Category Archives: training

Winning a Jackpot: How do you decide?

Situation: Imagine you are participating in a game show and after going through qualifying and elimination rounds, you have reached the finals.  The game-show host presents you three options A, B & C and you have to select one of the options which are the respective doors. One of the doors leads to a jackpot (say a Mercedes) and the other doors to an insignificant prize, say a tennis ball through each door. Now let us say you have selected option A. You are curious and excited to see if you have hit the jackpot. The host asks you to be patient, opens the door C and what you see is a tennis ball. Now he asks you whether you would still stick with option A or switch to option B? What would you choose and why?

When this question was put on different platforms like linkedin, what’sapp it was observed that 95% of the respondents voted for A. Now read on:

Analysis: Generally people tend to stick to option A, the reason being they would not like to regret their decision. If A is selected leading to a jackpot, then he would be happy; however if otherwise, then he  blames  the circumstances or his fate. But at least he has the consolation that he was firm in his decision. However if he were to choose B, and were to lose; he would regret his decision and also for not being firm in his decision making process.

Let us see how this situation can be seen from a statistical probability basis. Generally people make decisions through their self-interest and do not look at a situation objectively. For example we tend to discount the impact of the environment on our decisions. When a person selects option A, the  probability of success is 1 in 3. However when door C has been opened with a tennis ball, the probability of B has increased to 50%. Assume instead of 3 options you were given 100 options. And now 98 doors are opened without any jackpot. Would you still bat for A? Now you will appreciate that at the beginning of the game the probability of winning A was 1% but after the events have unfolded B has risen to 50%. So in a single event even though A and B has equal chances, over the long term it makes sense to switch over considering the environmental factors.

What happens if the game of ABC is played 100 times. or 100 people play this game simultaneously? Now you will understand that the human mind is not programmed to think in a statistical manner. During most of programs our clients ask us to train their executives to think out-of the box. But sadly they  are hardwired to think otherwise.

Most people tend to overestimate fatalities and death in aeroplane crashes more than car accidents even though statistically air travel is much safer than car travel. One of the main reasons people tend to assign higher risk to air travel is due to wide publicity in media to such rare events.

A survey was carried out in the US after the 9/11 disaster. More people died in the three months  on  roads than those killed in the aircrafts during  the twin tower tragedy.  People tend to fear dread risk of low-occurrence and high consequence events such as the twin tower attack. ( Dread Risk : September 11 and fatal traffic accidents, by G. Gigerenzer) .There are two types of risks,  actual risk and dread risk, the latter is more out of anxiety quite often overestimated than the actual risk. This in part may answer why people would still go on playing option A.

Another reason for dread risk is an illusion of control. A person driving a car feels more in control of the situation than while flying in an aircraft driven by someone else. Most of our unconscious processes control our thoughts and behaviour, which in turn creates an illusion of self- I or the soul. It also makes us feel that I exist, I am in control and thus I can make my own decisions. But the truth is otherwise. Most of the events in life are beyond our control; there is no self.  And to create that illusion we tell stories, we fabricate them saying how intelligent we are.

The above problem is called as a Monty Hall problem ascribed to the presenter of the famous game show in USA,  Let’s Make a Deal. Monty Hall Problem states that there are two errors people make while taking decisions:

  1. They ignore the influence the external environment makes on their decision making and
  2. How their perceptions are shaped by the external environment. In fact we feel we are making decisions in a neutral environment and our decision making is rational. We feel we are safe when we are in control of our destiny. Rituals and routine give us more control of the situation. However truth is otherwise, Dan Ariely, author of Upside of Irrationality says we are poor in risk analysis and are irrational animals.

Rajan Parulekar|rajan@paradigm-info.com|98450 14098

Do Sales Incentives necessarily Improve the Margins?

One of our clients in Pune had invited me to diagnose the problem of their poor margins. When I asked the VP-Sales he said,” We are facing this problem for the last three years, so last year we have launched an attractive incentive scheme, but still it is not producing results.”

Most of the sales managers intuitively feel that incentives lead to higher margins.  However the research carried out by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester and Adam Grant at Wharton say that the effectiveness of motivation varies with the task.  There are two types of tasks:  Algorithmic and Heuristic tasks. Continue reading

Volition & Motivation: The Gap between Doing and Knowing

Most of us feel that attending a motivational program will help people achieve the individual and organizational goals. Kurt Lewin and Narziss Ach have made pioneering contribution in the field of motivation. Lewin was known for his field theory as well freezing and unfreezing  concepts in changing the human behaviour and believed that motivation and volition are the same. Narziss Ach  treated motivation and volition differently.

Volition happens at three levels: Continue reading

A Tale of Two Key-Note Addresses

“We are having our Annual Sales Conference and we would like you to deliver a Key Note address for our Pan-India Sales Team on Value Selling.” said Ramesh, the HR Manager of an IT company over phone.

“Thanks, but how did you know about me? “ I asked. “We make our own referral checks in the market before deciding on the speaker.” said Ramesh. Continue reading

A Different Way of Curing Addictions (A Buddhist Perspective)

Generally we look at curing  addictions by eliminating the impact of the external environment. For example if a person is addicted to alcohol, he is persuaded to reduce the dependence on alcohol by suggestions on how alcohol is bad for health, its effect on the family, health and financial security. The patient is also exhorted to join Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) so as to reduce his dependence. These interventions work sometime but also tend to fail when a patient relapses as he is unable to resist the temptation.

Let us look at an alternative model from the Buddhist perspective. (Refer figure). An event (stage I) that happens outside is perceived inside the body through any or a combination of the five sense organs like eyes, ears etc. Sometimes it can be only an aural input like a piece of music or a multi-sensory input like relishing delicious mutton biryani ( sight, smell, taste, partially sound )This second  stage is called as perception and acknowledgement of the external event which is a MAP and not the actual event and is termed as Vigyan in Pali. (Stage II). The moment an input is perceived,  it is immediately evaluated by Sangya (stage III) which compares the event with something similar in the memory bank. Based on the comparison the event is either pigeonholed as either good or bad. The comparison instantaneously produces a sensation (Stage IV)) on the body which is either a positive or a negative one. The positive sensation may be tingling, soothing or a similar sensation whereas a negative sensation can be an itching, pain or a similar sensation. So far so good. The journey up till now from an external event of tasting a morsel of mutton biryani produces either positive or negative sensations which do not exclusively depend on whether the biryani is good or bad but depending on how it is perceived and the corresponding sensation it produces on the body. For example, a person who loves spicy Hyderabadi Biryani may like the taste if it is comparable to the one prepared by his mother. (Evaluation – stage III) An American who is used to bland food may find the Biriyani quite pungent. The same food has produced two different body sensations:  for the former   it is positive, and for the latter it is negative.

At this juncture, the subconscious mind comes into play and depending on the type of sensation, shall either produce a bond which is either of craving/attraction or Aversion (Raaga or Dwesha Stage V). The person decides to either have the next morsel or avoids depending on the bond that is created by the subconscious mind. A simple example of biryani can be compared to Alcohol, Nicotine or any substance drug.

 Myths of Addictions:

  1. An external event is the cause of addiction: If it were so, all people who take alcohol should have become alcoholics which are not the case. People do not become addicted to an external event or stimuli but to the sensations on the body.
  2. By telling what is right people can come out of addictions: When we tell the message only reaches the conscious mind. However the subconscious mind which constitutes 90% of the mind and is more habit prone refuses to acknowledge the message given to and by the conscious mind. Quite often alcoholics know the ill-effects but the thought pattern prevents them. On the contrary the subconscious mind now starts justifying the action. Like a person says he is drinking because he had abusive parents, pathetic childhood, financial problems, spouse etc. However he does not realize that the addiction is not for the alcohol but for the craving of pleasant sensations (relaxed feeling) and the aversion of the negative feeling (turkey, shivering, irritation etc.)
  3. Happiness and Pleasure are the same: We believe that pleasure is good and pain is bad. However any event whether pleasurable or otherwise, creates misery in the long run. Let us say a person who loves gulab-jamun feels that the sweet is the source of happiness. If it were so, irrespective of the quantity, galub-jamuns should make him happy. He may enjoy the first few very much, however if continued beyond 10 or so it may produce irritation. So the pleasure was not in the gulab-jamun but in the sensations it produced on the body.

How to Bring Change:

It should be clearly understood that the  first four stages are  primarily  automatic on which a person does not have much control, which include the event(I), the perception & acknowledgement by the senses( II) the evaluation ( III) & the sensations on the body due to evaluation (IV) .However the reaction to the body sensations is within a person’s control. The bonds of attachment and aversion are continuously in the subconscious mind every moment. Taking an analogy of the hard disk of a computer, continuously the data is written by way of bonds (sankhara) which are habit forming.

If we stop creating new bonds, slowly the old ones will wither way and gradually the change starts happening.  To bring this, awareness of the mind and body plays a very important role. It is not about concentration of the mind but a simple process of choiceless awareness which helps a person see the rapid thought process happening in the mind. Simple exercise like watching one’s breath slowly makes the mind so sharp that at one stage one is able to observe the body sensations. These sensations in a day-to-day life are generally not observable as the mind is gross.

The major trap for the mind to get into is while observing the sensations. People may start hankering after the pleasant ones and despise the bad ones. At this juncture, one has to observe the sensations with equanimity developing a clear insight that any sensation: be  it positive or negative is ultimately going to create a sankhara, an impression on the mind. By developing equanimity towards any sensations; slowly the bonds get reduced in the subconscious mind. A change happens at the subconscious level which is long-lasting.

For most of us there is a gap between knowing and doing. At a cognitive level people know the terrible effects of excessive smoking, drinking. However the behaviour can change only at a  subconscious level. To summarize, the sensations on the body produce the addictions and not the external event. This profound technique has been the unique contribution of Gautama Buddha. His  technique of  Vipassana has helped a number of people to bring a behavioural change in managing anger, fear, curing phobias or come out of addictions. Experiments were carried out on the prisoners of Tihar Jail by this technique which has amply demonstrated the efficacy of the technique.

Apart from curing addictions, the above technique of choiceless awareness which provides insights into the mind-body connect can be used in curing phobias, pain, dysfunctional anger etc. Amygdala is the seat of emotions in the human brain from where anger, fear, jealousy etc emanate. The addictions which happen at a subconscious level are very difficult to eradicate by instructing the brain at a conscious level or a cognitive level. Following examples will illustrate  the change was completely or partially brought by this technique.

  1. Subconscious Anger: Ramesh P. aged 61 years is an engineer and has worked at quality control in different spheres of management. The last position he held was that of GM level at an Automobile company. With financial stability, considerate wife and two children, both well educated and well settled we would perceive that Ramesh is be a happy person. Being his room-mate in one of the training programs I could see Ramesh shouting and screaming in his sleep which used to happen  between 12 -1 PM. For first few days, I could not comprehend what he was speaking but later on I figured out it to be a few sentences of vitriolic anger against one of his former managers. Next day when I discussed with Ramesh about the incident,  he confessed that he was not aware of  such an incident but when pointed about the contents of his diatribe, he said that the incident happened around 12 years ago when his company was going through a major expansion and Ramesh was going through testing times when his immediate boss put him under tremendous pressure. Now Ramesh and his boss both have retired.  Whenever they meet,they exchange pleasantries  and are good friends. Only  when it was pointed out to Ramesh about the  latent anger he could see the impact of subconscious mind. Ramesh realized that when he resisted the negative thoughts about the past incident the negative sensations were produced on the body. By denying them he was creating more bonds of aversion ( stage V) thus multiplying his misery. Instead when he decided to be aware of the incident; slowly the impact reduced. The more you resist the more it persists!
  1. Limitation of Chanting: Swati is a housewife from a lower-middle class family and her husband is working as a supervisor in a small private firm. Due to some reason or the other, the two could not get along well. However by sheer persistence and will Swati was able to control her frustration by regular chanting of sacred mantras, making holy pilgrimages etc. A highly religious person she had managed to keep her emotional life under control. However during the Vipassana program on the  7th   day, Swati refused to continue the course. She said now the anger within her has come out so badly that she feels a great urge to kill her husband with a gun. The anger which was lying dormant was exposed, exploded  and resulted in her violet behaviour. By becoming aware, she was able to peep into the subconscious mind and get out of her anger.

You will observe that by the chanting of mantras,  Swati was feeling calm and serence  at a conscious and a superficial level.  However when she looked deep within with awareness she could see the tremendous anger.

  1. Sense of remorse reduces pain: Homi D. was a working as a fighter pilot for the Indian Air Force ( IAF) during the India-Pakistan war in 1971. He had shown exemplary courage in fighting the enemy. He was decorated with awards. During the war, while going out for a sortie most of the  pilots in a vainglorious manner used to  blabber about  the number of bombs they dropped, and the number of people those were killed by their bombings. It was taken as a measure of one’s achievement.  During the war Homi was injured badly, almost to be captured by the Pakistani army. He  had to crawl on his wounded legs for almost 5 hours to return safely to the Indian base. His right leg had been amputated and left one was hit by few bullets. He had to undergo a number of operations but still the pain was unbearable for more than two decades. He even lost his left eye and was fitted with an artificial eye. He underwent a number of treatments, however nothing could alleviate his pain. While undergoing the meditation exercise, Homi became aware  of the pain that he had caused to a number of innocent people killed due to his bombings. Till then, what he considered as  his success, was nothing other than an act of barbarity. And this sense of remorse and guilt helped Homi to reduce the intensity of the excruciating pain. Now the pain even though not vanished, has been reduced by almost 50%.

From the above three examples, you may observe that the events which had happened more than a decade back were stored in the form of sensations. However due to the automatic nature of the subconscious mind whenever this sensations appeared on the mind there  were repeated cycles of aversions which made the subconscious mind filled with aversion; which the conscious mind was not aware of. However by sheer mindfulness slowly the  bonds of aversion ( Stage V)  were reduced and the people were able to come out of their misery.

Rajan Parulekar| Bangalore | India| rajan@paradigm-info.com| +91 98450 14098

 

Three Bad Habits Sabotaging Your Productivity

Clock-StressPeter Drucker was  consulting for a CEO of a major bank in US.  For every meeting the  CEO used to assign Peter a time slot of 90 minutes. A highly effective person, the CEO was delivering  consistent results for his bank year-on-year. During the  one-and-half hour meeting the CEO refrained from taking any telephone calls Continue reading