Availability Heuristic

    At the moment of starting to write this blog, I am in the worst week of the year and it was not even week 13! There were terrible, terrible terror attacks in Istanbul, Ankara, Brussels and Lahore. After these attacks my daughter said: “Why don’t they stop? They have made their point!” I could not agree more, but I am afraid it does not stop.

    That same week Johan Cruijff also passed away at the age of 68. Johan Cruiiff is the most famous Dutch person ever and thanks to him many people have heard of Holland or the Netherlands? I have often been asked what actually the difference is between Holland and the Netherlands. Well, it is nicely explained in this video:


    Johan Cruijff is a born winner and real leader. I travel a lot and take taxi’s everywhere. If the taxi driver hears you’re from Holland or the Netherlands then Johan Cruijff or internationally known under the name Johan Cruyff, is a name always mentioned. Amongst many others things by the way, but these no further attention hereJ.

    4 billion people in the world seem to know Johan Cruyff! He is a more famous than Anne Frank, Abel Tasman, Baruch Spinoza, Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh, Desiderius Erasmus, Eddie van Halen, Piet Mondrian, Johannes Vermeer, M.C. Escher, Eric Veldkamp or Armin van Buuren.

    Last but not least on the same day Johan Cruyff died, we had a farewell party of the Johan Cruyff of Dynamics Software, Sven Sieverink. After more than 10 years Dynamics Software, and if we include his years at AAC Cosmos it is even more than 14 years, Sven decided to extend his limited work experience as his LinkedIn Profile shows somewhere else. I think I have seen Sven more than my wife during these years and those of you who personally met us during an event or else, always have seen us as an inseparable duo like Tom & Jerry, Ben & Jerry, Bert & Ernie, Simon & Garfunkel, Chip & Dale or since hair is getting even grayer or less to no hair Statler & Waldorf.

    Of course this is very disappointing, but I want to thank Sven for his contribution to Dynamics Software and his leadership has played an important role in where we stand today. I also wish him good luck in his roadmap to the future.

    A couple of weeks back the Dynamics Software EMEA sales and marketing team attended a seminar of Simon Sinek who happened to speak in my lovely hometown Zwolle


    Simon Sinek in Zwolle? Are you crazy? When I saw the announcement of his seminar on leadership in Zwolle, I thought the date would probably be April 1st. So I called the organizer, Nicole Lier, and she very enthusiastically told me she had worked 2.5 years on realizing her dream to have Simon Sinek come to Zwolle. I bought the tickets and went there with the team to listen 2 hours to his story followed by 1 hour Q & A on why leaders eat least, the circle of safety and to be the leader you wish you had without using any slides. Amazing and inspiring. Jeroen Blijsie created this infographic during the seminar:

    Simon talked about common things which most of us know, but good to hear these being structured. About leaders setting conditions, creating an atmosphere of trust and safety, etcetera. Very interesting were the examples of some of our body’s chemicals, like the egoistic ones endorphin & dopamine and the altruistic ones serotonin and oxytocin. Ultimately leaders eat last as they sacrifice to make the corporate tribe successful instead of sacrificing the corporate tribe to make the leader successful. Are leaders and winners born? Some are, but we are able to be a leader, but not all should or want to be a leader.


    When looking back at all that happened in these recent weeks, it is important to understand that recent memories can fool our brain. When people judge, or estimate a risk or a change they tend to follow examples or experiences from recent memory. This available information is not necessarily always the right information. When visiting a book store to buy some stamps my eyes got attracted to a display on the counter shouting: A WINNING TICKET WAS PURCHASED HERE! This text changed my mind to being a potential prize winner instead of someone going to buy stamps. By focusing on the winner, the result is that the reader of that message is overestimating his or her chances to win the lottery. (This piece is borrowed from Suzanne Weusten and her book “Hoe we ons zelf voor de gek houden, ABC van Denkfouten”).

    Lotteries do not emphasize the statistical odds any ticket has of winning. A potential ticket buyer should not think that he has a one-in-30-million change of winning. A person is more likely to buy a ticket if the first thing that comes to mind is the memory of a recent winner. My youngest daughter asked this week if my plane is not going to crash flying to Microsoft Envision. She never asks if my car is not going to crash before driving to office. You have probably a better chance of being killed in a car accident driving to buy your lottery ticket than you do of winning the lottery. On the other hand, I already won the lottery with my beautiful family and lovely colleagues.

    Politicians often refer to recent events and then make false statement on criminals, religion, etc. I don’t think I have to mention any examples in the recent US pre-election campaigns. There is more discussion on investing in fighting terrorism than fighting cancer, this video shows the availability heuristic:

    Fortunately we are not perfect, so we make mistakes and learn from them. Our competition is referring to these past mistakes when competing against us. And when a failed implementation or 3 times budget implementations of our competition reaches the journals, we tend to store and use that when we need it.

    Our brains like clear information, or impressive experiences raising emotions. Should we travel from Brussels next week? Should we fly to New Orleans to attend Microsoft Envision? We tend to overestimate the chance of getting involved in terror attacks, car or plane accidents or failed implementations in business. Simply because these events call emotions, are sensational and are available in our memories. Media is influencing this significantly. When asbestos in a building is getting attention it seems there is potential asbestos in every building near us. When considering a red car, you see red cars everywhere. After the terror attacks many governments, airports etc. (re)check their security policies.

    A lot of research has been done on that Availability Heuristic (or Availability Error if you like). It is related to the gambler’s fallacy. It is the distortion of one’s perceptions of reality due to the tendency to remember one alternative outcome of a situation much more easily than another. If surrounded by slot machines, people are more likely to continue throwing money in the machines because they see others winning and think their chances of winning are higher. Winning a complex ERP cycle, does not mean you win other cycles you are in, easier. At the same time, the winner’s high is a good feeling and boosts self-confidence.

    Research shows that one group reading only negative traits before reading the same story as the group who only read positive traits, gave a different and more negative judgement to the same main character. Avoiding this is difficult, they are caused by fast and intuitive thinking. Make sure that before an important decision (like deciding on business applications) you think about which emotions, happenings, experiences might influence your judgement. The fact that a man who smoked 3 boxes of cigarettes per day still reached 100, does not say anything on smoking not being damaging to your body.

    Question: are there more German words starting with an R then words ending with an R? Answer: there are more than twice German words ending with an R. Most people answer this question wrong, because we simply remember more words starting with an R. German is known for its extra-long compound words resulting in tongue twisters. When Mark Twain complained that some German words were “so long they have a perspective,” he was thinking of words like “Freundschaftsbezeigungen” (demonstrations of friendship) and “Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen” (general states representatives meetings).

    For instance, while English makes “Residence Permit” two words, German uses only one: Aufenthaltsgenehmigung. Long German words were in the news recently when many sources reported that Germany had “lost its longest word” because the European Union removed a law from its books called (*ahem*): “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” (the law for the delegation of monitoring beef labeling). But Germany had not in fact lost its longest word, because the process for forming these words is an active, productive part of the language, and the potential exists for creating words even longer, if so needed at a moment.

    A guy managing train traffic is called an “Eisenbahnknotenpunkthinundherschrieber“ and the office he stays in is therefore called an “Eisenbahnknotenpunkthinundherschrieberhauschen“. Isn’t that great? How does that process work? This lively animation takes you, step by step, through what’s involved in creating new words in this case starting with an R. The story is about a girl from a little village called Barbara baked delicious rhubarb cakes. As she thought she could earn money with her cake, she opened a bar. Soon she had regular customers. The most famous were the three barbarians who had wonderful and dense beards. From time to time, their beards had to be trimmed by a barber. The barber had learned from the three barbarians that Barbara sold tasty rhubarb cake in her bar. While he was enjoying the cake, he liked to drink a beer. This beer was only available in a special bar whose waitress was called Bärbel. After trimming the three barbarians’ beards, the barber and the barbarians often go to the beer bar where Bärbel works. Then they take her and the beer to Barbara’s bar to drink beer and to eat rhubarb cake.

    Rhababerbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbie­rbarbärbel, a completely valid (and probably never before uttered) word.

    Be aware that doctors are often victims to the availability heuristic and prescribe what they prefer overlooking better medicines. The same is true for business consultants and application consultants. I trust my colleagues have thought of this heuristic before defining the best practices in our recent Dynamic Service solution available on the Azure market place and did not only deliver on what their preference was.

    You never hear a doctor say: “I don’t know what to advise you”. Instead they start their familiar advice procedures. And remember that repetitive hearing of statements make you believe in it easier, i.e. politicians saying the same things in other words. I have been part of many steering committees and they tend to discuss mostly the agenda topics set by the respective project managers. They hardly discuss what is not on the agenda which could be more important, like sinking motivation or changed behavior. The same is true for a sales manager working too much on assumptions and not fact checking these assumptions. It is like walking around in a city with a map of another city and using this map to find the way. Better a false map than no map. Frank Sinatra already sang: “Oh, my heart is beating wildly / And it’s all because you’re here. / When I’m not near the girl I love, / I love the girl I’m near.

    When making important decisions, avoid decision making shortcuts, take a pause and think why you are deciding as you are. Is it because of information you have recently received? Who from? Why did they give it to you? Fortunately buying business applications is always a team buying process and hopefully the purchasing team is based on people from different disciplines, backgrounds and experiences.

    Looking back at the events I described in the introduction to my blog, I think it is time to not only remember sad things, but also positive things from longer ago. Back to Johan Cruyff. He started his career as a soccer (or football) player and became a real artist, a real leader. Not only did he demonstrate his skills on the field but also his interpretation of our language silenced others and led them to admire him. In that sense he is a legend, a phenomenon. As you know I am a fan of aphorisms and here are some of my favorite Johan Cruyff quotes:

    • You win with all
    • Every drawback has its gain
    • Simple is the most difficult.
    • The simpler the better, the less choice, the larger the chance of doing the right
    • Sometimes something must happen, before something happens
    • It is better to go under with your own vision then with someone else’s vision
    • Coincidence is logic.
    • If we have the ball, they can’t score and if I start walking sooner, it looks I am faster
    • I am against everything. Until I take a decision and then I am supporting it
    • If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better
    • The most difficulty of the human brain is understanding he does not understand
    • Now there is unity, everybody does what I ask. It is because they are not Dutch who as soon as I start breathing say, “Yes, but…..”
    • You will only see it, when you see through
    • I love work, as long as it is work I love
    • You improve to be worse
    • I am still convinced the way I do it, is the way to do it, otherwise I would not do it
    • If you can’t win, you have to make sure you cannot loose
    • We did it very well, simply because we could not do better
    • One turns on the music, others follow the dance
    • I truly hate someone moving without knowing where to move to
    • We were looking for victory and you then come across it automatically
    • Winning is logical, losing is not
    • In a way I am immortal
    • And last but not least, if you are afraid you perform less, so why be afraid?

    Some say he is the best soccer player the world ever had, I think that is hard to judge with past start like Pelé, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane and many others. We tend to say Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo are the best soccer players of the world, but that is just because we see them playing more recently. For sure Johan Cruyff was a mix of an artist, dancer than a normal soccer player. I refer to Johan Cruyff being an artist. Enjoy this tribute to Johan Cruyff as art:

    Make sure you build teams that amplify each other and not teams who have the same experiences. And make sure you ask “what is the worst thing this can be” slowing down the quick and breath taking decision making. It helps to think more broadly than what comes in mind. You can also ask about this to your ER physician when you have arrived there.

    Enjoy life!

    Kind regards,

    On behalf of Dynamics Software

    Eric Veldkamp

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