EVM Training - Decision Making & Charlie Munger - Part 2 - Tendency Toward Misjudgment


Tendency Toward Misjudgment – Part 2


Tendency Toward Misjudgment

In part 1 of this topic we learned about Charles (Charlie) T. Munger, Vice Chairman of Berskshire Hathaway and partner of Warren Buffet and his listing of 25 innate human tendencies toward misjudgment that we harbor. I went through each of the 25 “tendencies” that are defined and discussed by Charlie and tried to think about how the tendency could disadvantage or could potentially aid decision making.

Decision-Making is Critical

Humphreys & Associates emphasizes in its EVM training material that the process of decision-making is critical, and I was greatly pleased to learn that Charlie thought that same way. In the first part of the blog we discussed just two of the list of tendencies Munger provided. It appears we humans are fraught with innate tendencies that, if not blocked, can lead us to make a misjudgment. A misjudgment would be a wrong decision in terms of this blog. With all that follows in the blog about misjudgment, we are trying to discern a sound process for decision making, with tools like decision trees, that can help avoid or counter the influences of the counterproductive tendencies. Developing your decision-making process should involve findings tactics that help you avoid or defeat or neutralize these tendencies in your processes.

Liking/Loving Tendency

Tendencies #2 and #3 are total opposites but very much related. Tendency #2 is called the “Liking/Loving Tendency.” It should be familiar to us all. The foundational notion is that people seek affection and approval. Maybe not all people do this, but it is a basic human tendency and we believe that most people have it. This tendency can be a problem when it gets in the way of rational thinking; for example, if people on your team ignore faults of people they like then how will they fairly evaluate proposals floated by those they like? What about when they favor the products, actions, or ideas of those they like? People may not even consciously understand the underlying bias is operating in any given situation, so we need to find a way to circumvent this tendency when we are processing a decision. We need to make a neutral playing field in order to get a fair evaluation.

Disliking/Hating Tendency

Tendency #3 is the opposite of that. It is the “Disliking/Hating Tendency” that can motivate people to ignore or devalue the works or opinions or ideas of those they dislike simply because they do not like the person. This tendency can be strong enough to lead to distortion of facts or judgment. Maybe you have worked with someone that you have strong negative “feelings” about. Can you remember that and imagine if you had that bias operating in a decision-making environment? Maybe the negative tendency toward bias would be operating below the conscious level just far enough to be influencing them, but without their understanding. They sincerely think they do not like the idea and that has nothing to do with the person posing the idea. Our problem is to devise a decision-making process that can work in the face of such underlying, and perhaps invisible, motivations.

Doubt/Avoidance Tendency

Tendency #4 is unrelated to those two. It is the “Doubt/Avoidance Tendency.” That is our tendency to avoid being in doubt and our penchant for moving to certainty. This can be a powerful motivator to move to a quick decision; perhaps before all the homework of deciding has been accomplished. It is human nature to make quick decisions and certainly we can understand that hasty decisions may not be the best decisions. This tendency can potentially rise to the level where it creates irrationality and the pressing need to remove doubt. Unfortunately, this tendency becomes stronger when we are under pressure; that means just when we need to be at our level-headed coolest and most deliberative, unfortunately, our motivation is to just make a decision and get on with it to rid ourselves of doubt. Again, our challenge is to not let this tendency dictate our decision-making process. A little pressure can be a good thing. Too much pressure, along with the unchecked tendency to want to move quickly away from doubt, can be ruinous.

Curiosity Tendency

Perhaps tendency #6 can help us here. This is a beneficial tendency of human nature; the tendency to be curious. Charlie Munger simply called it the “Curiosity Tendency.” It is our nature to be curious and that curiosity has brought humankind from the cave dwellers to the high-rise dwellers. If we can harness that tendency in our decision-making process, maybe it will help counter some of the negative and damaging tendencies. Maybe our curiosity will want to lead us to getting the facts before we decide emotionally.

Hopefully you get the idea now. The first two blogs together have not covered the entire list of tendencies; far from it. When things permit, the rest of the list developed by Charlie Munger will be presented here in terms of the process of decision-making. Meanwhile you can certainly look at your decision-making processes at work and maybe even at home to see if you have planned to subvert these tendencies.

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