Sidetracked by Francesca Gino

Sidetracked by Francesca Gino

The human mind has always fascinated me–my favorite college class was Psych 101 and I almost switched my major to Psychology until I figured out that I would need at least a Masters to do much with that degree. I still enjoy learning about the human brain, however, and what effects our thoughts and actions, so when Francesca emailed and asked me if I would enjoy reading and reviewing her book Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan I couldn’t say no!

Francesca Gino is a smarty pants–she’s an associate professor of business administration in the Negotiation, Organizations, & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School. In Sidetracked she explores and expounds upon the fact that simple, irrelevant factors can have profound consequences on your decisions and behavior, often diverting you from your original plans and desires. She backs up her book with research she and others have conducted and often  shares the tests preformed, the results gathered, and what it all means to us and what it shows us about our behaviors and our decisions.

This is a very intellectual book and best digested in small pieces. I found it extremely intriguing, however, and she does a good job of taking the technical studies and experiments and breaking them into useful information.  She also includes many real-life examples and amusing anecdotes to help drive the points of each chapter home.

I loved how preposterous some of the experiments conducted seem–in the chapter What The Cracked Pot Couldn’t See she shares about a crazy phenomenon called change blindness and how in the late 1990s an experiment was conducted where a person stopped people on a college campus to ask for directions. During each conversation two men carrying a large board passed between the two people speaking and the original questioning person was replaced with another person of the same gender. They were clearly different people but most of the time the person answer the questions didn’t realize that the change had taken place. How crazy is that? The entire book is filled with similar fascinating experiments–which she then goes to break down and then apply to “real life” situations and show us how these effect the decisions we make in life each day.

I ear marked several of the pages and found myself asking Bob to do things like draw an E on his forehead with his finger (see chapter 4 for why I’d do this!) so that I could check out things from the book, which then caused us to have many interesting discussions. Often while I was reading this I’d go “Oh!” and stop and read him something out loud.

This is a great book for anyone who is at all interested in human thought process, behavior, or just looking to get a little insight into how they can better recognize the biases that are effecting their decisions each day so they can make better ones, or anyone who would just like to challenge their brain a little and learn something new. I’d highly recommend it! Don’t just take my word for it, however, go check out the other Amazon Reviews–so far it has nearly 5 stars!

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