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Mapping Uncertainty

Basia Skudrzyk

· Behavioral Science,Leadership,Communication,Psychology,Design Thinking

Published originally in

Life is like poker. We make many decisions with incomplete data. How can we make better decisions? We have to focus on the process.

Mapping uncertainty means developing your constraints first. Knowing your constraints will allow you to make better choices.

Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a book, “Persuasion in the Modern World.” He is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. Dr. Cialdini received his PhD from University of North Carolina and post doctoral training from Columbia University. He holds honorary doctoral degrees (Doctor Honoris Causa) from Georgetown University, University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Wroclaw, Poland and University of Basil in Switzerland. He has held Visiting Scholar appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University.

He believes there are seven (used to be six) guiding principles that can be applied to the natural environment:

1. Reciprocation: we are obligated to give back to those giving back to us. This is true in any human culture. There was a study done on McDonald’s. Every child received a balloon. ½ received a balloon on the way into the restaurant and ½ received a balloon on the way out. Those who received it first bought 25% more in product. Parents perceived the balloon experience as a value and so gave back by spending more. In addition, upgrades of coffee orders were higher in the panel of children receiving balloons upon entry.

2. Liking: There was a study done on negotiations over e-mail. Some asked to negotiate and came to a deadlock. The group that was connected to talk were asked to exchange details (school, hobbies, family, etc. ). This group had a stronger outcome from the group that was at a deadlock. There was a 94% success rate in coming to an agreement. By humanizing the person, we make it important. It’s not the amount of info, it is about the commonalities. (you’re a runner, oh I am a runner….you like basketball. oh I like basketball…you like this kind of music….so do I!) Anytime you have a commonality, you raise a connection.

3. Authority: If you are not certain about yourself, you look to authority. There was a study done on patients not being compliant with at home exercise. Where did they get their information? At the lab. There were no diplomas or certifications on the wall. All physical therapists placed awards on the wall after the observation of non-compliance. There was a 31% increase in exercise compliance. No verbal communication — just diplomas placed on the wall.

4. Consistency: People want to be consistent with what they say and do all the time. It’s a commitment or stand you take. There was a restaurant owner in Chicago who saw that he had a high no show rate at his restaurant. He asked his hostess to begin calling the customers and to change some key words in her dialogue.

“Thank you, will you please call if you change your booking or cancel?" (PAUSE and wait for customer to respond) After their affirmation, there was a 67% improvement in show rate due to asking a customer for commitment of showing up and on time. The pause is very important.

5. Scarcity: We want more that is rare and dwindling. There was a large supermarket promoting typical products. Which promotions were successful? “Limited time.” “Only 3 per customer.” “Only sale.” Sounds familiar? 6000 websites were looked at for various factors on consumer behavior. Limited time and limited # of opportunities were most important because there is competition. started to show how many people were booking reservations and the competition to not lose out on a booking or best price improved their volume and sales. The price was so impactful — power of scarcity. It’s absolutely fascinating how our brain works and how we can be predictable.

6. Consensus: When we are uncertain we look to peers — to people like us. In Beijing, researchers tried an experiment in restaurants. They placed an * on some menu items. These menu items became 13–20% more popular. It wasn’t specialty or chef’s special. It said these selections were the most popular items. When we’re uncertain, we look to experts and peers. It’s “persuasion.” You look to people who are like you.

7. Unity: Another brand of similarity (you like music, so do I) = similarity of shared identity. “May is one of us.” You establish trust and unity. There was a study done on how patients are ranked on who gets medical surgical procedures done first. Sadly, it was based on political party “shared identity.”

Some other examples on unity: US War in Afghanistan — if a fatality is described of soldiers — people are more opposed if it is from the same state “one of us.” It’s like belonging to a tribe — a shared identity. The favorite NFL teams of celebrities… Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne love the Green Bay Packers. Many Packers fans love Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne. They listen to their music and wish them success.

Human reactions and traits are important to understand.  Here's a good equation to keep in mind:

Peer-suasion + Pre-suasion + Persuasion = Influence

It’s about membership. If you’re outside of the group, unity is more difficult to achieve. It’s about social proof via similarity.

“We” is the shared “Me.”