Managing risk with the NASA Risk Matrix

“It’s not rocket science!” people often say. Well, sometimes, projects can be so complex, making the right decision does feel akin to rocket science. Who better to turn to than one of the biggest space agencies in the world to learn how to manage risk? There are few organisations working on projects as complex as …

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Connectedness and complex systems with Dr John L. Collins

Welcome to the fourth instalment in our interview series, where I ask highly creative and innovative people how they manage to achieve more without sacrificing their mental health. Our guest is Dr John L. Collins, a Chartered Mathematician and Chartered Physicist who holds a PhD in Nuclear Physics and Semiconductor theory from Aston University. John …

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Confirmation bias: believing what you see, seeing what you believe

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” — Robertson Davies. A person who thinks women are bad drivers is more likely to notice driving mistakes made by women. A detective who is convinced a suspect is guilty is more likely to pay attention to evidence corroborating their intuition. And, while someone …

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Illusory correlations: how to identify your hidden assumptions

When I was a kid, I used to think I was doing much better at tests when using a particular pencil my sister had gifted me. So I would make sure to use this pen for every test. I have a friend who thinks that city people are generally rude. So when he meets a …

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The Occam’s razor fallacy: the simplest solution is not always the correct one

When faced with two equally credible theories, wisdom seems to indicate you should go for the simplest one. Simpler solutions are easier to verify; they’re easier to execute. But, while mental models are a great way to make sense of the world, not all of them should be followed blindly. In fact, some should be …

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos: how to persuade people

Scholars have discussed the mechanics of persuasion since ancient times. Persuasion encompasses every aspect of culture, with rhetoric as a crucial tool to influence every sphere of society, from mundane negotiations to big national debates. One could argue any form of communication is a form of persuasion. Whether through writing or talking, at home or …

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Overchoice: why more isn’t always better

In many cultures, freedom and autonomy are considered critical to our well-being. Having the ability to do what we want, when we want, and to explore our options seem like healthy attitudes. This is why supermarkets are filled with so many variations of similar products. We think that the more choices we have, the better …

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Parkinson’s law: how constraints can create freedom

Coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of an essay published in The Economist in 1955, Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” While it was initially designed as a mathematical equation describing the rate at which bureaucracies expand over time, Parkinson’s Law can …

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The Cobra Effect: how linear thinking leads to unintended consequences

Have you ever tried to fix a problem, only to make things worse? That’s called the Cobra Effect—when an attempted solution results in unintended consequences. Because most of our cause-to-effect experiences involve very simple, direct relationships, we tend to think in terms of linear chain of events. But the world is much more complex than …

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How to make better decisions with second-level thinking

It’s easy to get carried away when making a decision. We look at the current situation and extrapolate what we consider to be the most likely future outcome. What we often fail to consider, though, are the complex ramifications of the decisions we make. For example, you’re feeling hungry. The fast and easy decision would …

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