How to make things obvious in foresight

Every now and again an optical illusion seems to do the rounds of the Internet.

How many girls in this picture?

Figure 1 By Tizzia Vergari via Instagram

Figure 1 By Tizzia Vergari via Instagram

It gets you wondering doesn’t it? Second-guessing whether yours is the correct answer.

Are there two girls? Four? Eight? Fourteen?

Once I confirm the answer for you, of course, it will become obvious.

And that’s the trick with optical illusions. They baffle us and then, once we know the answer, we can’t ‘unsee’ it.

Indeed sociologist Duncan Watts captured this beautifully in his book title “Everything is Obvious (once you know the answer)”.

This ‘obviousness in hindsight’ came to mind recently when I was speaking with a client after one of my seminars. You see when I talk about behavioural economics and point out what people do – people’s patterns, if you will – it feels like we knew it all along.

It’s obvious that music influences which wine we buy.

It’s obvious that a dollar sign makes us spend less.

It’s obvious that saying 31% of people don’t have insurance normalises undesirable rather than desirable behaviour.

So a common reaction I get is “I kind of already knew this stuff, but now it’s been formalised”.

And yes, you do kind of know this stuff because it’s all around you. You’ve done it yourself and you’ve seen it in the behaviour of others.

But without formalising these observations we have to rely on opinion to influence behaviour. And opinions are like belly buttons – everyone’s got one (and for some reason, the boss’ always seems particularly big).

So that’s the role of behavioural economics.

Formalising patterns of human behaviour so we can anticipate and shape behavioural outcomes.

How do you formalise your understanding of behavioural economics? Start by downloading my free book, 22 Minutes to a Better Business and see how it can be applied to 18 common business issues.

Less illusion, more answers. Making it obvious in foresight.

Oh, and how many girls in the picture? Two.

The picture of the girls was taken and posted by photographer Tizzia via Instagram.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


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