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Sway
Cover of Sway
Sway
The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
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A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think.

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone "important"? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there's danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the "chameleon effect" (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us).

Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world's most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that not only challenges our views of the world but changes the way we think. In Sway, Ori and Rom Brafman not only uncover rational explanations for a wide variety of irrational behaviors but also point readers toward ways to avoid succumbing to their pull.
A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think.

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone "important"? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there's danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the "chameleon effect" (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us).

Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world's most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that not only challenges our views of the world but changes the way we think. In Sway, Ori and Rom Brafman not only uncover rational explanations for a wide variety of irrational behaviors but also point readers toward ways to avoid succumbing to their pull.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1

    ANATOMY of an ACCIDENT

    Taking off at Tenerife.
    The oversensitive egg shoppers.
    The lure of the flat rate.
    Would you like insurance with that?
    So long, Martha's Vineyard.


    The passengers aboard KLM Flight 4805 didn't know it, but they were in the hands of one of the most experienced and accomplished pilots in the world. Captain Jacob Van Zanten didn't just have a knack for flying. His attention to detail, methodical approach, and spotless record made him a natural choice to head KLM's safety program. It was no surprise, then, that the airline was keen to show him off. One magazine ad featuring the smiling captain captured it all: "KLM: from the people who made punctuality possible." Even seasoned pilots—not exactly the type of individuals prone to swoon—regarded him as something of a celebrity.

    On the flight deck of the 747, en route from Amsterdam to Las Palmas Airport in the Canary Islands, Van Zanten must have felt a sense of pride. Today's trip was moving along with the smooth precision that had become his hallmark. The schedule was straightforward: land in Las Palmas, refuel, and transport a new set of passengers back home to Holland.

    But then Van Zanten got an urgent message from air-traffic control. A terrorist bomb had exploded at the airport flower shop, causing massive chaos on the ground; Las Palmas would be closed until further notice.

    The captain knew that at times like this the most important thing was to remain calm and proceed with caution. He had performed drills preparing for this kind of situation countless times. In fact, Van Zanten had just returned from leading a six-month safety course on how to react in exactly this kind of situation.

    Following standard procedure, the captain obeyed orders to land fifty nautical miles from his original destination, on the island of Tenerife. There, at 1:10 p.m., his plane joined several others that had been similarly diverted.

    Now, you don't need to be a seasoned airline pilot to appreciate that Tenerife was no JFK. It was a tiny airport, with a single runway not meant to support jumbo jets.

    With his plane safely parked at the edge of the runway, the captain checked his watch. Seeing the time, he was struck with a worrisome thought: the mandated rest period.

    The Dutch government had recently instituted strict, complicated rules to which every pilot had to adhere. After getting in touch with HQ and performing some quick calculations, Van Zanten figured the latest he could take off was 6:30 p.m. Flying after the start of his mandated rest period was out of the question—it wasn't just against policy; it was a crime punishable by imprisonment. But taking the rest period would open its own can of worms. Here in Tenerife there would be no replacement crew to take over. Hundreds of passengers would be stranded overnight. That would mean the airline would have to find them a place to stay, and there weren't enough hotel rooms on the island. In addition, a delay here would initiate a cascade of flight cancellations throughout KLM. A seemingly minor diversion could easily become a logistical nightmare.

    It's easy to imagine the stress that Van Zanten was experiencing and why he became so determined to save time. It was like being stuck at a red light when you're late for a big meeting. Try as you might to stay calm, you know that your reputation is on the line; your frustration grows, and there's really not much you can do. But there was one thing Van Zanten could do: the captain decided to keep the passengers on board, so that when Las Palmas reopened, he could get back in the air...
About the Author-
  • Ori Brafman is coauthor of The Starfish and the Spider and is a renowned organizational expert who regularly speaks before Fortune 500, governmental, and military audiences. A graduate of Stanford Business School, he lives in San Francisco.

    Rom Brafman holds a Ph.D. in psychology and has taught university courses in personality and personal growth. His current research interests focus on the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. He has a private practice in Palo Alto, California.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 7, 2008
    Recently we have seen plenty of irrational behavior, whether in politics or the world of finance. What makes people act irrationally? In a timely but thin collection of anecdotes and empirical research, the Brafman brothers—Ari (The Starfish and the Spire
    ), a business expert, and Rom, a psychologist—look at “sway,” the submerged mental drives that undermine rational action, from the desire to avoid loss to a failure to consider all the evidence or to perceive a person or situation beyond the initial impression and the reluctance to alter a plan that isn't working. To drive home their points, the authors use contemporary examples, such as the pivotal decisions of presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush, coach Steve Spurrier and his Gators football team, and a sudden apparent epidemic of bipolar disorder in children (which may be due more to flawed thinking by doctors making the diagnoses). The stories are revealing, but focused on a few common causes of irrational behavior, the book doesn't delve deeply into the psychological demons that can devastate a person's life and those around him.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2008
    In the first of these two books exploring human behavior and the choices we make, organizational expert Ori Brafman (coauthor, "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations") and his psychologist brother, Rom, an organizational expert, discuss the various psychological forces (e.g., diagnosis bias and loss aversion) that cause people to act irrationally. To help illuminate their discussion, they draw on the latest research in social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior. In "Nudge", Thaler (behavioral science & economics, Graduate Sch. of Business, Univ. of Chicago) and Sunstein (jurisprudence, Univ. of Chicago Law Sch.) consider how the science of choice can gently "nudge" individuals toward making life-improving decisions. They divide the text into five parts"Humans and Econs," "Money," "Health," "Freedom," and "Extensions and Objections"and employ numerous examples throughout. Easy to read, conversational in tone, and story-driven, "Sway" is suitable for public libraries. "Nudge", a more research-based analysis full of practical solutions to real-life problems, is strongly recommended for public libraries.Anita N. Jennings, Newport News P.L., VA

    Copyright 2008 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2008
    Here is a very intriguing look at how and why weordinary, intelligent peopleare sometimes compelled to act in extraordinarily foolish ways. How could a respected and accomplished pilot choose to ignore all of his training and wind up killing himself and everyone on board his plane? How could a student let himself get talked into buying a $20 bill for more than $200? Why did nearly 60 percentof a game-show audience say that the sun revolves around the Earth, when they surely knew better? It all comes down, the authors say, to ordinary human behavior: our tendency to try to minimize losses; to rethink our first impressions; to admit a course of action is wrong, once weve committed to it. The book relies heavily on actual case studies, as opposed to general theorizing: the authors point to a specific situation, analyze it, and explain it (often by referring to psychological experiments or material in the literature of psychology). This is one of those books that, by telling us about things other people have done, tells us even more about ourselves.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

  • Sallie Krawcheck, CEO, Citi Global Wealth Management "Now we know why no one ever coined the phrase 'rational exuberance.' Behind the surprising ways we all make choices, the Brafmans find biology, humanity, and the wisdom of our collective experience. As a longtime student of how financial decisions are made, I found their insights utterly fascinating. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop--and I suspect the Brafmans could tell you exactly why!"
  • Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum "Brilliant."
  • Alan M. Webber, founding editor of Fast Company magazine "If you think you know how you think, you'd better think again! Take this insightful, delightful trip to the sweet spot where economics, psychology, and sociology converge, and you'll discover how our all-too-human minds actually work."
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Sway
The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
Ori Brafman
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