Biases, Paradoxes and Rational choice

I often look for reference point for sports, applying the lessons learned in business and in life - aka 'the real world' against what I perceive the Cowboys are doing.

I've come across a number of interesting behaviors that illuminate Cowboy choices both historical and moving forward. They seem especially relevant now as assessment of the last season fades and implications for choices we have made so far and are about to make become more apparent.

1) Success Bias - essentially states studying or mimicking the causes for success while ignoring factors contributing to failure is limiting. A classic example was the study of bullet hole/shrapnel damage by British engineers for returning planes from combat zones. Wings and tails were reinforced, completely ignoring the damage to cockpits and engines - from the planes that didn't return. There is an additional insight into organizations that apply historical success patterns while moving into new/changing markets ignores the many adaptions necessary to succeed,

'Inferring from a historical record of success in the face of competition, managers are likely to form exaggerated assessments of their organization’s capabilities.'

These guys obviously have met Jerry Jones.

2) Optimism Bias - stipulate that not only are humans poor at predicting future events, we are poor at even understanding our own wants and desires in the future.

...the optimism bias works to make us blind to possible negative consequences. No matter how pessimistic an outlook you may have, you are more likely to think that bad things will not happen to you and that good things are in store for you, than is statistically likely.

Think smokers and day traders

3) Analysis Paralysis - anyone who financed a home in the last decade or tried to select a mutual fund from a long list of potential choices in a 401k Plan at a new job understands this.

A researcher found that for every 10 mutual funds offered by a company's retirement program, employee participation went down 2%. This means that having 50 mutual fund options to choose from means a 10% decrease in participation compared to having only five options. It's much easier to choose the best of five options rather than comb through 50 in order to determine which option is best. So much easier that you're likely to just skip the task altogether if it seems too hard.

Irony is we have no choices but to select from a large pool of candidates for talent acquisition - among FA and the college ranks.

4) The Choice Paradox - we have a basic understanding that more choice = more freedom. However -

...having all this extra choice available does not make us any more likely to take the most rational and intelligent course of action... extra choice actually has the opposite effect, making our choices less rational and less likely to make us happy.

I see this every day - reflected in behaviors, activities in work, life and yes, the Dallas Cowboys.

What does all this mean? My takeaway is twofold-particularly in regard to the upcoming talent acquisition exercises we are about to go through:

  • Rational choice must be the product of discipline - vision translated to a definitive profile of those player attributes - fast, big, smart, whatever. Then have the further discipline to stick to it - plan your work, work your plan.
  • Temper expectations, be realistic as we attempt to predict the future with player choices. That way we can capitalize on success and deal with failure as needed.

I believe one of the biggest shortcomings of this current DC iteration especially as it comes to player development is we are too conservative - keeping under-performers around in the hope they will improve or regain form, often at the expense of relatively new or untested talent. But more so, if someone's a bust, treat it accordingly - the prior investment trap will keep you tied in knots indefinitely.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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