Concepts for Failure Risk and Wrong Decisions: The Illusion of Control

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Text comes from: Denkfallen: Klug irren will gelernt sein (2015) by PD Dr. York Hagmayer, published by BusinessVillage Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Experience means experiencing success and failure. Some fail, others will be a success. But what is the cause of success or failure?

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Here writes for you:

PD  Dr. York Hagemayer York-HagmeyerPD Dr. York Hagmayer is Academic Councilor at the University of Göttingen.


From the author:

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Too many cooks spoil the broth

Some projects fail or are done more badly than right. Others develop excellently and become the basis for further, profitable transactions. But what is the cause of success or failure?

An honest answer would be that a large number of factors always have an influence. Even in projects that are managed by one person, other people and the environment have a huge impact on the outcome.

The illusion of control

Software developers rely on the solutions and ideas of other developers, business consultants are dependent on the cooperation and cooperation of the customer, sellers are successful depending on the product, customer and competitive situation.

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Although we have only limited influence on success or failure, we are often subject to an illusion of control. That is, we believe that we are the ones who determine the outcome decisively. And the longer we are successful, the more the impression is strengthened.

When illusion increases the motivation

Why does such an illusion lead to control? On the one hand, it makes us strive to achieve our goals. It increases our motivation and stamina. So this episode is positive.

On the other hand, the illusion of control leads to the probability of success being overstepped and important influencing factors not sufficiently taken into account. This can have negative consequences.

Everything depends on us?

Take a salesman who believes everything depends on him. If the market becomes more difficult, for example, because the competition offers more attractive products, such a salesperson can reduce sales because he underestimates the impact of peer-to-peer communications, social networks, or anything as trivial as service around the product.

Instead of using the positive effect of other factors to his advantage, he tries to score points only by his own effort.

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Successes are homemade?

Actually, experience should teach us how great our impact on success and failure is. Sadly, this is not the case. We tend to attribute successes to us personally. We believe that success has been achieved through our knowledge, our competence and our effort. That is why we can be proud of what has been achieved.

On the other hand, we like to attribute failures to other or adverse circumstances. In this case, we are happy to give up control and thus responsibility. This has the psychologically positive consequence that we have to feel less guilty and our competence is not questioned. Since the number of achievements is usually much greater than the failures, we can continue to believe that we can control our success.

Do not waste your resources meaninglessly

So should we try to assess our impact on success and failure? Since the illusion of the control also has positive consequences for the motivation, there is no objection to a slight overestimation.

But it becomes critical when we waste our energy and our resources senselessly. Many dice players lose their money because they believe they can control the dice. In contrast, poker players are often successful because they are aware of their influence on the game outcome.

What belongs to the successful implementation?

Many believe that more experience will provide more knowledge and competence. That's not necessarily the case.

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If a person always uses the same knowledge and the same routines, then the person only becomes more experienced but not an expert. Consultants who only implement the same type of project always get better at implementing, but not necessarily more competent. To become an expert, you have to do exactly two things:

  1. various things to try out and
  2. from the results.

Inherent competence

Take such a trivial example as the use of Office packages. Most users are very familiar with the programs and can process their tasks quickly and with good results. Does this mean that these users are experts? Not at all.

Most users know only a few functions and do not know how they could solve their tasks in other ways with sometimes considerably higher efficiency. Because the usual procedure works well enough, nothing new is tried and nothing new is learned.

The supposedly positive feedback that such people receive misguides them. They think they are competent and have everything under control. The experience that "it is doing so well" leads to an illusion of control, an overestimation of one's own abilities and can contribute to disproportionate self-confidence.

Explore new possibilities systematically

In contrast, experts are constantly learning by systematically testing new possibilities and learning about the results, successes and failures. These feedbacks show which approaches are successful and which are not.

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They also make it possible to recognize which other factors are decisive for success. Take, for example, outstanding musicians. Not only have they had a very long education, but they have mostly sought the critical feedback from other outstanding musicians.

To expose oneself to the possibility of failure

On the contrary, they constantly try out new possibilities. They experiment with how they could interpret a piece differently and perhaps even better or more interesting. The fact that they are masters of their subject does not mean to put on the tried and tested.

Because they are always exposed to the possibility of failure, they learn what makes them successful and where their limits lie. This reduces the risk of over-estimating one's abilities and an illusion of control.

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