Event Control

Recounted as below is a real life incident which happened last week.

We three college friends are planning a trip and were negotiating on where to go and how. We had about an hour of discussion where we finalized on a tentative plan. One of the friends next day wanted to pull out as he was adamant that we should go for nine days wherein each one should get to make his choice for three days and the others would go along with that. A mutually negotiated itinerary was not acceptable to him because it did not fit anyone’s vacation ideas perfectly. Subsequently, I wrote this mail to him:

Dear Friend,

You are over-thinking this and may I say you misunderstand the process of arriving at a decision on such occasions.

Your template for ideal vacation is that everyone gets their 3 days of paradise while the rest tag along on those days. So it is a royal roulette where every one gets to wear the crown for a tenure.

Good as it sounds, that’s never goona happen. Also that it should not happen. Let me explain both.

Every-time you attempt it, the process of collective decision making will remain messy. The consensus on dates/destinations and transports will always be arrived at after lot of sleeve folding and hand holding. You cannot bypass it. That’s the nature of the beast so acceptance of this process, as it is, is step one.However the good thing is that once the deal is closed we adapt very fast and start to look forward to the impending fun together.

Now why it should not happen otherwise or through a script (rotating 3 day roulette as here) is because of something called the empathy gap (EG). EG is a cognitive human bias which tells us that we cannot correctly guess our future states and feelings that our experiences will result in. In simple terms it says we are bad at predicting our fun.

Inspite of our overconfidence in the fact that we know, empathy gap tells us that we humans are very bad at estimating our pleasures and pains and what causes them. Hence trying to script a life or a trip because we can plan and control our feelings is equivalent to setting yourself up for future disappointment as your states will never follow your script.

So then what is the best process of decision making in such situations. I have found that the best process is not to try and predict experiences at all. Just be realistic in today, take everybody along and let the future happen organically.

Hence I think as we stand today,we have a fairly realistic negotiated solution around our trip. It is not perfect. However as outlined above, it need not be.

Thus instead of pursuit of an ideal, lets settle on a compromise. Who knows, if we take this step today, it might open another step for us in next 1-2 years for another and bigger trip.

Lets close the negotiation as we did yesterday and get the bookings going.

There is a time to pause to acquire the pivot and then there is a time to let go and spin.


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