Ben Gilad: Your new book, Left Brain, Right Stuff, places a sharp focus on a distinction between events we can influence — directly or indirectly — and events we can’t. Analytics has a role in improving judgments in the latter case. Strategic decisions belong to the former – the leader has an ability to influence the outcomes. Analytics should not be confused, as it is in some large companies, with strategic vision. Is this a fair characterization of your thesis?
Phil Rosenzweig: My main thesis is that decision research has been immensely valuable in shedding light on the mechanics of human cognition, and has done so largely by conducting experiments that examine choices among options we cannot alter, or judgments about things we cannot influence. The primary lesson has been for us to be aware of our propensity for common errors, and try to avoid them.
That’s fine for some kinds of decisions, but much of life is very different. Often we can alter the options we face and improve their terms. We can also influence outcomes, and for that high levels of confidence are useful. Many real-world decisions call for a combination of skills: on one hand a capacity of detached analysis, free of biases, which we associate with left-brain thinking, and on the other hand a willingness to push boundaries and act assertively, which I call the right stuff.
Strategic decisions, in particular, call for both. Deciding on a good strategy surely has to take into account many things we cannot influence, like currency movements, geopolitical trends, technological breakthroughs, and the actions of rivals. But setting a strategic vision and then carrying it out through the actions of others is not a purely analytical exercise. We also have to make it happen.
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