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Re: Becoming rational about Irrationality

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  • paul
    Its one of the reasons that negative (in the engineering sense) feedback is so powerful - it can bring stability and predictability to systems/organisations
    Message 1 of 19 , Dec 6, 2010
      Its one of the reasons that negative (in the engineering sense) feedback is so powerful - it can bring stability and predictability to systems/organisations containing much irrationality and complexity.

      --- In extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com, "PAUL" <beckfordp@...> wrote:
      >
      > Hi All,
      >
      > I have come to accept that three widely held assumptions about organisations are in fact false:
      >

      >
    • Tim Ottinger
      #2 might be true, if you accept that our notions of pain and pleasure are not well-defined and rational, but based on precedence. I might avoid following your
      Message 2 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
        #2 might be true, if you accept that our notions of pain and pleasure are not
        well-defined and rational, but based on precedence. I might avoid following your
        advice if you look like someone who has mistreated me in the past, as early as
        kindergarten or before. I might see your plan as good because you remind me of
        my grandmother, who gave me cookies. Since human precedence is not rational but
        historical, social, etc, it is impossible to predict it in a stranger and nearly
        so in a friend or relative.


        Also, to some delaying pain is avoidance and to others it is not. Again, not
        rational. Avoiding confrontation with someone who reminds me of Mr. Simms in 3rd
        grade might seem like minimizing pain (for now). Lots of weird effects come into
        play. Easy to just call it 'irrational' (as such it is) and live on.

        Tim Ottinger
        http://agileinaflash.blogspot.com/
        http://agileotter.blogspot.com/



        ----- Original Message ----
        > From: PAUL <beckfordp@...>
        > To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
        > Sent: Sun, November 28, 2010 3:28:57 AM
        > Subject: [XP] Becoming rational about Irrationality
        >
        > Hi All,
        >
        > I have come to accept that three widely held assumptions about organisations
        >are in fact false:
        >
        > 1. The assumption of order: that there are underlying
        > relationships between cause and effect in human interactions
        > and markets, which are capable of discovery
        > and empirical verification.
        >
        > 2. The assumption of rational choice: that faced with a
        > choice between one or more alternatives, human ac-
        > tors will make a "rational" decision based only on
        > minimizing pain or maximizing pleasure; and, in consequence,
        > their individual and collective behavior can
        > be managed by manipulation of pain or pleasure outcomes
        > and through education to make those consequences
        > evident.
        >
        > 3.The assumption of intentional capability: that the acquisition
        > of capability indicates an intention to use
        > that capability, and that actions from competitors,
        > populations, nation states, communities, or whatever
        > collective identity is under consideration are the result
        > of intentional behavior. In effect, we assume that
        > every "blink" we see is a "wink," and act accordingly.
        > We accept that we do things by accident, but assume
        > that others do things deliberately.
        >
        > http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~brooks/storybiz/kurtz.pdf
        >
        > Once you accept these assumptions are false, it becomes easier to reason about
        >irrational behaviour. In this light the current adoption curve of Agile
        >practices is totally rational and all that is needed is patience.
        >
        > It took Toyota over 40 years to become great at car manufacturing, why should
        >we expect an whole industry with prior vested interests to re-invent itself in
        >just 10 years?
        >
        >
        > Perhaps all we need to do is keep our message simple and consistent and just
        >be patient?
        >
        > Regards,
        >
        > Paul.
        >
        >
        >
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      • Tim Ottinger
        Are these axioms or theorums? If axiomatic, they don t have to be proven. :-) Basically, the question is whether we need a rational proof of irrationality
        Message 3 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
          Are these axioms or theorums? If axiomatic, they don't have to be proven. :-)
          Basically, the question is whether we need a rational proof of irrationality
          being unresolvable. Oh, the clash of the modern and postmodern, how I
          love it!

          Tim Ottinger
          http://agileinaflash.blogspot.com/
          http://agileotter.blogspot.com/
        • Ron Jeffries
          Hello, Tim. On Monday, December 13, 2010, at 12:29:29 PM, you ... If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that they are. If you behave
          Message 4 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
            Hello, Tim. On Monday, December 13, 2010, at 12:29:29 PM, you
            wrote:

            > Are these axioms or theorums? If axiomatic, they don't have to be proven. :-)
            > Basically, the question is whether we need a rational proof of irrationality
            > being unresolvable. Oh, the clash of the modern and postmodern, how I
            > love it!

            If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that
            they are. If you behave as if people are rational, you will often
            find that they are.

            Ron Jeffries
            www.XProgramming.com
            Testing quality into a program is like spinning straw into gold.
            -- George Cameron.
          • Dale Emery
            Hi Ron and all, ... I figure that people are largely heuristic most of the time. Not exactly rational in the sense of deciding by logic, but there s a kind of
            Message 5 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
              Hi Ron and all,

              > If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that they
              > are. If you behave as if people are rational, you will often find that they
              > are.
              >
              I figure that people are largely heuristic most of the time. Not exactly
              rational in the sense of deciding by logic, but there's a kind of
              rationality in the heuristics.

              Dale

              --
              Dale Emery
              Consultant to software teams and leaders
              Web: http://dhemery.com


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Adam Sroka
              I find that I interface with other people better when I behave as if I am rational ;-) ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              Message 6 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
                I find that I interface with other people better when I behave as if I am
                rational ;-)

                On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 11:34 AM, Dale Emery <dale@...> wrote:

                >
                >
                > Hi Ron and all,
                >
                >
                > > If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that they
                > > are. If you behave as if people are rational, you will often find that
                > they
                > > are.
                > >
                > I figure that people are largely heuristic most of the time. Not exactly
                > rational in the sense of deciding by logic, but there's a kind of
                > rationality in the heuristics.
                >
                > Dale
                >
                > --
                > Dale Emery
                > Consultant to software teams and leaders
                > Web: http://dhemery.com
                >
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                >
                >


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • George Dinwiddie
                ... Yes, rational and irrational don t seem to be the only two choices. -- Dec. 14 - Agile Richmond in Glen Allen, VA http://georgedinwiddie.eventbrite.com/
                Message 7 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
                  On 12/13/10 2:34 PM, Dale Emery wrote:
                  > Hi Ron and all,
                  >
                  >> If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that they
                  >> are. If you behave as if people are rational, you will often find that they
                  >> are.
                  >>
                  > I figure that people are largely heuristic most of the time. Not exactly
                  > rational in the sense of deciding by logic, but there's a kind of
                  > rationality in the heuristics.

                  Yes, rational and irrational don't seem to be the only two choices.

                  --
                  Dec. 14 - Agile Richmond in Glen Allen, VA
                  http://georgedinwiddie.eventbrite.com/
                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                  * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
                  Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
                  Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                • Ron Jeffries
                  Hello, George. On Monday, December 13, 2010, at 3:18:42 PM, you ... That s odd, because rationally ... Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com We cannot solve our
                  Message 8 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
                    Hello, George. On Monday, December 13, 2010, at 3:18:42 PM, you
                    wrote:

                    > Yes, rational and irrational don't seem to be the only two choices.

                    That's odd, because rationally ...

                    Ron Jeffries
                    www.XProgramming.com
                    We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
                    -- Albert Einstein
                  • Tim Ottinger
                    ... If you treat people as predictable, oh, who am I kidding.. people are full of surprises. Huge difference between irrational and stupid or foolish. People
                    Message 9 of 19 , Dec 13, 2010
                      ----- Original Message ----
                      > If you behave as if people are irrational, you will often find that
                      > they are. If you behave as if people are rational, you will often
                      > find that they are.

                      If you treat people as predictable, oh, who am I kidding.. people
                      are full of surprises.

                      Huge difference between irrational and stupid or foolish. People are
                      brilliant, chaotic, inventive, optimizing, changeable, and capable of
                      leaps of intuition and analogy that are shocking, amusing, and
                      educational.
                      If you do great things in ways that are unpredict
                      I respect people who are different, including those who are
                      intuitive in ways that I would never have anticipated, and
                      those who are rational beyond my knowledge.

                      If you treat amazing people as if they are purely rational
                      beings, you might find that you've underestimated them.
                      Likewise if you think you can understand people without
                      understanding the unique context of the person.problem

                      I'm at the modern/postmodern boundary. I think it's grand.

                      Tim Ottinger
                      http://agileinaflash.blogspot.com/
                      http://agileotter.blogspot.com/
                    • JeffGrigg
                      ... Yes, heuristics seem to guide most human behavior, from what I ve seen. Also, here s a heuristic that I have found useful: When you see people doing
                      Message 10 of 19 , Dec 30, 2010
                        --- Dale Emery <dale@...> wrote:
                        > I figure that people are largely heuristic most of the time.
                        > [...] there's a kind of rationality in the heuristics.

                        Yes, heuristics seem to guide most human behavior, from what I've seen.

                        Also, here's a heuristic that I have found useful:
                        "When you see people doing something bad, unproductive, and/or
                        self-destructive, realize that there is probably some good
                        reason motivating them to do this."

                        (IE: Most people are not insane. ;-)

                        When you see dysfunctional behavior, look for the positive benefits they get from that behavior. You'll have a better chance of reasoning with them and/or motivating different behavior if you see what's motivating them, rather than just thinking that they're crazy and/or irrational.

                        Like, why would team members or team leaders play "schedule chicken" -- hiding the fact that they or their team are behind schedule; causing risk to the project and company? Well, typically in most organizations, those who admit having problems are punished and/or demoted (in the process of being "helped" by well-meaning superiors), and most likely would have been better off without this "help", as their peers were just as late, if not more so (and hiding it more successfully). So receiving help hurts the receiver without benefiting the project/company, because the project(s) will get delayed anyway by others as their lateness becomes apparent.

                        "If you see people doing something apparently irrational,
                        realize that there is probably something motivating them
                        to do this."

                        You may not be able to address the root cause. But being aware of it at least lets you know what you're up against.
                      • PAUL
                        Hi Jeff, ... When I started this thread this is the type of thing I had in mind. There is always a rational explanation for the irrational. Organisations are a
                        Message 11 of 19 , Dec 30, 2010
                          Hi Jeff,

                          > "If you see people doing something apparently irrational,
                          > realize that there is probably something motivating them
                          > to do this."
                          >
                          > You may not be able to address the root cause. But being aware of it at least lets you know what you're up against.
                          >

                          When I started this thread this is the type of thing I had in mind. There is always a rational explanation for the irrational. Organisations are a complex web of motives and agendas, with people acting out of fear and the desire to preserve some modicum of personal safety as much as anything else.

                          When looked at in this way, supposedly irrational behaviour suddenly makes a lot of sense.

                          This along with the other false assumptions I outlined tells me that there are limits to our ability to affect organisational change, especially for large organisations. People are acting in dysfunctional ways for good reason. Removing those reasons and aligning the whole organisation is usually beyond our remit.

                          Regards,

                          Paul.
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