While thinking of ways to use the info from this site I thought of a way to get a lot more out of your office lottery pool than you currently are. Not to cheat others out of the winnings or to guarantee a million dollar payout, but a way to get more out of the $5-$10 you put in each week.
The reason this came to me is because of an off the cuff comment my high school history teaching made a couple decades ago. He said lotteries should be called ‘The Stupid Tax’ because based on the odds you’re pretty stupid to think you'll win, and this idea of it being a ‘stupid tax’ has stuck with me ever since. I still play occasionally but I do feel kind of stupid each time I do.
My recommendation to get the most out of an office lotto pool is to convert it to a happy spouse/partner lotto pool.
Everyone pays in the same as before, but rather than spend all of the money on lotto tickets, raffle off a portion of the money to go to one participant for them to buy a treat for their spouse/partner.
This way you're actually likely to win, and spending money on your partner is one of the best ways to increase your level of happiness, short term and long term. WInning the real lottery is one of the best to alienate you from your friends and family and to break up marriages, so reducing the odds of winning that one might be a good idea too. You'll get to keep enjoying the dream of winning big without having it happen and ruin your life.
Two TED talks that helped inspire this idea
1) Mike Norton on How to Buy Happiness (highlighting how poor we are at predicting what purchases will bring us happiness and how to fix it)
2) Barry Schwartz on Practical Wisdom (keys to happiness are loving relationships and meaningful work, two things you may lose if you win the lottery)
By still putting a portion of the money to the big lotto you can have the best of both worlds. High likelihood of winning money for a nice date night, and the potential to win millions. You could set up the cash payout on a schedule or as a draw, or a draw where you can’t win again until everyone has won. You can do anything you want with it. To keep it familiar you could call it a 50/50 draw, 50% goes to one person to use as they wish (suggestion, treat their spouse) and 50% goes to buying lotto tickets for the group.
So what do you think, would you go for a 50/50 lotto pool instead of the typical one?
Let’s dissect what else is going on here.
1) Why do I remember this ‘stupid tax’ comment?
As we saw in the emotions section of things you should know, novelty and things that you have a strong emotional response to are bookmarked as important to remember. Growing up my dad loved playing the big lotteries, and I, like many people, dreamed of winning big. Those were very positive emotions, and I thought of myself as a smart guy, and really didn’t like the idea of looking stupid. Now my history teacher, whom I hold in high regard is basically telling me I’m stupid and my dad is stupid, and everyone dreaming big is stupid! I loved how simple he made it, how he cut through all the debating people could do back and forth, and I felt like he was right in the sense it should be called a ‘stupid tax’, I think it would reduce sales.
2) Would it reduce sales of the lottery if it was called the stupid tax?
I can’t say for sure but I’ve read in one of Dan Ariely’s books that we will go out of our way to not be like someone we don’t want to be associated with. His studies dealt with rival schools. In the lab they saw people doing the opposite of the people they thought were from the rival school but the same things as people from their own school. So if people don’t want to be associated with stupid people then I think it would really help
3) Why are people so into the lottery?
This is the perfect example of the ‘promise of reward’. This is what the rats burnt their feet over and sacrificed eating and drinking for this.
4) What’s the problem here?
The stats not only show you’re not likely to win, but if you do win the stats show you will probably be worse off. A windfall of cash like that given to someone that wasn’t too good with finances beforehand may not be too good with it.
Why do we ignore this? Because we desperately want this promise of bliss and we tend to think better of our future selves than we do of our present selves. We think they will make better decisions, but that doesn't usually happen.
This could also be a good example of the up and down wave (sine wave) as described in the book the Plateau Effect. We often think more is always better but in their book they argue that the amount of benefit goes up and down like a sine wave. More money is better than no money, but not forever, with more money you could have more problems, with a lot more money you could take care of them, with a lot lot more money you could have even more problems. The trick is trying to find the sweet spot, and the first step to that is trying to be happy without needing to win the lottery.
6) On the topic of the odds and what you should be excited or worried about is in this handy image below. Note this was created by a company promoting online blackJack, which has very good odds, and now I can see why there is so much commotion at those tables. Hopefully you don't get hooked on blackjack now. Please don't gamble with more than you can lose, maybe don't gamble at all.
I plan to have this as the centerpiece of an upcoming post on what you should really be worried about and what you should worry less about. In general if you hear a stat about something bad which you have a 1 in 10 or 1 in something less than 10 chance of getting, you should really look into how you can avoid that or prepare for dealing with that.
To be able to focus on bigger picture aspects of the site I'm going to reduce the frequency of these blog posts to once a month. To keep it simple to remember when they'll be I'll do it on the first of the month.
Back to comparing The Plateau Effect highlights and their recommended ‘cure’ to the framework we’re building.
In total they say there are 8 take aways, but number 4 has 4 parts, so it’s more like 11.
4 - Dysfunction (i.e. something’s not working).
a) Erosion - we deplete the resources that we need in order to be successful (run out of money, etc ...)
Cure - find a counterbalance, find something to replace what is getting depleted. If you can’t find one you’re probably not at a plateau but at a ‘terminal point’.
Where it fits - seems to obvious, you run out of something, get more or get a replacement. If you can’t then you’re really stuck.
b) Step function - sometimes you only want to go a little bit farther but the thing you need to add more of only comes in big increments. A jump in cost, benefit or effort.
Cure - try to smooth it out by trying to find something that has complementary peaks.
So they are basically saying if you can’t afford the next big jump (e.g. a new piece of expensive equipment that will double production), look for another way to crank up production or your revenue until it’s not such a big jump. Not really something I feel we need to cover in the framework.
c) Choke point - the part that breaks first.
Cure - Find them and work around them.
Seems too obvious - They’re just saying, try to identify bottlenecks which slow things down and look for critical things that the whole process/company relies on. Again, not something I think we need in the framework.
d) Mystery ingredient - they say sometimes not even the chef knows what it is. To me this sounds like, sometimes you’ll have no idea why something is working or not working.
Cure - They say it can be hard to find but obvious in retrospect, and ou don’t always need to know what it is but just that you have one.
Where it fits - I’m not sure this is a great take away either.
5) Distorted data - We often react based on distorted data, we put too much stock in some numbers or data that isn’t right or isn’t telling the whole story. Like taking a funhouse mirror seriously.
Cure - calibrate, scientific method, don’t trust your biased eyes, try to look for truth or eliminate chance for bias, like a baseball owner that doesn’t watch the game, hires and fires based on the data only.
Where this fits - I see this as knowing the limits of your autopilot part of your brain. It is constantly taking in more data then we realize and giving us ‘gut feelings’. These can be useful but we should know it is not perfect, and we should compliment it with data. When we see a consistent trend where data wins over gut feelings we should put systems in place to stop ourselves from going with our gut. I think we’ve already covered this so no need to add to the framework.
6) Distraction - multitasking
Cure - peak listening helps you focus on the person and get to solutions faster, think of the improv rule to replace “no” with “yes, and ...”, always trying to find the ways you and others agree rather than disagree. They call this radical listening. Oh, and they say don’t try to multitask, slow and steady one task at a time tends to win the race when studied.
Where it fits - this is the same as we talked about your mind being a stage and the need to control who gets on there with limited space, so if it gets crowded it is a mess.
7) failing slowly - incremental losses fall below the ‘just noticeable difference” and then you end up getting blindsided at how bad things are.
Cure - fail fast, by knowing this flaw, set clear objective markers to know when you’re failing, and try to fail as fast as possible to work out the kinks as fast as possible. Make a website in photoshop only first. Try it out in your mind before spending a ton to code it.
Where it fits - This is more of a productivity tip rather than an insight into how our minds work. I’m not sure where this fits, I guess it falls under things you can do.
8) Perfectionism - Perfect is the enemy of good. the desire for perfection kills beginnings. It’s never the right time to start, and even if you do it’s never complete because it’s held up to an impossible standard.
Cure - accept that perfection isn’t achievable. Personally I’m going to take it right out of my vocabulary, they said it originated from words meaning ‘as it should be’ so I’ll go with something like that for now). Focus on taking the first step and then the next step. Like taking ‘Baby steps’ from the movie “What About Bob?”. They also give suggestions on using things like structured procrastination or hard but liberating deadlines.
Where it fits - I think this falls under an autopilot tactic to get us to keep our eyes on short term goals, and in some people are more affected by it than others. I think that comes from previous experiences people have had and negative associations they have with not being perfect. I think it's already covered but I'll make a special note of it since it is common and can be quite detrimental, some people may not even see it in themselves because rather than having a track record of doing things perfectly they have a track record of not doing things out of fear they won't be perfect.
They say things will stop working, you’ll have to keep trying new things. Even if you use some of the ‘cures’ they outline you’ll need to keep an eye out in all these categories, and more
In the book they mentioned a Counter intuitive Cognitive Bias. I love knowing these because I see these as huge pitfalls that we unknowingly fall into. Traps so sneaky you don’t even know you’re in a trap. So identifying them can save you so much time and resources with almost no effort.
Here it is …
We have a tendency to think if something is hard that it must be important.
This is a huge potential pitfall. First off we aren’t doing something that is a benefit to us, and secondly it’s a huge drain on our resources (time and money) because it’s hard, and hard things take up a lot of time to deal with. There is also huge potential here, most people complain of not having enough time or money, you may be able to look at your life and find one of these things, and you can free up a bunch of time and money instantly by stopping that thing that’s not important.
So what are some examples of this?
The first one that comes to mind would be video games. They are hard and people seem compelled to complete them, but for what reason, for what benefit?
I was thinking about why this is, why ‘gamification’ is such a powerful tool for getting people to do things, and I think it does this by giving meaning to the meaningless. We are ‘meaning machines’ everything we do is for a meaning, and our autopilot is desperate to find meaning in the world, it will even make it up if need be. So if someone associates points or badges to us doing something we jump on it. So similar to it something is hard we associate it with important, watch out for, if something wins us points, or badges or “Likes” of any kind, watch out your brain might be getting hijacked into doing something meaningless, take a step back and assess why you’re doing it.
Dan Ariely likes to promote the idea of getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons because we’re so bad at doing the right things for the right reasons (e.g. eating healthy). So getting tricked by these things isn’t always bad, you can even use it to your advantage. The Canadian government just put millions into an app that does just this to get people to do things the government hasn’t had luck getting people to do in the past. Like eating healthy. The reward in the app are things like Air Miles if you can believe it. The app is called Carrot Rewards.
Rather than continue on The Plateau Effect I'm going to put that on hold to talk about something more timely with the beginning of summer, sunscreen
The idea came to me when I attended a safety meeting at work where the topic of sunscreen came up, and how important it is to use. And they shared with us some stories about their experiences with skin cancer and a short video promoting the use of sunscreen via statistics.
I was thinking, this isn’t going to be too effective and I thought with my knowledge of ‘why we do what we do’ I could come up with a much better solution and I thought I’d write it up as a case study here on how to use what I cover here on this site to find a better way to get people to use sunscreen. But it turns out it’s still pretty tricky, I'll give you some insights but I wasn't able to come up with as good of a solution as I'd like.
So what did they do right:
They appealed to our emotions, i.e. they tried to scare us. They told us of people they knew with skin cancer and that they had had skin cancer removed. Getting our emotions involved is key to getting people to act.
What they didn’t do so well:
They brought in doubt. They mentioned one instance of sunscreen causing harm to a baby. They didn’t give the numbers but one product recall that caused harm to a small number of babies might be good to know about but I think it could have had a bigger impact on us than it should’ve when you look at it from a big picture. Hundreds of millions of people use sunscreen and didn’t get the reaction those babies did. Yes, we can talk about checking the ingredients but they could've been clearer on the likelihood of those risks vs. not using sunscreen at all.
And going back to the emotions, I don't think they really got us emotional enough about the topic to really pursued us. This is tricky in a workplace, you don't generally want to get people to worked up and crying which could happen easily with a topic like this.
What I think they could’ve done better:
Beyond the session I went to what can marketers do better:
Dan Ariely likes the slogan “getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reason”. He studies human behaviour and says information alone has little effect on our actions, and sometimes has opposite effects. He gives the example of calories listed on menus. He said some people start looking for the best deal, the most calories per $ instead of an appropriate dish based on the other meals they ate that day.
Bring the future them into the picture
Appeal to wanting to fit in:
Many studies show we'll adjust our behaviour to fit in more readily than we will based on logical reasoning. We seem to see the immediate gain of fitting in as more important than the long terms gains. Someone could try ...
What can you do?
As you can see I didn't come up with the perfect solution but I hope you can see there is more to persuading someone that just giving them data.
Here is the video they showed. I liked it because data appeals to me and he does use some of the other techniques, but I'm also already on board with the sunscreen :)