How the human tendency to more readily fulfil requests if a reason is provided can get what you want
25-Sep-2015 •Mohammed Ekramul Haque
What is it? This is the human tendency to more readily fulfil requests if a reason is provided, however meaningless or incorrect those reasons may be.
There are advantages of this tendency. Says Munger, "It makes a man especially prone to learn well when a would-be teacher gives correct reasons for what is taught, instead of simply laying out the desired belief ex cathedra with no reasons given. Few practices, therefore, are wiser than not only thinking through reasons before giving orders but also communicating these reasons to the recipient of the order."
Often found in: When one party wants orders complied with or requests fulfilled more readily
Like the other tendencies, the reason-respecting tendency is open to abuse. Says Munger, "Unfortunately, the reason- respecting tendency is so strong that even a person's giving of meaningless or incorrect reasons will increase compliance with his orders and requests. This has been demonstrated in psychology experiments wherein "compliance practitioners" successfully jump to the head of the lines in front of copying machines by explaining their reason: 'I have to make some copies'. This sort of unfortunate byproduct of the reason-respecting tendency is a conditioned reflex based on a widespread appreciation of the importance of reasons. And, naturally, the practice of laying out various claptrap reasons is much used by commercial and cult "compliance practitioners" to help them get what they don't deserve."
In corporations: Providing reasons for actions clears confusion and gets more desirable results. Many corporations have lived by this philosophy. Munger gives the example of Carl Braun.
"One of my favorite stories involves a very great businessman named Carl Braun who created the CF Braun Engineering Company. It designed and built oil refineries - which is very hard to do. And Braun would get them to come in on time and not blow up and have efficiencies and so forth.
He had another rule, from psychology, which, if you're interested in wisdom, ought to be part of your repertoire - like the elementary mathematics of permutations and combinations."
"His rule for all the Braun Company's communications was called the five W's - you had to tell who was going to do what, where, when and why. And if you wrote a letter or directive in the Braun Company telling somebody to do something, and you didn't tell him why, you could get fired. In fact, you would get fired if you did it twice.
"You might ask why that is so important. Well, again that's a rule of psychology. Just as you think better if you array knowledge on a bunch of models that are basically answers to the question, why, why, why, if you always tell people why, they'll understand it better, they'll consider it more important, and they'll be more likely to comply. Even if they don't understand your reason, they'll be more likely to comply."
"So there's an iron rule that just as you want to start getting worldly wisdom by asking why, why, why, in communicating with other people about everything, you want to include why, why, why. Even if it's obvious, it's wise to stick in the why," says Munger.
You just read about one of the misjudgements people generally make while investing. Read 25 ways to (Not) make mistakes to get an account of Charlie Munger's twenty-five typical misjudgements, along with our commentary on how they fit into Indian businesses and Indian investments.