🍀 🧧 Serendipity Edition 
Welcome back to your Human Risk Newsletter filled with more lovingly-curated Behavioural Science (BeSci) inspired content. 
First time reading this? Welcome! I recommend you begin by reading the Intro to Human Risk.

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Coming up in this edition
1. The story of a Nobel Prizewinner helps illustrate Human Risk in action;

2. Ignoring the role that luck plays in outcomes is a common Cognitive Bias;
3. A BeSci Intervention that helps us avoid the trap of free trials that require credit card details;

4. In a polarised world, projects that bring people with opposing views together are Some things that made me think; and

5. The recently launched Human Risk Podcast contains an interview with an academic that has hugely influenced my thinking. The podcast and his book are my joint Something for the weekend recommendation.

Human Risk in action

The story of a Nobel Prizewinner gives the perfect illustration of the dangers of Survivorship Bias.
We all like stories with a happy ending. Like the fact that the recipient of this 1992 rejection letter from Nature magazine, just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, for the very piece of research he wanted them to publish: 
Source: Twitter
So congratulations to Sir Peter Ratcliffe and colleagues for winning the Nobel Prize for research into 'hypoxia'; how our body cells use to detect and respond to low oxygen levels.

I'm also pleased to report that Nature magazine acknowledged their previous rejection in the final paragraph of an article reporting Ratcliffe's success.

The obvious conclusion here is that we shouldn't allow setbacks or criticisms to deter us from pursuing our goals. But for every Sir Peter for whom commitment to the cause did lead to success, there are far more people for whom that approach led to failure. 

This is dangerous from a risk perspective, as it can lead to us miscalculating the odds of something happening.  This tendency is known called Survivorship Bias and is nicely illustrated in this Sketchplanation:
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I also highly recommend spending 26 seconds watching mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown give a really succinct, highly memorable explanation of it:
Source: YouTube
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Bi-Weekly Cognitive Bias

Luck plays a huge part in many outcomes. Yet, as new research illustrates, we very often under-estimate its significance.

Our perception of success often ignores the role that luck plays in particular outcomes. This is nicely illustrated by a recent study that used data from football (soccer for N. American readers) games.

By looking at over 10,000 shots that hit the goalposts, researchers compared the difference in reaction to shots taken from similar locations that were "lucky" (i.e. went in afterwards) with those that were "unlucky" (didn't). The idea is that if you've hit the post, then scoring a goal, or not, is purely a matter of luck rather than skill.

What they discovered in their research is that Managers and Evaluators were overly influenced by the scoring of "lucky" goals. Players who scored them got disproportionately higher playing time and praise than those that didn't.

This isn't just an issue in sport. The researchers also concluded that "our results suggest that this phenomenon is likely to be widespread in economic organizations".

Illustrating that luck has far more severe consequences, is this highly recommended article called On 9/11 Luck Meant Everything

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A BeSci Intervention

A BeSci intervention helps prevent people from signing up for free trials and being locked into longer-term subscriptions.

If you've ever signed up to a free trial for a product or service that requires you to hand over your credit card details and then forgotten to cancel, I think you'll really like this. 

DoNotPay is a bot-powered smartphone app created in 2016, by a then 19-year-old, Josh Browder which helps people fight parking tickets. He did this after passing his driving test and discovering how hard it was to challenge wrongly-issued tickets.

Readers who recognise the name Browder and are wondering whether he is any relation to Bill Browder, can find the answer in the final paragraph of this article

Since then he has expanded DoNotPay's offering to include other areas where people are thwarted by bureaucracy (or laziness) from asserting their legal rights.

Most recently Browder added Free Trial Surfing where the App monitors card payments in real-time. It allows the small transactions companies use to confirm card details for a free trial but blocks bigger payments when that period ends. 

While the popularity of the App illustrates quite commonly we all fall into this kind of trap, it also demonstrates the power of technological interventions that can help compensate for our cognitive weaknesses.

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Something that made me think

In a seemingly polarised world, attempts to bring people with opposing views together are producing surprisingly positive results.
We hear a lot about division, disagreement and conflict.  So I was heartened to read about the positive results of this NYTimes experiment:
The attendees were put into groups and asked to discuss a range of issues. Although many of them didn't think they'd changed their mind, surveys taken before and after suggested that there had been some movement:

"Public opinion, in general, is fluid, shifting as issues become more prominent in the news, or as partisan cues become clearer. But the voters here appeared to shift as a group in some ways that can’t be explained by typical polling movement over time."

On a similar, but more commercial note, if you haven't seen this 2018 advertisement by a well-known Dutch beer manufacturer that uses green labels, then do take a look.  It works on a similar basis:
Finally, I can't leave this topic without pointing you in the direction of The Depolarization Project. Do have a look at their website and then listen to Changed My Mind, their podcast which features BeSci experts explaining why we find it so hard to change our minds. And, people who...yes, you've guessed it, have changed their minds on some pretty big issues. 

Like this episode with Derek Black, a former white nationalist who renounced his views: 
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Something for the weekend

By popular demand, I've launched the Human Risk podcast. The first episode features a guest who has hugely inspired me.
Now available via the Human Risk website and through all the usual channels, is the brand new Human Risk podcast.
In each episode, I'll explore Human Risk with the help of BeSci practitioners, people who have experienced Human Risk at first hand, leading researchers and innovative thinkers.  

Starting as I mean to go on, my first guest is about as leading and innovative as you'll find. 
Professor Yuval Feldman specialises in Behavioural Law; the deployment of BeSci to law-making. In our discussion, he explains what inspired him to go into the field, and he shares some fascinating insights about his research into how we can better influence people. 

You can listen with one of the SpreakerApple Podcast or Spotify or links below or wherever you get your podcasts.
Yuval's book The Law of Good People was released last year, and it is no exaggeration to say that it has had a significant impact on my understanding of Human Risk.

It is highly relevant to anyone involved in writing and enforcing policies, regulations or laws. But you don't have to work in HR, Risk, Compliance or Legal for this to be relevant; others, particularly people managers, can also learn a lot.
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Incase you missed it...

As well as the podcast, I'm now doing Human Risk videos. These are short takes on topics I've previously featured in the newsletter, or where I think something is interesting, but don't have the space to include it here.

So far I've released two videos. Firstly, this follow-up on the Boeing 737 Max story I featured in an earlier newsletter:

On that same subject, do take a look at this letter written to the NYTimes about the Boeing issue, by Sully Sullenberger of the landing on the River Hudson fame. He, of course, knows a thing or two about air emergencies...

My second video is a primer on a story involving some James Bond-style escapades within the Swiss banking industry:

Future videos will be available on the social media channels below, so subscribe to one (or all) to avoid missing out!

Twitter: follow Twitter: follow
LinkedIn: connect LinkedIn: connect
YouTube: subscribe YouTube: subscribe

That's it for another newsletter.  Feedback on the newsletter, podcast or videos is always welcome, whether good or bad.

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The newsletter is brought to you by Human Risk, a Training & Consulting Firm that specialises in the deployment of BeSci in the fields of Risk, Compliance, Conduct and Culture
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