not require abandonment of self-management.  Indeed, all of these things reinforce the value of sustained self-management.

You deal with both the usual and the unusual in the same fundamental ways, remembering that prompt action is always better than quick solutions.  Work it through – there’s always one more chance to get things back to the usual.  Usually!


September 24th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is possible that ‘probably’ is an ill-defined word.  Being an ill-defined word may be improbable, perhaps, but not impossible.  I’m just not sure how I could possibly establish how probable this assertion is.  As Jill Barber sings, “What are the chances”,

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What are the chances?  Establishing the probability of an event occurring can be a real challenge, even when the event is hypothetical.  This is demonstrated in many attempts to answer questions about probability during statistics examinations:

“It is desirable to study for this exam; if you do not study, there is an 80% chance that you will fail.  Even if you do study, there is a 20% chance that you’ll still fail.  History indicates that only 60% of students will study for the exam.”

If you didn’t study, what are the chances that you failed the exam?  If you studied, what are the chances that you failed the exam?  What is the chance that Student X will pass the exam (assuming study behaviour is the only variable)?  Research has shown that it is easier to solve questions like these by translating them into simple counting activities (if there are 100 students, 60 will study etc) instead of trying to deal with percentages and proportions.  Nevertheless, when you start introducing conditional probabilities (if this, then that), applying the necessary logic can be both difficult and daunting.  When you increase the number of conditions, the necessary logic, while more difficult and daunting, becomes increasingly irrelevant.  If your life has essentially infinite possibilities, all of which have a non-zero probability and many of which are dependent on most everything else, is there any point in trying to establish the chances?

Experiential learning and behavioural change are underpinned by conditional probabilities but you don’t really need to think consciously about them (unless they relate to obvious, perhaps risky, events, in which case you need to manage them).  Through experience, your learning and behaviour will become attuned to relative probabilities – the patterns that ‘tis nobler has talked about before.  Sometimes, these are called expectancies and they reflect your understanding of the world and how it works.  Much of your time will be based on expecting the expected, except for those occasions when you need to expect the less-expected.  Infrequently, you’ll have to expect the unexpected.

You do not need mathematical talent to assess the chances.  You don’t need to spend your time worrying over conditional probabilities.  But you do need lots of experience in order to incorporate increasingly refined expectancies.  Many people think it’s all about expecting the unexpected but this is less important than monitoring and anticipating the range of expected events.

With experience, you’ll know what the chances are.  There’s no ‘probably’ about it.

Choose Then Choose Again

August 9th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you feel when someone demands that you do something?  Even if it is something you like to do, being forced to do it can be irritating, if not upsetting.  When you freely decide to do something, your perspective of the task will be different than when the task is imposed on you – there are big differences between “I’ll do it because I want to” and “Do this because I tell you to”.  Coercive compliance underpins many educational activities; volitional action is a much less frequent feature.  A volitional choice, even if perceived as ‘wrong’ by others, embodies greater learning weight and has positive implications for motivation, engagement and sustained effort.  But there is one aspect of choice that might be risky.  And that is why you must choose and then choose again.

That aspect is risk.  There are many factors that influence perception of risk and choice is one of them, although its direct role is difficult to disentangle from other influences.  Still, if you choose to engage in an activity, you will generally perceive it as less risky; after all, it’s your choice!  If you see others engaging in that activity, particularly if their actions may affect you, you tend to view their behaviour as more risky.  In your opinion, what’s OK for you to do is apparently not OK for them to do because the risk they expose you to through their actions is not your choice.  Naturally, they’ll be thinking exactly the same!

Still, it seems that it’s better to choose your risk than to receive their riskiness.  Both aspects can be managed if you choose, then choose again, and again, and again.

An activity’s objective level of risk will not be altered simply because you have chosen to do it; choosing how you do it can reduce this level of risk.  However, when choice alone lowers your perception of risk, you may not be as rigorous in self management.  Choice does not stop at ‘What’; it must continue on to select the ‘How’.  And there is not a single ‘How’ choice to be made.  There is an ongoing series of ‘How’ choices to be made – it’s called self management.

For there are consequences to all of the ‘What’ and ‘How’ choices you make, unless you’re the man or woman in this video:

By themselves, ‘What’ choices reduce perceived risk and may increase objective risk as you may not see the need for protective behaviours.  But ‘What’ choices shouldn’t be influenced by risk, perceived or otherwise; rather, they should be influenced by what you want to do.  ‘How’ decisions are designed to manage risk after you have made the ‘What’ decisions that interest, excite or motivate you.  Your choices are crucial; choose whatever ‘What’ activities you want but then make appropriate ‘How’ decisions again and again.

Familiar Novel

July 1st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

How would people respond if ‘tis nobler conducted a Familiar Novel poll?  It’s likely that one from the Harry Potter series would feature prominently; perhaps there’d be a Dan Brown, Michael Crichton or John Grisham book in the mix, with a Dickens, Austen or Hemingway somewhere on the list.  All understandable responses, all reasonable, all appropriate in the apparent circumstances and all wrong because ‘novel’ is not a noun in the title of this post – it’s an unexpected deviation from a general pattern.  The title of this post highlights one of the tensions in hazard perception and risk assessment, the tension between familiarity and novelty.  Things that are familiar are usually not perceived as risky.  In contrast, things that are novel are usually assigned higher levels of risk.  But the story is more complex than that.

They say familiarity breeds contempt.  Perhaps we should talk about familiarity breeding contempt of risk, producing complacency that leads to error.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Perhaps we should talk about absence (until now) making the head grow wary.  But the story is more complex than that.

In experiential learning, no two experiences, no two sessions, no two days are ever alike – they retain their novelty – and yet they become sufficiently familiar that you deal with them as general patterns.  These general patterns are never perfectly consistent but, with experience, you become more able to identify and cope with the subtle  deviations from these patterns.  How should we think about familiar, novel deviations from general patterns that increase perceived risk?

‘tis nobler suggests that the concept of fluency is useful.  Where perceived risk is concerned, when the ‘flow’ is interrupted, elevated perceptions of risk ensue.  This is why car drivers might temporarily halt a conversation or chess players might stop a rapid series of moves – their performance ‘flow’ has been affected by pattern deviations and they have to respond until the pattern is restored.  Even when things seem routine and boring, the potential for increased risk remains a constant companion.  Imagine the ‘flow’ upsets that could occur during the daily grind:

Ignoring the ‘flow’ can create problems but it may be that ignoring transient changes in the ‘flow’ creates even bigger problems.  Always try to go with the flow.

Big difference

June 19th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Experiential learning can be thought of as trial and error learning, where your aim is to maximise the number, variety and quality of trials whilst minimising the frequency and severity of errors (and learning from them when they do occur).  But the risk of error, and the consequences of those errors, cannot be eliminated completely.  Can you think of something, anything, that does NOT involve risk?

Everything you do involves some risk; the issue is how you manage this risk.  If you ignore it, or believe it will only affect others, you will, eventually but inevitably, pay a price.

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.  This video is just one of many examples of this big difference.  In ’tis nobler’s view,  this isn’t risky behaviour – it’s managing risk:

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and this means there can be consequences.  Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Does engaging in risky behaviour have any of these advantages when you stop to think about it?  Doesn’t engaging in risky behaviour have consequences that could have been avoided if you had managed risk rather than tried to just bluff your way through it?

Risk is everywhere.  Find your own way around the risks – manage them and have the time of your life.


June 5th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

       Experiential learning involves getting experience. 


       Getting experience can involve being exposed (to risk) and this can have consequences. 


       The existence of consequences can be appreciated or ignored, motivating or irrelevant.

       What do you think of the relationship between risk, motivation and learning?



As she approached, you could see her face was grim.

She took a deep breath, looked you in the eye and said, “Prepare yourself for some bad news.”

Have you ever been in this situation?  Can you imagine what it’s like?

You can never be prepared for bad news.  Only time will gradually make bad news ‘better’, not a greater preparedness to hear it for the first time.


As she approached, you could see her face was grim.

She took a deep breath, looked you in the eye and said, “Prepare yourself to reduce the chances of me getting bad news.”

You can prepare yourself to meet the challenges of life, if you are prepared to make the effort.  In fact, you can prepare yourself to meet any challenge, if you are prepared to make the effort.  Remove the artificial limits that you, perhaps more often than others, impose upon yourself.

Being prepared to try is the starting point for all types of preparation.


Does it follow that, if you’re not prepared to try, then you should be prepared to fail?  Does ‘fail to prepare’ equal ‘prepare to fail’?

Are you prepared to prepare yourself to help keep things from going wrong?


Are you prepared for others to repair you when things do go wrong?


Thanks to Flickr’s ‘Huggerindustries’ for the image!