Do We Really Have A Choice?
*A NOTE: This was written prior to the killing of George Floyd. But I feel it important to distinguish three things. First, we make it a point to not capitalize on tragedy to advance our agenda. Second, that the concept below is as relevant in taking action on uncomfortable cultural issues such as racism as they are talking about economic issues. Third, that the insights we hope to illuminate are tools to create sustainable and lasting change. In any time of uncertainty and upheaval, it is natural to want to react in the immediate.
As we enter our third month of quarantine and begin the inevitable restlessness I can’t help but reflect on a powerful psychological concept we utilize when positioning a brand, framing. This concept was developed by Amos Tversky and Danial Kahneman as part of the larger Prospect Theory which would go on to win the latter the Nobel Prize in economics. At its most basic, the concept states that when presented with identical choices of outcomes people will become risk-averse when that outcome is framed positively and risk-seeking when framed negatively.
At its most basic, the concept states that when presented with identical choices of outcomes people will become risk-averse..
The reason this comes to mind is two-fold. First, a genuine desire to read the news and not a constructed narrative; at some point, I want to decide for myself whether or not this truly is the ultimate recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Second, the downright spooky similarity between the example taught by Tversky and Kahneman to illustrate framing (below) and how our leaders are presenting their political agendas surrounding the handling of Covid-19.
The example is as follows: A plague hits a small community and you, as governor, have to choose between Treatment A and Treatment B.
What this illustrates is that when presented with the positively framed decision most of us become risk-averse; choosing Treatment A and the guaranty of saving lives. When presented with the same options framed negatively most of us become risk-seeking, choosing Treatment B trying to save more lives.
So why is this relevant to our times and to an organization?
For one, there is an emerging trend towards getting away from metrics that favor short-term growth and moving towards the prioritization of long-term sustainability. This should be music to everyone’s ears, especially when we are predicting 23M people unemployed and 75% of bars and restaurants expected to close for good.