Monday, January 13, 2014

okay, okay, dont push us when we're hot!

I've always found it peculiar to have reviews of creative work and suchlike at the end of the working day.

While I have no data to back this up, one often finds that decisions made at these reviews will subsequently get reversed, modified or even thrown out the following day with the benefit of fresh eyes and ears.

In previous incarnations (and when it was my responsibility) I've set processes in place to allow for big decisions to be made in the early part of the day to allow for the rest of the day to be spent implementing and iterating. By the end of the day tired brains are in more of a state of flow rather than requiring big cognitive effort.

So when, at the tail end of last year, Stirling University's Behavioural Science Centre published a post on their blog highlighting their top 15 Best Behavioural Science Graphs of 2010-13 I was not surprised to see included the famous Danziger, Levav & Avnaim-Pesso (2011), Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions chart.

I've used this example in many presentations over the last couple of years to demonstrate the idea of ego depletion.

Ego depletion being the term used to describe the idea that things like self-control, willpower and the ability to perform tasks that require hard cognitive effort draw upon a limited supply of mental resources that can be used up. In essence a typical situation where system two type processes get too whacked out to function and therefore system one will take full control.

In the study the researchers examined over 1000 judicial rulings over a 10 month period by parole judges. The judges reviewed up to 35 parole cases per day and they took two daily food/coffee breaks (ie elevenses and lunch), and dividing the judging day into three sessions.

These break periods were pretty vital for those in the dock as the probability of the judges granting parole falls steadily from a high probability at the start of the day and just after breaks to nearly zero just before the breaks.

So the lesson being that if you find yourself in court - and presumably hope to get let off - then you want to be in front of the judge first thing in the morning or just after lunch or coffee breaks. Otherwise you'll be looking at a stretch.

Likewise, if we want to get the work right rather than just done and save on time wasted doing things over, a simple self-nudge may be to only schedule creative reviews in the mornings or right after lunchbreaks, to get the thinking bit done when there's brainjuice and get the doing done when there's flow.

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