Among the slices of my life I’m grateful for are the bits and pieces of wisdom KJR’s subscribers share with me that enrich my understanding of How Things Work.

This week, a tip o’the hat to Nelson Pardee for pointing me to a nice article by a gentleman named Morgan Housel titled “Common Causes of Very Bad Decisions.”

It’s so nice that this week I’m just going to share some snippets to whet your appetite, paraphrased into KJR-speak because I have to add some value somehow, after all:

  • Virtue is, for most people, negotiable. With a sizeable enough incentive we’re all capable of behavior we wouldn’t want headlined in the local newspaper. And for most of us, it’s the disincentive of being caught out that keeps us from succumbing, not our native integrity.
  • Mistakes are multiplicative, not additive. Imagine, that is, we’re manage to create a badness metric. Next imagine you have three colleagues who, on the badness scale, measure 2, 3, and 5. Their combined impact on overall organizational badness isn’t 10 (2+3+5). It’s 30 (2 x 3 x 5).
  • Probability is hard but accurate. Binary is easy but wrong. When our local meteorologist predicts a 70% chance of rain and rain doesn’t happen, we don’t review the last 100 rain forecasts to see if the meteorologist’s 70% chance of rain turned into actual rain in 70% of the forecasts. We gripe about the meteorologist being wrong.
  • Your opponents aren’t always playing to outscore you. Many are playing a different game than you are altogether. If you can’t figure out what game they’re playing you’ll never figure out why they do what they do, let alone what you should do about it.
  • The world is a jigsaw puzzle. It consists of a few million pieces. The information available to us and the knowledge we have about it constitute no more than a few hundred of those pieces. The moral of this story: No matter how much we think we know, we’re always mostly ignorant.
  • Success is more dangerous than failure. We can learn from failure. When we succeed we’re more likely to take credit for brilliance we don’t have than to understand that in a random world, winning the lottery isn’t a meritocratic outcome. This makes us vulnerable to overconfidence.
  • Learning from the successes of others is almost as fraught as learning from our own. Most people who succeed, most of the time, owe a lot of their success to dumb, random luck too. Sorting out what they did that actually factored into their success from everything else they did that had nothing at all to do with it is an unending challenge.

Bob’s last word: In KJR I’ve written a lot about the importance of creating a “culture of honest inquiry.” One aspect of this culture is insisting on evidence and logic and not just “trusting your gut.”

But just as importance is for each of us to recognize where our personal logic is vulnerable to sources of illogic, including but not limited to those so admirably summarized by Mr. Housel.

You might consider making a list and keeping it handy for those times you’re called on to make consequential decisions.

Bob’s sales pitch: This being the holiday season and all, what could make a better gift for those you’d like to enlighten than a book by yours truly? No, no, no, don’t answer that question. It’s rhetorical, not an actual inquiry!

Professionals like do-it-yourselfers. Undoing a bad job and replacing it with a good one is, after all, more profitable than starting from scratch.

Not that all do-it-yourselfers are hopeless (or, for that matter, hapless). The trick for those of us who engage in DIY is knowing when a new project is a reasonable stretch and when our daydreams of the perfect installation crash into a needed skill that, like soldering copper pipes with a blowtorch, is just too terrifying to contemplate.

Add to that an entire industry devoted to making DIY projects less daunting — a recent successful adventure with digital door locks comes to mind — and the equation becomes more interesting.

This being KJR we aren’t, of course, talking about home improvement. We’re talking about office improvement through the deployment of so-called “shadow IT.” One difference … no analogy is perfect, after all … is that unlike home improvement failures, where professional plumbers, electricians, and dry wallers are happy to get paid for fixing someone else’s mistakes, IT professionals aren’t usually too thrilled when they’re called in to deal with DIY software gone wrong.

Which isn’t to say trying to stomp out shadow IT is a good idea, any more than trying to stomp out DIY home improvement would be a good idea.

As is so often the case, good policy starts by recognizing that different groups have different priorities.

With home improvement, the goals for a typical DIYer (aka me) are, in descending order of importance, (1) saving money; (2) getting a warm feeling of accomplishment; and (3) receiving admiring compliments from friends and family.

Home improvement professionals, in contrast, most likely want: (1) profitable income; (2) repeat business; and (3) referrals.

Software DIY? My informal experience tells me the DIYer’s goals are quite parallel — to get: (1) the benefits of automation sooner rather than later; (2) a solution that’s tailored to fit the situation without having to explain what’s needed in detail; (3) admiring compliments and all that.

IT’s goals when implementing software are a bit different. In particular, IT wants (1) easy and maintainable integration; (2) solutions and the platforms they’re built on that aren’t going to vanish from the technology marketplace, provided by (3) vendors that also aren’t going to vanish from the landscape; and, oh, by the way, that (4) do enough of what business requesters want that they can live with the gap, without demanding a lot of tailoring or customization.

That’s quite a mismatch. But the mismatch between DIY IT and IT-led implementations isn’t a problem. It’s a place to start.

Bob’s last word: That two groups have different goals isn’t an insurmountable problem … unless, that is, the groups have no interest in achieving any goals other than their own.

What we typically have is mutual distrust and fault-finding. What we need is a methodology that accommodates both IT’s and business DIYers goals.

Bob’s sales pitch: It doesn’t address this issue specifically, but I think you’ll find chapters 4 and 5 of the KJR Manifesto helpful, and not just for dealing with shadow IT.

They’ll help any time addressing two groups’ distrust is where you need to start.