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Well, crap. Confidence outweighs knowledge


Which I suppose we knew just from, I don’t know, talking to people (see here)? And we also know that loud (or at least really chatty) outweighs knowledge in choosing a leader. So loud and confident is a recipe for disaster. Read loudmouth pundits screaming investment advice as disaster.

The research, by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shows that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are. And it spells bad news for scientists who try to be honest about gaps in their knowledge. (from New Scientist)


Crucially, though, the study showed that not only did a leader’s dominant behaviour of itself encourage others to see that person as competent, but this was true even though their suggestions to the group were no better, or even worse than others. In reality the leaders did not always make the best contribution to the task, but their voices were usually heard first and most often. (from psyblog)

So it’s bad for the economy, but it’s also bad for the environment. Someone shouting, confidently, that there is no global warming is more likely to be believed than then person saying that we’re pretty sure there’s global warming based on all of the evidence so far. I guess adding any discussion of uncertainty just makes people think you are wrong. Of course, people still ignore the very loud and confident guy with the sandwich board predicting doom, so there are limits.

Anyway, in my part of the world, this tends to mean really poor project management with little or no planning. And projects that have no end, despite a great deal of pressure to finish. Ha ha, evil overlords. Leaning on me to get stuff finished while constantly changing the design, the requirements, the inputs, what do you expect? So let’s actually listen to what the loud, cocky guy is saying and consider, as well, their track record before jumping on the stupid bandwagon to disaster. That way, maybe instead of having to explain to everyone later that what we were trying to do or what we really meant to do was X rather than the Y we provided, we will actually have X and it will work. And the next step can be improving the functionality rather than completely rebuilding it because it was garbage. Because really, as soon as you have to say ‘What we really meant…” you did it badly.

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