Is Fast Thinking Ruining Your Business?

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Is Fast Thinking Ruining Your Business?

As a business owner or brand manager there are so many things to learn and take in. Feeling overwhelmed is nothing unusual especially these days when the world wide web of misinformation penetrates every waking second. Big decisions rest on your shoulders and it is up to you to lead from a solid base. One of the most common areas for concerns is around-ingredient choice, safety, legality and suitability for purpose especially in light of the fact that the cosmetics industry can whisk you away to the four corners of the globe in an instant. While being at the helm of a globe-trotting brand sounds like a whole lot of fun, trying to cater to varying ingredient preferences and legal frameworks can be a nightmare. So, what do we do?

I am not sure that there is a simple answer to that one but when I came across this book - Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman jam packed full of 'wow I'll have to sit with that for a while' brain facts something clicked. Maybe we have to start with ourselves, with the way that we think, with the way that we process information, with where we seek answers. Maybe, just maybe instead of thinking faster than a speeding bullet we need to learn how to think more slowly...

If you like to challenge your brain cell and read about how psychologists construct experiments that uncover how our brains work (or at least how they usually work in certain situations) then Daniel Kahneman's book 'Thinking Fast and Slow' is for you. The whole book is fascinating but the bit that really got me thinking about my life and experience in the cosmetics industry was the Illusion of Validity.

The Illusion of Validity appears in chapter 20, page 209 of the paperback version and as I turned to that page and started reading a light bulb or several came on. For those of you who are avid readers of self-improvement, psychology or science books then I strongly recommend that you go get the book but for everyone else - including all of you time-poor, fast-paced brand owners here is the bit that I got excited about paraphrased with my ramblings.

'System 1 (that is the part of the brain that thinks quickly) is designed to jump to conclusions from little evidence and it is not designed to know the size of its jumps'.

OK so for those of you that haven't read this and don't intend to our brain has two speeds - fast and slow, system 1 being fast and 2 being slow. Our slower one is our inner accountant while our fast one is our teenage, loose-as-a-goose, smile-and-wave party person).

'Because of WYSIATI, only the evidence at hand counts.'

WYSIATI = What you see is all there is. Time after time I feel my cage rattling as I see people all over the googlesphere being sucked into chasms of WYSIATI as they suck up anything and everything that looks good, almost always without question and usually with a big 'oh thank you' smile on their faces. We must like being done over.

I continue:

'Because of confidence by coherence, the subjective confidence we have in our opinions reflects the coherence of the story that system 1 and 2 have constructed'

So, we find info that we like the sound of, we like information that we like the sound of as it makes us feel cleaver and like we were 'right all along about that' and so our brain sucks it in.


'The amount of evidence and its quality do not count for much, because poor evidence can make a very good story. For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold those beliefs.

I shall call this the 'Santa Clause' effect or to give it its proper title 'the halo effect' - you like someone, you want to believe everything that they say (or at least not dis-believe it) so you take it onboard.

Onwards >>>

Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is preposterous - and is also essential.

Ha, yes, how true! We would be paralyzed in our in-decision if we admitted the truth to ourselves - that while we may know something about something, we don't know everything about anything. However, our over-confidence and readiness to preach via the world wide websphere both conspire to make us weapons of mass mis-information.

The science to back up this statement are outlined and referenced in the book and yes, like anything else my willingness to suck this up must be tempered with cross referencing, primary research of my own based on my experiences and by talking to other people. But that is time-consuming and in the gap between me reading something like this and me adopting it as a belief there is a field of tumbleweed, uncertainty and discomfort - It is tempting to not know WHAT to think any more...

I shared that with you because during my 15 years in the cosmetics industry I have had many beliefs challenged, preferences questioned and gut feelings proved wrong and while being wrong never feels great at the time, in my experience it always leads to something bigger, better and more balanced in the end.

So, I challenge you to stop and think about your cosmetic beliefs and not just about the easy stuff - yes 'natural' does sound way better than 'chemical factory' but about the underlying reasons and principles that guide your product, ingredient, brand, lifestyle choices. Your intuition may have guided you to a safe place but then again you may just find that you've been stuck in the corner with the party people getting up to no good.

Whatever you do I hope that you have fun and are sure to give yourself the time to do what matters well.

Amanda Foxon-Hill

19 October 2012

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