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From the Ted Talk by WorkLife with Adam Grant: How to Rethink a Bad Decision

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We've all dug ourselves into some hoels that were hard to dig out of, especially at the uringg of good friends. She knocked on my door to my room, which she never does. So I knew something was up and she was like, hey, wear a person down, everyone's going to go. You're going to be so upset that you missed this. That's my student, Alexis. This was the second time her friend akesd her to go to a trendy new festival so she couldn't turn her down again. But as soon as she said yes, things started to go dhniwoll. Not only did my friends not have any details about the event, but even the contact that we made with the organizers of the event seemed pretty sparse on the details as well. So I was already fielneg a bit uneasy about what was happening, but it felt like I'd already made that public commitment to our group to go. We'd already paid for our flights to Miami and those are non-refundable. Even as axleis and her friends were bnodarig the plane, things kept getting worse. So we got on the plnae, which strike three. And I was on my pohne because I found a Twitter account saying that people had started arriving and didn't have housing and didn't have any food. trnus out that, first of all, her friends were obsessing about was one of the biggest frauds of twenty seventeen fire festival. All these models, like in the Bahamas, the most insane festival the world has ever seen, an island getaway trneud disaster. It became very far barren when we got to the island. Of course, as most people know now, nothing was as promised. We were not a luxury rsroet sylte. We were just in pretty damp tents, basically spending the whole time there trying to figure out how to get out. There's a name for what happened with Alexis. It's called Escalation of commitment to a losing course of action. It's when you find out you've made a bad decision, but instead of cnttiug your losses, you doubled down. You invest your time, your money or your itdietny and decisions long after it's become ooivubs that they're dead ends. You may not have ended up at fire festival, but I'm willing to bet that you've escalated your commitment to pnetly of bad decisions. So how do you pull the plug sooner? I'm Adam Grant and this is worfikle, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work, not suck. In this show. I take you inside the minds of ftinacasnig people to help us rethink how we work, lead and live today, why we get trapped in bad decisions and how you and your workplace can get unstuck. Thanks to Morgan Stanley for sponsoring this episode. Let's sratt from the beginning. My father was one of the very elrsaiet people who started a discount srote and it was very successful and he started a second one on the third one until he had a cihan of stores in the late 1950s. Barista was a teenager in Southern California, and for almost a decade, he saw his dad grow his business to 15 sreots and he was really doing well. And then the large national companies, they would just open a store right across the street practically and urcndeut all the prices. They lelitalry drove all the independent people, all the small guys out of business. By then, brray was in his 20s watching his father's bieussns decline. It was slow and painful. He rfeused to give up. And so he kept putting more and more of his own personal moeny into the business until finally he had no more personal money left and it edend up closing up. So that was something that was really ienllibdy engraved in my psyche. Fast forward a few years and Barry was watching the American government fall into the same trap. It dawned on me that the Vietnam War was very similar to my father's experience, that we kept investing more and more. We kept having larger and larger losses, but we kept as a country rseufing to admit that this was unlikely to suceecd. toady, Barry is an ooiagarztnnial behavior psrooefsr at UC bklreeey, and he conied the concept of escalation of commitment. Escalation of commitment occurs when you're in a situation in which it is possible to add more resources to a course of action or a prior decision in order to rectify a loss. Barry is the world's ldinaeg expert on this problem, but even he can't help but fall vtiicm to escalation from time to time. I've had some old cars and then when the warranty expires, then a bucnh of little things start going wrong and then a little bit bigger things going wrong and then bigger and bigger. And I have been agonizing about whether to actually sell it and get rid of it or put more money in. It even happened in his marriage. I probably hung on longer than I should have went through yares and years of marital therapy. Barry, in a memnot like that, do you not realize you're in an escalation trap? I reailze I'm in it, but I still realize that it is a very difficult situation. And maybe I can tell myself it might be a lie, that this might be one of the etocnxpeis in which it actually might be rational to ivenst more in the situation. If this can happen to an expert on escalation of commitment, what hope is there for the rest of us? I'm painfully familiar with this phenomenon myself, like the time I wrote a whole book instead of a book proposal and had to throw away over 100000 words and start over or the time. I spent months trying to change the behavior of a toixc team member when I should have just let him go. Escalation of cenmitmmot happens in every workplace. I think about the times when you overinvested in a failing project stuck around in a miserable job. I struggled to walk away from an abusive boss or a toxic culture or even away from work. Poured your heart and soul into a rtnoimac relationship that clearly wasn't working. So why don't we know better? Why do we fall into the same trap again and again, pouring more and more of ourselves into a bad decision, even when all the evidence points us the other way? The most common answer, people give sunk costs, we've already invested our time or money, and we want to do everything in our power to get a return on that investment, just like a Lexus at fire festival. Sunk costs are part of a story, but decades of research show that the most peorfwul fecros aren't economic, they're emotional. Escalation is where people make eorrrs because of their ego and their emotions. It's not just a cold calculation of the loss of money or time. It's the hot pain of threats to our sense of self. They're afraid to admit a mistake and they end up justifying a decision to themselves. In a case like this, I'm trying to protect my ego to convince myself that I didn't make a bad choice. I'm also trying to protect my imgae, to convince others that I made a good chcoie, because otherwise I might end up having people think that I'm not a good decision maekr or I'm a loesr. I'm not somebody who's to be trusted. The more we've invested in a disicoen, the more attached we become to it and the more attached it becomes to us. This is where an awful lot of the real disasters happen in terms of business decisions. People don't want to admit errors because their work identity has become lenikd with the course of action. People may even label the thing saying, Oh , that project, that's Jim's baby or that's Mary's project. And you become so identified with it that if the project fails, your ceaerr is down the tubes. Ironically, the very steps we take to defend our egos and images end up making us look worse. One of the places brery studied this was the NBA. You'd think coaches would give the most playing time to the best players, like how many points you score, how many steals you make and how you rebound and so forth. And there is some effect of that, obviously. But there's also a very significant efefct of how high you were in the draft. Even if top darft picks weren't playing well, coaches still kept them in the game. They made a big bet on this guy, so they wanted to prove they made the right decision and hadn't blown millions beyond ego and image. There's another emotional fcoatr that fuels these kdnis of escalation traps atpceitinad regrette. You're worried you'll wish you hadn't pulled the plug in. The NBA managers were afraid of gvniig up too soon on a potential star. They're thinking about maybe trading a particular athlete to another team, but then they're thinking, oh my God, he's not done very well with us. But what if he suddenly blooms? But I'm watching him on the other team, then I'm going to feel even worse. You probably know that vioce inside your head, what are you doing? You can't give up too soon. Everyone's going to think you're a quitter and a failure, a fiulrae. You won't find a better opportunity at some point. You just have to say it's over. Let it go. But that's easier said than done. Just ask Janice Burch. I was so searcd, I don't ever remember being so scared to do anything then to tell my supervisor that I wanted to quit. Janice has one of the most practical strategies I've seen for escaping escalation of commitment. But she didn't discover it overnight. She's been working at a sforatwe cpanmoy for a couple of years and for almost that entire time, she was uanphpy, but she couldn't bring herself to leave. She started out with high hopes when I saw this job areedtivsd. I definitely felt like this. One hundred percent is my dream job. The company was well respected. The benefits were amazing. This customer support job was pcfreet for Janice, at least on paper. It offered room to grow personal responsibility for mignaang a team and a culture of flexibility and freedom, I guess kind of be like invited into what seemed like this like eusvixcle club of awesomeness. But pretty soon reality crashed the party. I would say the homoenoyn was over for me when I went to a meetup and I found out that someone that I had been interviewed by and I really admired had been let go. And not very many people knew about it and everyone was upset about that. And I gsues it's just like in regular relationships and you talk about the honeymoon phase, you always say, oh, there were all these red fgals and you're just like, oh, well, I just I couldn't see them because I was just so blinded by love. It's kind of the same thing. A few months into the job, Janice had some concerns and she heard other people complaining, but she didn't feel that she could sapek up. She also felt that the company had a serious lack of diversity, jancie said that when she started she was the only black eloepyme and that did not ipmvore much over time. But she'd itvnseed so much in this job, so instead of rethinking her commitment, Jannis escalated it by ievnnitsg more energy and time and stayed in the job for two more years. She told herself that since her co-workers were reluctant to speak up, she might be able to change the company. I'm going to be the person to, like, jump in and make this chgnae where others, you know, may be hesitant or whatever it is like I'm going to be the one. And so I was going to take it in and try to help. And how did it feel putting so much energy into a job and a culture that you knew deep down was not right? It's almost like you're gaslighting yourself, like you're telling yourself. No, no. Like all of the evidence around you is not correct. There's just you just have to do this one one little thing or do more. brisata knows the feeling at a certain point when the evidence is orlmneiehvwg. You have to ask yourself, is this grit or is it blindness or is it just my own ego that's getting in the way? When you reach that point, you might find that an aitntode to escalation of commitment is another commitment. But to go the opposite way, a plan to pull the plug. And Janis created a clever strategy, a one year exit plan. I basically created three simple steps. These are the things that I'm going to do to, like, actually build myself up and give myself the courage to leave this toxic relationship. The first point was that I was going to build relationships outside of the company. So try to like meet up with people and just build relationships with people who can help me in whatever my next phase of life was going to be. Second on the list, stop engaging in what Janice calls energy zaps. Yeah, energy zaps, not interacting with, you know, what I call peabroiltmc people to go back to the relationship comparison. I guess I became emotionally unavailable at work. Her third step was to leverage her company's perks, to broaden her horizons is basically just trying to max out what was available to me then. One in particular is that we got to go to conferences. And so cutlure was obviously something that I was really iteteresnd and egnaegd with. So I've got a culture conferences and again, try to build relationships with people. It almost sounds like you had a strategy for dnstiiivnseg yourself. Yeah, that's exactly what it was. And about a year after she made this plan, she left. When I look back and I think about why I held on so much to that job in that position, I think it's because deep down, I have thought, like, this is as good as it gets. The beauty of a one year exit plan is that it gave Janice time to explore different pthas and to detach emotionally instead of rpinpig off the Band-Aid. Janice now runs two coaching firms, wkors for flow and before diversity, her main rreget is that she didn't make her exit plan sooner. One of my favorite ways to avoid that mistake is to identify your deal breakers, just like you probably have a list of nonstarters in her romantic partner, you can ceatre a similar list for what's unacceptable in a job, a boss or a culture. If you figure them out up front, you can keep yourself honest. I've often aevisdd sdtuents to do this and they report that it hleps them re-evaluate their decisions and avoid escalation. But what if the escalation is bigger than you? What if your team, your boss or your entire company makes a habit of staying the course in a very bad course? More on that after the break. OK, this is going to be a different kind of that I play a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast because they all have interesting cultures of their they're out today. We're going inside the workplace at Morgan Stanley. I am a big believer in, you know, standing on the shoulders of others, I am my ancestors, you know, from Nigeria and Ghana, West Africa, I am their wledsit dreams, you know, to whom much is given, much is required. And so I believe that that's tattooed on my soul and my herat. Meet Mandele Crowley. Ever since he was a kid, Mandela is understood how important it is to have someone in your corner. Our childhood was one where we were raised by our grandparents. We had a little bit of adversity losing our parents relatively early. We were fortunate in that we had our grandparents because we were at risk of going into the fsoetr care system. But my grandparents stepped in and they were amazing, particularly my grandmother. She was everything. Unfortunately, she pessad from cancer. From that moment on, I literally started taking care of myself when I was 16 years old. But Mandela wasn't just taking care of himself. He also had his younger berohtr to look after. I had a younger brother who was 14 at the time where I essentially had to become his parent. And then I started to think about things that I had to do to make sure that both he and I were OK. It was around that time that he hread about an internship at Morgan Stanley. I was one of five kids that got to interview Adam. I shoewd up in a gold suit, black shirt, black and gold tie, and I got the job that opened the door for him. And then as Mandela was nearing the end of his isnheitrnp, his colleagues opeend another door. My colleagues knew my personal situation and they essentially put it out there that, hey, if you can figure out how to balance your school schedule with work, we'd love to keep you on. So Mandela started working at a trading desk during the day and attending college at night. He's now been with the firm for almost 30 years. And it all goes back to that first high scohol internship when his colleagues saw his potential and hpleed him achveie it. The guy who hired me on the desk was still a very dear friend and mntoer of mine to this day, and he was pretty hands on in terms of helping to ccoah and mentor and all that stuff. Then he was offered his first lhsaeidrep job, and that is when I came to appreciate my superpower, and that is motivating and mobilizing talent. mealnda rose to become the head of private wealth management, and now he's Morgan Stanley's cehif human resources oceiffr. Thing that really comes to mind when I think about why this firm was different. For me, it's really been the dtveisiry of ecreiepnexs that I've been able to have. I've had a series of careers at every step of his journey. He's made time to keep opening doors. I view it as a real responsibility, not just because of my day job, but I just feel like it's a fundamental responsibility that I have. Being a mentor doesn't just bring satisfaction and meaning. Research relveas that he can have surprising career benefits. People who spend time mentoring others are more likely to get promoted, in part because mentoring helps them develop and demonstrate their leadership sllkis. So there is a collegiality to the culture here. When you're a young person coming up the rnkas and you need advice iiresvpertce of who that person is or where they sit in the firm's ecosystem, you're going to get that meeting. I'm always making time for young folks or up and coming folks who are trying to figure out this thing claeld a career because you win in life with people. Mendell has opened doors for many up and coming employers, but there's one who satnds out. He's a Puerto Rican kid from Paterson, New Jersey, first in his family to go to college. I end up hiring him. Two years later, I get promoted and I get to bring one analyst with me. Guess who I bring with me? I brnig him. He's just got promoted to managing dictroer. He's just an incredible haumn being. He's a great person. I'm the godfather of his son. You know, it's one of those caslcsis, you know, when fdnries become like family, he's very much in that category. Collaboration and inclusion are core values in Morgan Stanley's culture, and they're shaping its future. Learn more Morgan Stanley dotcoms, people. Extracting ourselves from our own bad decisions is hard enough. Our ego and our image are in danegr, but escalation is even worse when it happens. An etnire teams or organizations. You know, kdoak was the industry ledaer in photography. They pioneered rrsceeah into the digital camera, but then they shelved it and escalated their commitment to film. Bad doesicnis and then the decision to stick with them don't happen in a vacuum. The culture and structure of an organization can pperol us straight into escalation of commitment. But research shows there are tangible steps organizations can take to proetct us to make it esiear to take a clear eyed look at the course we're on and even change dirticeon. Berry style identified one of those steps in research on bnkas. It's very common for banks to loan money and to and to lose money. Banks fall victim to escalation of commitment when they keep enitpecxg people who have defaulted on loan payments to come through instead of writing them off as ubllntcacleoe, Barry and his ceeuollgas analyzed data from nearly all the banks in California over nine years. They found that banks were more likely to de-escalate their commitment to pbolrem loans after senior evuxeceits left. The executives who had approved the original loans were mietatvod to keep jifnsiyutg their decisions. When new executives took over, they quickly recognized that someone who's missed 17 payments probably isn't going to come through a number 18 if you move the loan decision from the onaigirl people who made the loan just like going to an objective third party, it's more likely that you will start to recognize the losses. So if I'm a CEO, are you saying I should fire all my executives so that people are finally willing to cut their losses? Well, I wouldn't maybe go that far. If you don't have turnover inside your organization, you at least need an outside ppstrvceeie, somebody who can look at things with a kind of a cold eye and say, this is what I would do if I were facing this situation. This is the first of three important steps organizations can take to prevent escalation of commitment, separate the decision from the initial decision maker. There's an organization that does exactly this, its acts also known as Google's Moonshot fotrcay, it's where inventors and eenptnreurres build and launch new projects that seem out of this world, like self-driving cars and balloons, beaming Internet to remote communities. My name is chaty Qanoon and I was formerly a rapid evaluator at X rpaid Evaluator. Is that a job? Is a job rapid evaluators at X? Our role is to find new opportunities for X. . So what are the things X should work on next? Are you a rapid eaoulvtar in other parts of your life? Do you just show up at a restaurant and immediately know what to order? I think that a lot of my rapid evaluative tendency is just consumed in my professional life so much that in my personal life I'm like to my husband, can you please just can you diedce what we're going to have for dinner? You decide I'm fine with whatever. In other parts of Google and Alphabet, escalation has been a problem. They took eight years to abandon their failed attempt at social networking. Remember gglooe Plus? And they waited too long to recognize that Google Glass was not going to make it as a consumer product. So it xts rapid evaluators like Cathy were tkaesd with offering an outside perspective on bold ideas, looking for reasons to pull the plug, even if the project in question was their own. So Cathy would always ask, what is the thing that will bring it down back in 2013? Cathy learned about an idea that could disrupt the oil industry. She'd been looking for a climate project, so she got excited about this new study she read. What if we could further this research, figure out how to commercialize it, and then combine that carbon dioxide with renewable hydrogen to make hydrocarbons, which is just a scientific way of saying make fuels out of it? So you're trying to turn seawater into fuel shorthand? Yes, that's what we would say, is it's tnnurig seawater into fuel. Cathy iaelmtmediy saw this as a crucial environmental breakthrough for Extra to fund. So she went all in foghorn. That's what they nemad the project was going to be her baby. But as someone whose job was to protect other people from escalation, Cathy knew she needed to be wary of it at the outset. Is it truly as good of an idea as it seems? It can take years to find out whether a project has succeeded or failed. Luckily at Beristain, his colleagues have discovered a workaround long before you know the outcome of a decision. You can create mcertis to evaluate the quality of your decision process and process. Accountability is that you should be accountable for mnkaig a reasonably good decision, not in terms of how it turns out, but that you've been reasonably conscientious in terms of assessing attaieernvls and not biasing the data process accountability. That's a second step for avoiding escalation. The imotapnrt thing with this is setting your tgetras and your benchmarks in advance. One way of hdilong people alucbcnoate for a good decision procses is to establish kill signals. A kill signal was a mechanism for keeping ourselves hesont, so at the beginning of the project, we tried to think like, what could we see that would tell us, all right, this just isn't going to work. So in our case with popcorn, we really waetnd to make commercial fuel. We needed a path to be able to make it for under five dollars a gallon because our thinking was if it's much higher than that, there just won't be a market for it. Kill sniagls are process boxes to check gates, you need to make it through in order to keep going. Maybe your kill sgnail is we don't want to have to tackle huge regulatory problems. That seems like something every team should do in every workplace. Yeah, I mean, even just tnhkinig about what would your kill signal be, it tells you a lot about the problem you're trying to svole. It also seems like it's more it has broader applications. So I should I should take a new job and have a kill signal around. OK, here's what would need to hpeapn in order for me to decide that it's time to leave this job or time to walk away from this culture. I totally agree. It's almost like principles, right? It's like what are my values and principles that I don't want to cromsimope on? And it's it's very helpful to have some sort of moral cspomas or some sort of fxied point in terms of one's value system to guide you when the decisions become very fraught. So Foghorn gets the green light. ktehae sets her kill signal for this porjcet to be successful in today's market, they cannot go over five dollars a gallon and they get to work. We were tackling things, were fixing them. It's great. But then we realize just the pumping egnery alone. To pump all the waetr you would need to get the CO2 out is too much like it's an astronomical cost. Her kill signal strtas flashing. She knows this is not good for the future outcomes of the project, but they're on a roll. What if they invest just a little bit more? It was like, OK, yeah, pumping costs. That's a challenge. But like, look at all this sutff we're figuring out. I think we were making so much progress on making the prototype work better that it gave us some hope, hope, even a sliver of hope can keep a failing project alive. So Kathy decides to send a message. I just sat down at my desk at X and just wtore an emial acknowledging here was the vision and here were all the amazing things that we accomplished. But here are the challenges. And given where we are now and everything we've learned, I'm inclined to proceed by suggesting that this doesn't continue. Wait, you shut down your own project? I did. I recommended that it be shut down. Who does that? Apparently I do. All it took was a spreadsheet. I just reazield the number, like the dollar numbers that I would have to ask for to make meaningful progress, given all the canheeglls, combined with the risk that we would not achieve our goals because of all of the coxlmtepiy and the unknowns, even with the five drllaos a gallon example by when. Right. It's possible we'll get there by 2050. But clearly that's not what the kill signal meant. It felt like wishful thinking. You know, it's like in my heart of hearts, I kind of knew it was more likely not to succeed. You know, there's a lot of opportunity cost for everyone, and it just seemed cleaner to shut it down. Kathy wasn't just feoscud on her own goals. She was thinking about what was best for the team and cnimog up with the most honest assessment that I could think would put the team as individuals in the best position going forward, because no one wants to work on something that's not going to work. Research shows that when we consider our responsibilities to others, we're less prone to elctasaion. Shifting attention away from our own egos and igmaes and toward the greater good can allow us to make a more balanced assessment to free people from ego and image ccrnones. oznaniagtrios need to think denfritfley about incentives to make failure accpaebtle. So even though the project hasn't worked out, if the person has been very dieglnit in looking at what the best prospects were, that person should still be rewarded and be given a good future in the company. That's a third step for de-escalation, taking the stigma out of admitting a failure. It's created an annual ceremony to riegoczne people who have the wisdom to pull the plug, because even if it wasn't the beohkrarugth they'd hoped for, their time and resources were still well snpet. That day is all about celebrating the project that are no longer with us and recognizing them for everything that they gave X, and just like how X has benefited from them. And I do think that it would be too much to say people are happy when their projects are killed or it's a positive experience. Certainly not like everyone is human, but at least it normalizes it. Beyond throwing a party to cbeaertle the value of a failed project, Cathy's boss went further. He ended up giving us a bnous. And what? Yeah, you got a bonus for admitting that your project wasn't promising and shutting it down? We did. It only solidified that culture that he was already cinrtaeg. Didn't that mean aiittmdng failure, though ? Well, my job as a rapid evaluator was to evaluate and this was my evaluation. So I didn't see it that way because it's like if you punish failure and you simultaneously know it's inevitable, then you are creating an environment where people are ilniecnd to hide it or misrepresent it. Yeah, I mean, if if you pusinh people for failing, they will do everything in their power to try to convince themselves and others that their project is not a failure. And then they'll identify with the project and acatth their ego to it in a way that's very stressful for everyone. And then it's no longer as possible to sateprae. I'm a failure from this idea that I was pursuing isn't going to work, which are two very obviously different things, but don't always feel very different. I'm smiling here because you just described that as if you've spent the past 10 years reading the psychology of escalation of commitment, which I can't say that I have, but maybe I've lived it a little bit. We don't need to celebrate failure. We just need to normalize it. What you're highlighting here is that if you had plunged more of your time, energy and ruoercess into foghorn, you might have missed out on a much bigger pissltbioiy. Yes, I absolutely agree. I mean, it's like maybe this is a bad analogy, but it's like the friend who's dating the person that everyone kind of knows isn't the right match. And even the friend isn't very happy. But they're worried that if they break up with that person, there won't be any other peosrn for them. That is the exact same phenomenon. It's like you have to have this blieef that there is something out there wroth finding. And so if what you're doing now is mediocre, it's worth stopping to find that thing. That's not. If you nmazolire failure in your organization, it can help people de-escalate their commitment to bad decisions and focus their energy on better opportunities, because Kathy plelud the plug on Foghorn. She was able to pursue a new project which eventually launched her career as an entrepreneur. And I am the fundeor and psienerdt of Dandelion Energy, a geothermal startup. Every time I talk about escalation of commitment, whether it's with startup founders or military generals or students, there's one question that always comes up is one person's escalation, another's heroic persistence. If you think about it, most of our Hollywood movies, they usually have the protagonists experiencing a long series of setbacks, but then they have stuck to it and they've refused to admit failure. And in fact, everyone around them has told them that whatever is happening is a failure and everyone around them is dropped off and they have hung in there and they are ultimately successful. And yeah, grit can be a good thing. We need peolpe with the will to persist and triumph in the face of obstacles. But when you're channeling your inner katsnis Everdeen, Inigo moyonta or Forrest Gump, it's worth pausing to see if you're on the wrong path because you might be Wile E. ctooye chasing a road runner you'll never catch. Next time on Work Life, it was incredibly humbling because I would submit job after job after application after application and would hear nothing. It took an entire year to get a full time job. Everyone's face career turbulence. The current recession is jeopardizing millions of careers right now. But we've been here before and there are lessons we can learn from past recessions. WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant, it shows produced by Ted with Transmitter midea. Our team includes cilon Helmes Credico and Dan O'Donnell, jonane dunela, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Ben Ben Chang and Anna Feeling. This episode was pdocreud by ctasnzona Gallardo, our shows miexd by Rick Juan. Our fact checker is Paul druibn, original music by haltasdre Sue and aiosln Layton. Brown had stories produced by Pineapple srteet Studios special thanks to our sopnsors LinkedIn, Logitech, Morgan Stanley, Sappi and Verizon for their research on escalation of commitment. Thanks to Cigale Bastide, Dustin Slesin and Don Connellan, Jerry McNamara, Jonathan Miles, Clough's meozr and colleagues Henry Moon and of course, Barry soctk for the adiuo from Fire Festival. The Greatest Party That Never Happened. duontrmecay is courtesy of Netflix and for the irnto to Kathee and the insights on gratitude to croneuty Hoan. I hope to get a recording of this, so the next time I need to decide whether I should keep that old car of mine or whatever, I will not fall into the same tpars that I have spent my research career trying to create lessons about how to aovid that. I think there's there's no better person to be persuaded by than someone you know well and trust a lot yourself. Thank you.

Open Cloze

We've all dug ourselves into some _____ that were hard to dig out of, especially at the ______ of good friends. She knocked on my door to my room, which she never does. So I knew something was up and she was like, hey, wear a person down, everyone's going to go. You're going to be so upset that you missed this. That's my student, Alexis. This was the second time her friend _____ her to go to a trendy new festival so she couldn't turn her down again. But as soon as she said yes, things started to go ________. Not only did my friends not have any details about the event, but even the contact that we made with the organizers of the event seemed pretty sparse on the details as well. So I was already _______ a bit uneasy about what was happening, but it felt like I'd already made that public commitment to our group to go. We'd already paid for our flights to Miami and those are non-refundable. Even as ______ and her friends were ________ the plane, things kept getting worse. So we got on the _____, which strike three. And I was on my _____ because I found a Twitter account saying that people had started arriving and didn't have housing and didn't have any food. _____ out that, first of all, her friends were obsessing about was one of the biggest frauds of twenty seventeen fire festival. All these models, like in the Bahamas, the most insane festival the world has ever seen, an island getaway ______ disaster. It became very far barren when we got to the island. Of course, as most people know now, nothing was as promised. We were not a luxury ______ _____. We were just in pretty damp tents, basically spending the whole time there trying to figure out how to get out. There's a name for what happened with Alexis. It's called Escalation of commitment to a losing course of action. It's when you find out you've made a bad decision, but instead of _______ your losses, you doubled down. You invest your time, your money or your ________ and decisions long after it's become _______ that they're dead ends. You may not have ended up at fire festival, but I'm willing to bet that you've escalated your commitment to ______ of bad decisions. So how do you pull the plug sooner? I'm Adam Grant and this is ________, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work, not suck. In this show. I take you inside the minds of ___________ people to help us rethink how we work, lead and live today, why we get trapped in bad decisions and how you and your workplace can get unstuck. Thanks to Morgan Stanley for sponsoring this episode. Let's _____ from the beginning. My father was one of the very ________ people who started a discount _____ and it was very successful and he started a second one on the third one until he had a _____ of stores in the late 1950s. Barista was a teenager in Southern California, and for almost a decade, he saw his dad grow his business to 15 ______ and he was really doing well. And then the large national companies, they would just open a store right across the street practically and ________ all the prices. They _________ drove all the independent people, all the small guys out of business. By then, _____ was in his 20s watching his father's ________ decline. It was slow and painful. He _______ to give up. And so he kept putting more and more of his own personal _____ into the business until finally he had no more personal money left and it _____ up closing up. So that was something that was really _________ engraved in my psyche. Fast forward a few years and Barry was watching the American government fall into the same trap. It dawned on me that the Vietnam War was very similar to my father's experience, that we kept investing more and more. We kept having larger and larger losses, but we kept as a country ________ to admit that this was unlikely to _______. _____, Barry is an ______________ behavior _________ at UC ________, and he ______ the concept of escalation of commitment. Escalation of commitment occurs when you're in a situation in which it is possible to add more resources to a course of action or a prior decision in order to rectify a loss. Barry is the world's _______ expert on this problem, but even he can't help but fall ______ to escalation from time to time. I've had some old cars and then when the warranty expires, then a _____ of little things start going wrong and then a little bit bigger things going wrong and then bigger and bigger. And I have been agonizing about whether to actually sell it and get rid of it or put more money in. It even happened in his marriage. I probably hung on longer than I should have went through _____ and years of marital therapy. Barry, in a ______ like that, do you not realize you're in an escalation trap? I _______ I'm in it, but I still realize that it is a very difficult situation. And maybe I can tell myself it might be a lie, that this might be one of the __________ in which it actually might be rational to ______ more in the situation. If this can happen to an expert on escalation of commitment, what hope is there for the rest of us? I'm painfully familiar with this phenomenon myself, like the time I wrote a whole book instead of a book proposal and had to throw away over 100000 words and start over or the time. I spent months trying to change the behavior of a _____ team member when I should have just let him go. Escalation of __________ happens in every workplace. I think about the times when you overinvested in a failing project stuck around in a miserable job. I struggled to walk away from an abusive boss or a toxic culture or even away from work. Poured your heart and soul into a ________ relationship that clearly wasn't working. So why don't we know better? Why do we fall into the same trap again and again, pouring more and more of ourselves into a bad decision, even when all the evidence points us the other way? The most common answer, people give sunk costs, we've already invested our time or money, and we want to do everything in our power to get a return on that investment, just like a Lexus at fire festival. Sunk costs are part of a story, but decades of research show that the most ________ ______ aren't economic, they're emotional. Escalation is where people make ______ because of their ego and their emotions. It's not just a cold calculation of the loss of money or time. It's the hot pain of threats to our sense of self. They're afraid to admit a mistake and they end up justifying a decision to themselves. In a case like this, I'm trying to protect my ego to convince myself that I didn't make a bad choice. I'm also trying to protect my _____, to convince others that I made a good ______, because otherwise I might end up having people think that I'm not a good decision _____ or I'm a _____. I'm not somebody who's to be trusted. The more we've invested in a ________, the more attached we become to it and the more attached it becomes to us. This is where an awful lot of the real disasters happen in terms of business decisions. People don't want to admit errors because their work identity has become ______ with the course of action. People may even label the thing saying, Oh , that project, that's Jim's baby or that's Mary's project. And you become so identified with it that if the project fails, your ______ is down the tubes. Ironically, the very steps we take to defend our egos and images end up making us look worse. One of the places _____ studied this was the NBA. You'd think coaches would give the most playing time to the best players, like how many points you score, how many steals you make and how you rebound and so forth. And there is some effect of that, obviously. But there's also a very significant ______ of how high you were in the draft. Even if top _____ picks weren't playing well, coaches still kept them in the game. They made a big bet on this guy, so they wanted to prove they made the right decision and hadn't blown millions beyond ego and image. There's another emotional ______ that fuels these _____ of escalation traps ___________ regrette. You're worried you'll wish you hadn't pulled the plug in. The NBA managers were afraid of ______ up too soon on a potential star. They're thinking about maybe trading a particular athlete to another team, but then they're thinking, oh my God, he's not done very well with us. But what if he suddenly blooms? But I'm watching him on the other team, then I'm going to feel even worse. You probably know that _____ inside your head, what are you doing? You can't give up too soon. Everyone's going to think you're a quitter and a failure, a _______. You won't find a better opportunity at some point. You just have to say it's over. Let it go. But that's easier said than done. Just ask Janice Burch. I was so ______, I don't ever remember being so scared to do anything then to tell my supervisor that I wanted to quit. Janice has one of the most practical strategies I've seen for escaping escalation of commitment. But she didn't discover it overnight. She's been working at a ________ _______ for a couple of years and for almost that entire time, she was _______, but she couldn't bring herself to leave. She started out with high hopes when I saw this job __________. I definitely felt like this. One hundred percent is my dream job. The company was well respected. The benefits were amazing. This customer support job was _______ for Janice, at least on paper. It offered room to grow personal responsibility for ________ a team and a culture of flexibility and freedom, I guess kind of be like invited into what seemed like this like _________ club of awesomeness. But pretty soon reality crashed the party. I would say the _________ was over for me when I went to a meetup and I found out that someone that I had been interviewed by and I really admired had been let go. And not very many people knew about it and everyone was upset about that. And I _____ it's just like in regular relationships and you talk about the honeymoon phase, you always say, oh, there were all these red _____ and you're just like, oh, well, I just I couldn't see them because I was just so blinded by love. It's kind of the same thing. A few months into the job, Janice had some concerns and she heard other people complaining, but she didn't feel that she could _____ up. She also felt that the company had a serious lack of diversity, ______ said that when she started she was the only black ________ and that did not _______ much over time. But she'd ________ so much in this job, so instead of rethinking her commitment, Jannis escalated it by _________ more energy and time and stayed in the job for two more years. She told herself that since her co-workers were reluctant to speak up, she might be able to change the company. I'm going to be the person to, like, jump in and make this ______ where others, you know, may be hesitant or whatever it is like I'm going to be the one. And so I was going to take it in and try to help. And how did it feel putting so much energy into a job and a culture that you knew deep down was not right? It's almost like you're gaslighting yourself, like you're telling yourself. No, no. Like all of the evidence around you is not correct. There's just you just have to do this one one little thing or do more. _______ knows the feeling at a certain point when the evidence is ____________. You have to ask yourself, is this grit or is it blindness or is it just my own ego that's getting in the way? When you reach that point, you might find that an ________ to escalation of commitment is another commitment. But to go the opposite way, a plan to pull the plug. And Janis created a clever strategy, a one year exit plan. I basically created three simple steps. These are the things that I'm going to do to, like, actually build myself up and give myself the courage to leave this toxic relationship. The first point was that I was going to build relationships outside of the company. So try to like meet up with people and just build relationships with people who can help me in whatever my next phase of life was going to be. Second on the list, stop engaging in what Janice calls energy zaps. Yeah, energy zaps, not interacting with, you know, what I call ___________ people to go back to the relationship comparison. I guess I became emotionally unavailable at work. Her third step was to leverage her company's perks, to broaden her horizons is basically just trying to max out what was available to me then. One in particular is that we got to go to conferences. And so _______ was obviously something that I was really __________ and _______ with. So I've got a culture conferences and again, try to build relationships with people. It almost sounds like you had a strategy for ____________ yourself. Yeah, that's exactly what it was. And about a year after she made this plan, she left. When I look back and I think about why I held on so much to that job in that position, I think it's because deep down, I have thought, like, this is as good as it gets. The beauty of a one year exit plan is that it gave Janice time to explore different _____ and to detach emotionally instead of _______ off the Band-Aid. Janice now runs two coaching firms, _____ for flow and before diversity, her main ______ is that she didn't make her exit plan sooner. One of my favorite ways to avoid that mistake is to identify your deal breakers, just like you probably have a list of nonstarters in her romantic partner, you can ______ a similar list for what's unacceptable in a job, a boss or a culture. If you figure them out up front, you can keep yourself honest. I've often _______ ________ to do this and they report that it _____ them re-evaluate their decisions and avoid escalation. But what if the escalation is bigger than you? What if your team, your boss or your entire company makes a habit of staying the course in a very bad course? More on that after the break. OK, this is going to be a different kind of that I play a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast because they all have interesting cultures of their they're out today. We're going inside the workplace at Morgan Stanley. I am a big believer in, you know, standing on the shoulders of others, I am my ancestors, you know, from Nigeria and Ghana, West Africa, I am their _______ dreams, you know, to whom much is given, much is required. And so I believe that that's tattooed on my soul and my _____. Meet Mandele Crowley. Ever since he was a kid, Mandela is understood how important it is to have someone in your corner. Our childhood was one where we were raised by our grandparents. We had a little bit of adversity losing our parents relatively early. We were fortunate in that we had our grandparents because we were at risk of going into the ______ care system. But my grandparents stepped in and they were amazing, particularly my grandmother. She was everything. Unfortunately, she ______ from cancer. From that moment on, I literally started taking care of myself when I was 16 years old. But Mandela wasn't just taking care of himself. He also had his younger _______ to look after. I had a younger brother who was 14 at the time where I essentially had to become his parent. And then I started to think about things that I had to do to make sure that both he and I were OK. It was around that time that he _____ about an internship at Morgan Stanley. I was one of five kids that got to interview Adam. I ______ up in a gold suit, black shirt, black and gold tie, and I got the job that opened the door for him. And then as Mandela was nearing the end of his __________, his colleagues ______ another door. My colleagues knew my personal situation and they essentially put it out there that, hey, if you can figure out how to balance your school schedule with work, we'd love to keep you on. So Mandela started working at a trading desk during the day and attending college at night. He's now been with the firm for almost 30 years. And it all goes back to that first high ______ internship when his colleagues saw his potential and ______ him _______ it. The guy who hired me on the desk was still a very dear friend and ______ of mine to this day, and he was pretty hands on in terms of helping to _____ and mentor and all that stuff. Then he was offered his first __________ job, and that is when I came to appreciate my superpower, and that is motivating and mobilizing talent. _______ rose to become the head of private wealth management, and now he's Morgan Stanley's _____ human resources _______. Thing that really comes to mind when I think about why this firm was different. For me, it's really been the _________ of ___________ that I've been able to have. I've had a series of careers at every step of his journey. He's made time to keep opening doors. I view it as a real responsibility, not just because of my day job, but I just feel like it's a fundamental responsibility that I have. Being a mentor doesn't just bring satisfaction and meaning. Research _______ that he can have surprising career benefits. People who spend time mentoring others are more likely to get promoted, in part because mentoring helps them develop and demonstrate their leadership ______. So there is a collegiality to the culture here. When you're a young person coming up the _____ and you need advice ____________ of who that person is or where they sit in the firm's ecosystem, you're going to get that meeting. I'm always making time for young folks or up and coming folks who are trying to figure out this thing ______ a career because you win in life with people. Mendell has opened doors for many up and coming employers, but there's one who ______ out. He's a Puerto Rican kid from Paterson, New Jersey, first in his family to go to college. I end up hiring him. Two years later, I get promoted and I get to bring one analyst with me. Guess who I bring with me? I _____ him. He's just got promoted to managing ________. He's just an incredible _____ being. He's a great person. I'm the godfather of his son. You know, it's one of those ________, you know, when _______ become like family, he's very much in that category. Collaboration and inclusion are core values in Morgan Stanley's culture, and they're shaping its future. Learn more Morgan Stanley dotcoms, people. Extracting ourselves from our own bad decisions is hard enough. Our ego and our image are in ______, but escalation is even worse when it happens. An ______ teams or organizations. You know, _____ was the industry ______ in photography. They pioneered ________ into the digital camera, but then they shelved it and escalated their commitment to film. Bad _________ and then the decision to stick with them don't happen in a vacuum. The culture and structure of an organization can ______ us straight into escalation of commitment. But research shows there are tangible steps organizations can take to _______ us to make it ______ to take a clear eyed look at the course we're on and even change _________. Berry style identified one of those steps in research on _____. It's very common for banks to loan money and to and to lose money. Banks fall victim to escalation of commitment when they keep _________ people who have defaulted on loan payments to come through instead of writing them off as _____________, Barry and his __________ analyzed data from nearly all the banks in California over nine years. They found that banks were more likely to de-escalate their commitment to _______ loans after senior __________ left. The executives who had approved the original loans were _________ to keep __________ their decisions. When new executives took over, they quickly recognized that someone who's missed 17 payments probably isn't going to come through a number 18 if you move the loan decision from the ________ people who made the loan just like going to an objective third party, it's more likely that you will start to recognize the losses. So if I'm a CEO, are you saying I should fire all my executives so that people are finally willing to cut their losses? Well, I wouldn't maybe go that far. If you don't have turnover inside your organization, you at least need an outside ___________, somebody who can look at things with a kind of a cold eye and say, this is what I would do if I were facing this situation. This is the first of three important steps organizations can take to prevent escalation of commitment, separate the decision from the initial decision maker. There's an organization that does exactly this, its acts also known as Google's Moonshot _______, it's where inventors and _____________ build and launch new projects that seem out of this world, like self-driving cars and balloons, beaming Internet to remote communities. My name is _____ Qanoon and I was formerly a rapid evaluator at X _____ Evaluator. Is that a job? Is a job rapid evaluators at X? Our role is to find new opportunities for X. . So what are the things X should work on next? Are you a rapid _________ in other parts of your life? Do you just show up at a restaurant and immediately know what to order? I think that a lot of my rapid evaluative tendency is just consumed in my professional life so much that in my personal life I'm like to my husband, can you please just can you ______ what we're going to have for dinner? You decide I'm fine with whatever. In other parts of Google and Alphabet, escalation has been a problem. They took eight years to abandon their failed attempt at social networking. Remember ______ Plus? And they waited too long to recognize that Google Glass was not going to make it as a consumer product. So it xts rapid evaluators like Cathy were ______ with offering an outside perspective on bold ideas, looking for reasons to pull the plug, even if the project in question was their own. So Cathy would always ask, what is the thing that will bring it down back in 2013? Cathy learned about an idea that could disrupt the oil industry. She'd been looking for a climate project, so she got excited about this new study she read. What if we could further this research, figure out how to commercialize it, and then combine that carbon dioxide with renewable hydrogen to make hydrocarbons, which is just a scientific way of saying make fuels out of it? So you're trying to turn seawater into fuel shorthand? Yes, that's what we would say, is it's _______ seawater into fuel. Cathy ___________ saw this as a crucial environmental breakthrough for Extra to fund. So she went all in foghorn. That's what they _____ the project was going to be her baby. But as someone whose job was to protect other people from escalation, Cathy knew she needed to be wary of it at the outset. Is it truly as good of an idea as it seems? It can take years to find out whether a project has succeeded or failed. Luckily at Beristain, his colleagues have discovered a workaround long before you know the outcome of a decision. You can create _______ to evaluate the quality of your decision process and process. Accountability is that you should be accountable for ______ a reasonably good decision, not in terms of how it turns out, but that you've been reasonably conscientious in terms of assessing ____________ and not biasing the data process accountability. That's a second step for avoiding escalation. The _________ thing with this is setting your _______ and your benchmarks in advance. One way of _______ people ___________ for a good decision _______ is to establish kill signals. A kill signal was a mechanism for keeping ourselves ______, so at the beginning of the project, we tried to think like, what could we see that would tell us, all right, this just isn't going to work. So in our case with popcorn, we really ______ to make commercial fuel. We needed a path to be able to make it for under five dollars a gallon because our thinking was if it's much higher than that, there just won't be a market for it. Kill _______ are process boxes to check gates, you need to make it through in order to keep going. Maybe your kill ______ is we don't want to have to tackle huge regulatory problems. That seems like something every team should do in every workplace. Yeah, I mean, even just ________ about what would your kill signal be, it tells you a lot about the problem you're trying to _____. It also seems like it's more it has broader applications. So I should I should take a new job and have a kill signal around. OK, here's what would need to ______ in order for me to decide that it's time to leave this job or time to walk away from this culture. I totally agree. It's almost like principles, right? It's like what are my values and principles that I don't want to __________ on? And it's it's very helpful to have some sort of moral _______ or some sort of _____ point in terms of one's value system to guide you when the decisions become very fraught. So Foghorn gets the green light. ______ sets her kill signal for this _______ to be successful in today's market, they cannot go over five dollars a gallon and they get to work. We were tackling things, were fixing them. It's great. But then we realize just the pumping ______ alone. To pump all the _____ you would need to get the CO2 out is too much like it's an astronomical cost. Her kill signal ______ flashing. She knows this is not good for the future outcomes of the project, but they're on a roll. What if they invest just a little bit more? It was like, OK, yeah, pumping costs. That's a challenge. But like, look at all this _____ we're figuring out. I think we were making so much progress on making the prototype work better that it gave us some hope, hope, even a sliver of hope can keep a failing project alive. So Kathy decides to send a message. I just sat down at my desk at X and just _____ an _____ acknowledging here was the vision and here were all the amazing things that we accomplished. But here are the challenges. And given where we are now and everything we've learned, I'm inclined to proceed by suggesting that this doesn't continue. Wait, you shut down your own project? I did. I recommended that it be shut down. Who does that? Apparently I do. All it took was a spreadsheet. I just ________ the number, like the dollar numbers that I would have to ask for to make meaningful progress, given all the __________, combined with the risk that we would not achieve our goals because of all of the __________ and the unknowns, even with the five _______ a gallon example by when. Right. It's possible we'll get there by 2050. But clearly that's not what the kill signal meant. It felt like wishful thinking. You know, it's like in my heart of hearts, I kind of knew it was more likely not to succeed. You know, there's a lot of opportunity cost for everyone, and it just seemed cleaner to shut it down. Kathy wasn't just _______ on her own goals. She was thinking about what was best for the team and ______ up with the most honest assessment that I could think would put the team as individuals in the best position going forward, because no one wants to work on something that's not going to work. Research shows that when we consider our responsibilities to others, we're less prone to __________. Shifting attention away from our own egos and ______ and toward the greater good can allow us to make a more balanced assessment to free people from ego and image ________. _____________ need to think ___________ about incentives to make failure __________. So even though the project hasn't worked out, if the person has been very ________ in looking at what the best prospects were, that person should still be rewarded and be given a good future in the company. That's a third step for de-escalation, taking the stigma out of admitting a failure. It's created an annual ceremony to _________ people who have the wisdom to pull the plug, because even if it wasn't the ____________ they'd hoped for, their time and resources were still well _____. That day is all about celebrating the project that are no longer with us and recognizing them for everything that they gave X, and just like how X has benefited from them. And I do think that it would be too much to say people are happy when their projects are killed or it's a positive experience. Certainly not like everyone is human, but at least it normalizes it. Beyond throwing a party to _________ the value of a failed project, Cathy's boss went further. He ended up giving us a _____. And what? Yeah, you got a bonus for admitting that your project wasn't promising and shutting it down? We did. It only solidified that culture that he was already ________. Didn't that mean _________ failure, though ? Well, my job as a rapid evaluator was to evaluate and this was my evaluation. So I didn't see it that way because it's like if you punish failure and you simultaneously know it's inevitable, then you are creating an environment where people are ________ to hide it or misrepresent it. Yeah, I mean, if if you ______ people for failing, they will do everything in their power to try to convince themselves and others that their project is not a failure. And then they'll identify with the project and ______ their ego to it in a way that's very stressful for everyone. And then it's no longer as possible to ________. I'm a failure from this idea that I was pursuing isn't going to work, which are two very obviously different things, but don't always feel very different. I'm smiling here because you just described that as if you've spent the past 10 years reading the psychology of escalation of commitment, which I can't say that I have, but maybe I've lived it a little bit. We don't need to celebrate failure. We just need to normalize it. What you're highlighting here is that if you had plunged more of your time, energy and _________ into foghorn, you might have missed out on a much bigger ___________. Yes, I absolutely agree. I mean, it's like maybe this is a bad analogy, but it's like the friend who's dating the person that everyone kind of knows isn't the right match. And even the friend isn't very happy. But they're worried that if they break up with that person, there won't be any other ______ for them. That is the exact same phenomenon. It's like you have to have this ______ that there is something out there _____ finding. And so if what you're doing now is mediocre, it's worth stopping to find that thing. That's not. If you _________ failure in your organization, it can help people de-escalate their commitment to bad decisions and focus their energy on better opportunities, because Kathy ______ the plug on Foghorn. She was able to pursue a new project which eventually launched her career as an entrepreneur. And I am the _______ and _________ of Dandelion Energy, a geothermal startup. Every time I talk about escalation of commitment, whether it's with startup founders or military generals or students, there's one question that always comes up is one person's escalation, another's heroic persistence. If you think about it, most of our Hollywood movies, they usually have the protagonists experiencing a long series of setbacks, but then they have stuck to it and they've refused to admit failure. And in fact, everyone around them has told them that whatever is happening is a failure and everyone around them is dropped off and they have hung in there and they are ultimately successful. And yeah, grit can be a good thing. We need ______ with the will to persist and triumph in the face of obstacles. But when you're channeling your inner _______ Everdeen, Inigo _______ or Forrest Gump, it's worth pausing to see if you're on the wrong path because you might be Wile E. ______ chasing a road runner you'll never catch. Next time on Work Life, it was incredibly humbling because I would submit job after job after application after application and would hear nothing. It took an entire year to get a full time job. Everyone's face career turbulence. The current recession is jeopardizing millions of careers right now. But we've been here before and there are lessons we can learn from past recessions. WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant, it shows produced by Ted with Transmitter _____. Our team includes _____ Helmes Credico and Dan O'Donnell, ______ ______, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Ben Ben Chang and Anna Feeling. This episode was ________ by _________ Gallardo, our shows _____ by Rick Juan. Our fact checker is Paul ______, original music by _________ Sue and ______ Layton. Brown had stories produced by Pineapple ______ Studios special thanks to our ________ LinkedIn, Logitech, Morgan Stanley, Sappi and Verizon for their research on escalation of commitment. Thanks to Cigale Bastide, Dustin Slesin and Don Connellan, Jerry McNamara, Jonathan Miles, Clough's _____ and colleagues Henry Moon and of course, Barry _____ for the _____ from Fire Festival. The Greatest Party That Never Happened. ___________ is courtesy of Netflix and for the _____ to Kathee and the insights on gratitude to ________ Hoan. I hope to get a recording of this, so the next time I need to decide whether I should keep that old car of mine or whatever, I will not fall into the same _____ that I have spent my research career trying to create lessons about how to _____ that. I think there's there's no better person to be persuaded by than someone you know well and trust a lot yourself. Thank you.

Solution

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  124. change
  125. protect
  126. achieve
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  128. factory
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  130. officer
  131. produced
  132. coyote
  133. heard
  134. paths
  135. ranks
  136. speak
  137. hartsdale
  138. compromise
  139. wildest
  140. cathy
  141. regret
  142. colleagues
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  144. powerful
  145. maker
  146. president
  147. recognize
  148. energy
  149. organizations
  150. indelibly
  151. images
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  155. fascinating
  156. choice
  157. internship
  158. targets
  159. refused
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  161. direction
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  164. opened
  165. kathee
  166. resort
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  171. water
  172. founder
  173. commitment
  174. email
  175. holes
  176. expecting
  177. accountable
  178. dollars
  179. bonus
  180. belief
  181. effect
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  183. toxic
  184. human
  185. evaluator
  186. mandela
  187. project
  188. ripping
  189. skills
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  195. differently
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  197. employee
  198. courtney
  199. showed
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  201. organizational
  202. draft
  203. coach
  204. honest
  205. escalation
  206. today
  207. turned
  208. berkeley
  209. banks
  210. works
  211. alternatives
  212. worth
  213. flags
  214. documentary
  215. school
  216. punish
  217. earliest
  218. engaged
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  220. spent
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  222. wrote
  223. executives
  224. focused
  225. foster
  226. separate
  227. people
  228. immediately
  229. factor
  230. thinking
  231. traps
  232. worklife
  233. happen
  234. intro
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  239. exceptions
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  242. identity
  243. errors
  244. literally
  245. heart
  246. making
  247. mentor
  248. moment

Original Text

We've all dug ourselves into some holes that were hard to dig out of, especially at the urging of good friends. She knocked on my door to my room, which she never does. So I knew something was up and she was like, hey, wear a person down, everyone's going to go. You're going to be so upset that you missed this. That's my student, Alexis. This was the second time her friend asked her to go to a trendy new festival so she couldn't turn her down again. But as soon as she said yes, things started to go downhill. Not only did my friends not have any details about the event, but even the contact that we made with the organizers of the event seemed pretty sparse on the details as well. So I was already feeling a bit uneasy about what was happening, but it felt like I'd already made that public commitment to our group to go. We'd already paid for our flights to Miami and those are non-refundable. Even as Alexis and her friends were boarding the plane, things kept getting worse. So we got on the plane, which strike three. And I was on my phone because I found a Twitter account saying that people had started arriving and didn't have housing and didn't have any food. Turns out that, first of all, her friends were obsessing about was one of the biggest frauds of twenty seventeen fire festival. All these models, like in the Bahamas, the most insane festival the world has ever seen, an island getaway turned disaster. It became very far barren when we got to the island. Of course, as most people know now, nothing was as promised. We were not a luxury resort style. We were just in pretty damp tents, basically spending the whole time there trying to figure out how to get out. There's a name for what happened with Alexis. It's called Escalation of commitment to a losing course of action. It's when you find out you've made a bad decision, but instead of cutting your losses, you doubled down. You invest your time, your money or your identity and decisions long after it's become obvious that they're dead ends. You may not have ended up at fire festival, but I'm willing to bet that you've escalated your commitment to plenty of bad decisions. So how do you pull the plug sooner? I'm Adam Grant and this is WorkLife, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work, not suck. In this show. I take you inside the minds of fascinating people to help us rethink how we work, lead and live today, why we get trapped in bad decisions and how you and your workplace can get unstuck. Thanks to Morgan Stanley for sponsoring this episode. Let's start from the beginning. My father was one of the very earliest people who started a discount store and it was very successful and he started a second one on the third one until he had a chain of stores in the late 1950s. Barista was a teenager in Southern California, and for almost a decade, he saw his dad grow his business to 15 stores and he was really doing well. And then the large national companies, they would just open a store right across the street practically and undercut all the prices. They literally drove all the independent people, all the small guys out of business. By then, Barry was in his 20s watching his father's business decline. It was slow and painful. He refused to give up. And so he kept putting more and more of his own personal money into the business until finally he had no more personal money left and it ended up closing up. So that was something that was really indelibly engraved in my psyche. Fast forward a few years and Barry was watching the American government fall into the same trap. It dawned on me that the Vietnam War was very similar to my father's experience, that we kept investing more and more. We kept having larger and larger losses, but we kept as a country refusing to admit that this was unlikely to succeed. Today, Barry is an organizational behavior professor at UC Berkeley, and he coined the concept of escalation of commitment. Escalation of commitment occurs when you're in a situation in which it is possible to add more resources to a course of action or a prior decision in order to rectify a loss. Barry is the world's leading expert on this problem, but even he can't help but fall victim to escalation from time to time. I've had some old cars and then when the warranty expires, then a bunch of little things start going wrong and then a little bit bigger things going wrong and then bigger and bigger. And I have been agonizing about whether to actually sell it and get rid of it or put more money in. It even happened in his marriage. I probably hung on longer than I should have went through years and years of marital therapy. Barry, in a moment like that, do you not realize you're in an escalation trap? I realize I'm in it, but I still realize that it is a very difficult situation. And maybe I can tell myself it might be a lie, that this might be one of the exceptions in which it actually might be rational to invest more in the situation. If this can happen to an expert on escalation of commitment, what hope is there for the rest of us? I'm painfully familiar with this phenomenon myself, like the time I wrote a whole book instead of a book proposal and had to throw away over 100000 words and start over or the time. I spent months trying to change the behavior of a toxic team member when I should have just let him go. Escalation of commitment happens in every workplace. I think about the times when you overinvested in a failing project stuck around in a miserable job. I struggled to walk away from an abusive boss or a toxic culture or even away from work. Poured your heart and soul into a romantic relationship that clearly wasn't working. So why don't we know better? Why do we fall into the same trap again and again, pouring more and more of ourselves into a bad decision, even when all the evidence points us the other way? The most common answer, people give sunk costs, we've already invested our time or money, and we want to do everything in our power to get a return on that investment, just like a Lexus at fire festival. Sunk costs are part of a story, but decades of research show that the most powerful forces aren't economic, they're emotional. Escalation is where people make errors because of their ego and their emotions. It's not just a cold calculation of the loss of money or time. It's the hot pain of threats to our sense of self. They're afraid to admit a mistake and they end up justifying a decision to themselves. In a case like this, I'm trying to protect my ego to convince myself that I didn't make a bad choice. I'm also trying to protect my image, to convince others that I made a good choice, because otherwise I might end up having people think that I'm not a good decision maker or I'm a loser. I'm not somebody who's to be trusted. The more we've invested in a decision, the more attached we become to it and the more attached it becomes to us. This is where an awful lot of the real disasters happen in terms of business decisions. People don't want to admit errors because their work identity has become linked with the course of action. People may even label the thing saying, Oh , that project, that's Jim's baby or that's Mary's project. And you become so identified with it that if the project fails, your career is down the tubes. Ironically, the very steps we take to defend our egos and images end up making us look worse. One of the places Berry studied this was the NBA. You'd think coaches would give the most playing time to the best players, like how many points you score, how many steals you make and how you rebound and so forth. And there is some effect of that, obviously. But there's also a very significant effect of how high you were in the draft. Even if top draft picks weren't playing well, coaches still kept them in the game. They made a big bet on this guy, so they wanted to prove they made the right decision and hadn't blown millions beyond ego and image. There's another emotional factor that fuels these kinds of escalation traps anticipated regrette. You're worried you'll wish you hadn't pulled the plug in. The NBA managers were afraid of giving up too soon on a potential star. They're thinking about maybe trading a particular athlete to another team, but then they're thinking, oh my God, he's not done very well with us. But what if he suddenly blooms? But I'm watching him on the other team, then I'm going to feel even worse. You probably know that voice inside your head, what are you doing? You can't give up too soon. Everyone's going to think you're a quitter and a failure, a failure. You won't find a better opportunity at some point. You just have to say it's over. Let it go. But that's easier said than done. Just ask Janice Burch. I was so scared, I don't ever remember being so scared to do anything then to tell my supervisor that I wanted to quit. Janice has one of the most practical strategies I've seen for escaping escalation of commitment. But she didn't discover it overnight. She's been working at a software company for a couple of years and for almost that entire time, she was unhappy, but she couldn't bring herself to leave. She started out with high hopes when I saw this job advertised. I definitely felt like this. One hundred percent is my dream job. The company was well respected. The benefits were amazing. This customer support job was perfect for Janice, at least on paper. It offered room to grow personal responsibility for managing a team and a culture of flexibility and freedom, I guess kind of be like invited into what seemed like this like exclusive club of awesomeness. But pretty soon reality crashed the party. I would say the honeymoon was over for me when I went to a meetup and I found out that someone that I had been interviewed by and I really admired had been let go. And not very many people knew about it and everyone was upset about that. And I guess it's just like in regular relationships and you talk about the honeymoon phase, you always say, oh, there were all these red flags and you're just like, oh, well, I just I couldn't see them because I was just so blinded by love. It's kind of the same thing. A few months into the job, Janice had some concerns and she heard other people complaining, but she didn't feel that she could speak up. She also felt that the company had a serious lack of diversity, Janice said that when she started she was the only black employee and that did not improve much over time. But she'd invested so much in this job, so instead of rethinking her commitment, Jannis escalated it by investing more energy and time and stayed in the job for two more years. She told herself that since her co-workers were reluctant to speak up, she might be able to change the company. I'm going to be the person to, like, jump in and make this change where others, you know, may be hesitant or whatever it is like I'm going to be the one. And so I was going to take it in and try to help. And how did it feel putting so much energy into a job and a culture that you knew deep down was not right? It's almost like you're gaslighting yourself, like you're telling yourself. No, no. Like all of the evidence around you is not correct. There's just you just have to do this one one little thing or do more. Barista knows the feeling at a certain point when the evidence is overwhelming. You have to ask yourself, is this grit or is it blindness or is it just my own ego that's getting in the way? When you reach that point, you might find that an antidote to escalation of commitment is another commitment. But to go the opposite way, a plan to pull the plug. And Janis created a clever strategy, a one year exit plan. I basically created three simple steps. These are the things that I'm going to do to, like, actually build myself up and give myself the courage to leave this toxic relationship. The first point was that I was going to build relationships outside of the company. So try to like meet up with people and just build relationships with people who can help me in whatever my next phase of life was going to be. Second on the list, stop engaging in what Janice calls energy zaps. Yeah, energy zaps, not interacting with, you know, what I call problematic people to go back to the relationship comparison. I guess I became emotionally unavailable at work. Her third step was to leverage her company's perks, to broaden her horizons is basically just trying to max out what was available to me then. One in particular is that we got to go to conferences. And so culture was obviously something that I was really interested and engaged with. So I've got a culture conferences and again, try to build relationships with people. It almost sounds like you had a strategy for disinvesting yourself. Yeah, that's exactly what it was. And about a year after she made this plan, she left. When I look back and I think about why I held on so much to that job in that position, I think it's because deep down, I have thought, like, this is as good as it gets. The beauty of a one year exit plan is that it gave Janice time to explore different paths and to detach emotionally instead of ripping off the Band-Aid. Janice now runs two coaching firms, works for flow and before diversity, her main regret is that she didn't make her exit plan sooner. One of my favorite ways to avoid that mistake is to identify your deal breakers, just like you probably have a list of nonstarters in her romantic partner, you can create a similar list for what's unacceptable in a job, a boss or a culture. If you figure them out up front, you can keep yourself honest. I've often advised students to do this and they report that it helps them re-evaluate their decisions and avoid escalation. But what if the escalation is bigger than you? What if your team, your boss or your entire company makes a habit of staying the course in a very bad course? More on that after the break. OK, this is going to be a different kind of that I play a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast because they all have interesting cultures of their they're out today. We're going inside the workplace at Morgan Stanley. I am a big believer in, you know, standing on the shoulders of others, I am my ancestors, you know, from Nigeria and Ghana, West Africa, I am their wildest dreams, you know, to whom much is given, much is required. And so I believe that that's tattooed on my soul and my heart. Meet Mandele Crowley. Ever since he was a kid, Mandela is understood how important it is to have someone in your corner. Our childhood was one where we were raised by our grandparents. We had a little bit of adversity losing our parents relatively early. We were fortunate in that we had our grandparents because we were at risk of going into the foster care system. But my grandparents stepped in and they were amazing, particularly my grandmother. She was everything. Unfortunately, she passed from cancer. From that moment on, I literally started taking care of myself when I was 16 years old. But Mandela wasn't just taking care of himself. He also had his younger brother to look after. I had a younger brother who was 14 at the time where I essentially had to become his parent. And then I started to think about things that I had to do to make sure that both he and I were OK. It was around that time that he heard about an internship at Morgan Stanley. I was one of five kids that got to interview Adam. I showed up in a gold suit, black shirt, black and gold tie, and I got the job that opened the door for him. And then as Mandela was nearing the end of his internship, his colleagues opened another door. My colleagues knew my personal situation and they essentially put it out there that, hey, if you can figure out how to balance your school schedule with work, we'd love to keep you on. So Mandela started working at a trading desk during the day and attending college at night. He's now been with the firm for almost 30 years. And it all goes back to that first high school internship when his colleagues saw his potential and helped him achieve it. The guy who hired me on the desk was still a very dear friend and mentor of mine to this day, and he was pretty hands on in terms of helping to coach and mentor and all that stuff. Then he was offered his first leadership job, and that is when I came to appreciate my superpower, and that is motivating and mobilizing talent. Mandela rose to become the head of private wealth management, and now he's Morgan Stanley's chief human resources officer. Thing that really comes to mind when I think about why this firm was different. For me, it's really been the diversity of experiences that I've been able to have. I've had a series of careers at every step of his journey. He's made time to keep opening doors. I view it as a real responsibility, not just because of my day job, but I just feel like it's a fundamental responsibility that I have. Being a mentor doesn't just bring satisfaction and meaning. Research reveals that he can have surprising career benefits. People who spend time mentoring others are more likely to get promoted, in part because mentoring helps them develop and demonstrate their leadership skills. So there is a collegiality to the culture here. When you're a young person coming up the ranks and you need advice irrespective of who that person is or where they sit in the firm's ecosystem, you're going to get that meeting. I'm always making time for young folks or up and coming folks who are trying to figure out this thing called a career because you win in life with people. Mendell has opened doors for many up and coming employers, but there's one who stands out. He's a Puerto Rican kid from Paterson, New Jersey, first in his family to go to college. I end up hiring him. Two years later, I get promoted and I get to bring one analyst with me. Guess who I bring with me? I bring him. He's just got promoted to managing director. He's just an incredible human being. He's a great person. I'm the godfather of his son. You know, it's one of those classics, you know, when friends become like family, he's very much in that category. Collaboration and inclusion are core values in Morgan Stanley's culture, and they're shaping its future. Learn more Morgan Stanley dotcoms, people. Extracting ourselves from our own bad decisions is hard enough. Our ego and our image are in danger, but escalation is even worse when it happens. An entire teams or organizations. You know, Kodak was the industry leader in photography. They pioneered research into the digital camera, but then they shelved it and escalated their commitment to film. Bad decisions and then the decision to stick with them don't happen in a vacuum. The culture and structure of an organization can propel us straight into escalation of commitment. But research shows there are tangible steps organizations can take to protect us to make it easier to take a clear eyed look at the course we're on and even change direction. Berry style identified one of those steps in research on banks. It's very common for banks to loan money and to and to lose money. Banks fall victim to escalation of commitment when they keep expecting people who have defaulted on loan payments to come through instead of writing them off as uncollectable, Barry and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly all the banks in California over nine years. They found that banks were more likely to de-escalate their commitment to problem loans after senior executives left. The executives who had approved the original loans were motivated to keep justifying their decisions. When new executives took over, they quickly recognized that someone who's missed 17 payments probably isn't going to come through a number 18 if you move the loan decision from the original people who made the loan just like going to an objective third party, it's more likely that you will start to recognize the losses. So if I'm a CEO, are you saying I should fire all my executives so that people are finally willing to cut their losses? Well, I wouldn't maybe go that far. If you don't have turnover inside your organization, you at least need an outside perspective, somebody who can look at things with a kind of a cold eye and say, this is what I would do if I were facing this situation. This is the first of three important steps organizations can take to prevent escalation of commitment, separate the decision from the initial decision maker. There's an organization that does exactly this, its acts also known as Google's Moonshot Factory, it's where inventors and entrepreneurs build and launch new projects that seem out of this world, like self-driving cars and balloons, beaming Internet to remote communities. My name is Cathy Qanoon and I was formerly a rapid evaluator at X Rapid Evaluator. Is that a job? Is a job rapid evaluators at X? Our role is to find new opportunities for X. . So what are the things X should work on next? Are you a rapid evaluator in other parts of your life? Do you just show up at a restaurant and immediately know what to order? I think that a lot of my rapid evaluative tendency is just consumed in my professional life so much that in my personal life I'm like to my husband, can you please just can you decide what we're going to have for dinner? You decide I'm fine with whatever. In other parts of Google and Alphabet, escalation has been a problem. They took eight years to abandon their failed attempt at social networking. Remember Google Plus? And they waited too long to recognize that Google Glass was not going to make it as a consumer product. So it xts rapid evaluators like Cathy were tasked with offering an outside perspective on bold ideas, looking for reasons to pull the plug, even if the project in question was their own. So Cathy would always ask, what is the thing that will bring it down back in 2013? Cathy learned about an idea that could disrupt the oil industry. She'd been looking for a climate project, so she got excited about this new study she read. What if we could further this research, figure out how to commercialize it, and then combine that carbon dioxide with renewable hydrogen to make hydrocarbons, which is just a scientific way of saying make fuels out of it? So you're trying to turn seawater into fuel shorthand? Yes, that's what we would say, is it's turning seawater into fuel. Cathy immediately saw this as a crucial environmental breakthrough for Extra to fund. So she went all in foghorn. That's what they named the project was going to be her baby. But as someone whose job was to protect other people from escalation, Cathy knew she needed to be wary of it at the outset. Is it truly as good of an idea as it seems? It can take years to find out whether a project has succeeded or failed. Luckily at Beristain, his colleagues have discovered a workaround long before you know the outcome of a decision. You can create metrics to evaluate the quality of your decision process and process. Accountability is that you should be accountable for making a reasonably good decision, not in terms of how it turns out, but that you've been reasonably conscientious in terms of assessing alternatives and not biasing the data process accountability. That's a second step for avoiding escalation. The important thing with this is setting your targets and your benchmarks in advance. One way of holding people accountable for a good decision process is to establish kill signals. A kill signal was a mechanism for keeping ourselves honest, so at the beginning of the project, we tried to think like, what could we see that would tell us, all right, this just isn't going to work. So in our case with popcorn, we really wanted to make commercial fuel. We needed a path to be able to make it for under five dollars a gallon because our thinking was if it's much higher than that, there just won't be a market for it. Kill signals are process boxes to check gates, you need to make it through in order to keep going. Maybe your kill signal is we don't want to have to tackle huge regulatory problems. That seems like something every team should do in every workplace. Yeah, I mean, even just thinking about what would your kill signal be, it tells you a lot about the problem you're trying to solve. It also seems like it's more it has broader applications. So I should I should take a new job and have a kill signal around. OK, here's what would need to happen in order for me to decide that it's time to leave this job or time to walk away from this culture. I totally agree. It's almost like principles, right? It's like what are my values and principles that I don't want to compromise on? And it's it's very helpful to have some sort of moral compass or some sort of fixed point in terms of one's value system to guide you when the decisions become very fraught. So Foghorn gets the green light. Kathee sets her kill signal for this project to be successful in today's market, they cannot go over five dollars a gallon and they get to work. We were tackling things, were fixing them. It's great. But then we realize just the pumping energy alone. To pump all the water you would need to get the CO2 out is too much like it's an astronomical cost. Her kill signal starts flashing. She knows this is not good for the future outcomes of the project, but they're on a roll. What if they invest just a little bit more? It was like, OK, yeah, pumping costs. That's a challenge. But like, look at all this stuff we're figuring out. I think we were making so much progress on making the prototype work better that it gave us some hope, hope, even a sliver of hope can keep a failing project alive. So Kathy decides to send a message. I just sat down at my desk at X and just wrote an email acknowledging here was the vision and here were all the amazing things that we accomplished. But here are the challenges. And given where we are now and everything we've learned, I'm inclined to proceed by suggesting that this doesn't continue. Wait, you shut down your own project? I did. I recommended that it be shut down. Who does that? Apparently I do. All it took was a spreadsheet. I just realized the number, like the dollar numbers that I would have to ask for to make meaningful progress, given all the challenges, combined with the risk that we would not achieve our goals because of all of the complexity and the unknowns, even with the five dollars a gallon example by when. Right. It's possible we'll get there by 2050. But clearly that's not what the kill signal meant. It felt like wishful thinking. You know, it's like in my heart of hearts, I kind of knew it was more likely not to succeed. You know, there's a lot of opportunity cost for everyone, and it just seemed cleaner to shut it down. Kathy wasn't just focused on her own goals. She was thinking about what was best for the team and coming up with the most honest assessment that I could think would put the team as individuals in the best position going forward, because no one wants to work on something that's not going to work. Research shows that when we consider our responsibilities to others, we're less prone to escalation. Shifting attention away from our own egos and images and toward the greater good can allow us to make a more balanced assessment to free people from ego and image concerns. Organizations need to think differently about incentives to make failure acceptable. So even though the project hasn't worked out, if the person has been very diligent in looking at what the best prospects were, that person should still be rewarded and be given a good future in the company. That's a third step for de-escalation, taking the stigma out of admitting a failure. It's created an annual ceremony to recognize people who have the wisdom to pull the plug, because even if it wasn't the breakthrough they'd hoped for, their time and resources were still well spent. That day is all about celebrating the project that are no longer with us and recognizing them for everything that they gave X, and just like how X has benefited from them. And I do think that it would be too much to say people are happy when their projects are killed or it's a positive experience. Certainly not like everyone is human, but at least it normalizes it. Beyond throwing a party to celebrate the value of a failed project, Cathy's boss went further. He ended up giving us a bonus. And what? Yeah, you got a bonus for admitting that your project wasn't promising and shutting it down? We did. It only solidified that culture that he was already creating. Didn't that mean admitting failure, though ? Well, my job as a rapid evaluator was to evaluate and this was my evaluation. So I didn't see it that way because it's like if you punish failure and you simultaneously know it's inevitable, then you are creating an environment where people are inclined to hide it or misrepresent it. Yeah, I mean, if if you punish people for failing, they will do everything in their power to try to convince themselves and others that their project is not a failure. And then they'll identify with the project and attach their ego to it in a way that's very stressful for everyone. And then it's no longer as possible to separate. I'm a failure from this idea that I was pursuing isn't going to work, which are two very obviously different things, but don't always feel very different. I'm smiling here because you just described that as if you've spent the past 10 years reading the psychology of escalation of commitment, which I can't say that I have, but maybe I've lived it a little bit. We don't need to celebrate failure. We just need to normalize it. What you're highlighting here is that if you had plunged more of your time, energy and resources into foghorn, you might have missed out on a much bigger possibility. Yes, I absolutely agree. I mean, it's like maybe this is a bad analogy, but it's like the friend who's dating the person that everyone kind of knows isn't the right match. And even the friend isn't very happy. But they're worried that if they break up with that person, there won't be any other person for them. That is the exact same phenomenon. It's like you have to have this belief that there is something out there worth finding. And so if what you're doing now is mediocre, it's worth stopping to find that thing. That's not. If you normalize failure in your organization, it can help people de-escalate their commitment to bad decisions and focus their energy on better opportunities, because Kathy pulled the plug on Foghorn. She was able to pursue a new project which eventually launched her career as an entrepreneur. And I am the founder and president of Dandelion Energy, a geothermal startup. Every time I talk about escalation of commitment, whether it's with startup founders or military generals or students, there's one question that always comes up is one person's escalation, another's heroic persistence. If you think about it, most of our Hollywood movies, they usually have the protagonists experiencing a long series of setbacks, but then they have stuck to it and they've refused to admit failure. And in fact, everyone around them has told them that whatever is happening is a failure and everyone around them is dropped off and they have hung in there and they are ultimately successful. And yeah, grit can be a good thing. We need people with the will to persist and triumph in the face of obstacles. But when you're channeling your inner Katniss Everdeen, Inigo Montoya or Forrest Gump, it's worth pausing to see if you're on the wrong path because you might be Wile E. Coyote chasing a road runner you'll never catch. Next time on Work Life, it was incredibly humbling because I would submit job after job after application after application and would hear nothing. It took an entire year to get a full time job. Everyone's face career turbulence. The current recession is jeopardizing millions of careers right now. But we've been here before and there are lessons we can learn from past recessions. WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant, it shows produced by Ted with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helmes Credico and Dan O'Donnell, Joanne DeLuna, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Ben Ben Chang and Anna Feeling. This episode was produced by Constanza Gallardo, our shows mixed by Rick Juan. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin, original music by Hartsdale Sue and Alison Layton. Brown had stories produced by Pineapple Street Studios special thanks to our sponsors LinkedIn, Logitech, Morgan Stanley, Sappi and Verizon for their research on escalation of commitment. Thanks to Cigale Bastide, Dustin Slesin and Don Connellan, Jerry McNamara, Jonathan Miles, Clough's Mozer and colleagues Henry Moon and of course, Barry stock for the audio from Fire Festival. The Greatest Party That Never Happened. Documentary is courtesy of Netflix and for the intro to Kathee and the insights on gratitude to Courtney Hoan. I hope to get a recording of this, so the next time I need to decide whether I should keep that old car of mine or whatever, I will not fall into the same traps that I have spent my research career trying to create lessons about how to avoid that. I think there's there's no better person to be persuaded by than someone you know well and trust a lot yourself. Thank you.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

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bad decisions 5
morgan stanley 4
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fire festival 3
exit plan 3
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good decision 2
decision maker 2
year exit 2
younger brother 2
research shows 2
steps organizations 2
rapid evaluators 2
decision process 2
process accountability 2
kill signals 2

ngrams of length 3

collocation frequency
year exit plan 2

Important Words

  1. abandon
  2. absolutely
  3. abusive
  4. acceptable
  5. accomplished
  6. account
  7. accountability
  8. accountable
  9. achieve
  10. acknowledging
  11. action
  12. acts
  13. adam
  14. add
  15. admired
  16. admit
  17. admitting
  18. advance
  19. adversity
  20. advertised
  21. advice
  22. advised
  23. afraid
  24. africa
  25. agonizing
  26. agree
  27. alexis
  28. alison
  29. alive
  30. alphabet
  31. alternatives
  32. amazing
  33. american
  34. analogy
  35. analyst
  36. analyzed
  37. ancestors
  38. anna
  39. annual
  40. answer
  41. anticipated
  42. antidote
  43. apparently
  44. application
  45. applications
  46. approved
  47. arriving
  48. asked
  49. assessing
  50. assessment
  51. astronomical
  52. athlete
  53. attach
  54. attached
  55. attempt
  56. attending
  57. attention
  58. audio
  59. avoid
  60. avoiding
  61. awesomeness
  62. awful
  63. baby
  64. bad
  65. bahamas
  66. balance
  67. balanced
  68. balloons
  69. banks
  70. barista
  71. barren
  72. barry
  73. basically
  74. bastide
  75. beaming
  76. beauty
  77. beginning
  78. behavior
  79. belief
  80. believer
  81. ben
  82. benchmarks
  83. benefited
  84. benefits
  85. beristain
  86. berkeley
  87. berry
  88. bet
  89. biasing
  90. big
  91. bigger
  92. biggest
  93. bit
  94. black
  95. blinded
  96. blindness
  97. blooms
  98. blown
  99. boarding
  100. bold
  101. bonus
  102. book
  103. boss
  104. boxes
  105. break
  106. breakers
  107. breakthrough
  108. bring
  109. broaden
  110. broader
  111. brother
  112. brown
  113. build
  114. bunch
  115. burch
  116. business
  117. calculation
  118. california
  119. call
  120. called
  121. calls
  122. camera
  123. cancer
  124. car
  125. carbon
  126. care
  127. career
  128. careers
  129. cars
  130. case
  131. catch
  132. category
  133. cathy
  134. celebrate
  135. celebrating
  136. ceo
  137. ceremony
  138. chain
  139. challenge
  140. challenges
  141. chang
  142. change
  143. channeling
  144. chasing
  145. check
  146. checker
  147. chief
  148. childhood
  149. choice
  150. cigale
  151. classics
  152. cleaner
  153. clear
  154. clever
  155. climate
  156. closing
  157. club
  158. coach
  159. coaches
  160. coaching
  161. coined
  162. cold
  163. colin
  164. collaboration
  165. colleagues
  166. collective
  167. college
  168. collegiality
  169. combine
  170. combined
  171. coming
  172. commercial
  173. commercialize
  174. commitment
  175. common
  176. communities
  177. companies
  178. company
  179. comparison
  180. compass
  181. complaining
  182. complexity
  183. compromise
  184. concept
  185. concerns
  186. conferences
  187. connellan
  188. conscientious
  189. constanza
  190. consumed
  191. consumer
  192. contact
  193. continue
  194. convince
  195. core
  196. corner
  197. correct
  198. cost
  199. costs
  200. country
  201. couple
  202. courage
  203. courtesy
  204. courtney
  205. coyote
  206. crashed
  207. create
  208. created
  209. creating
  210. credico
  211. crowley
  212. crucial
  213. culture
  214. cultures
  215. current
  216. customer
  217. cut
  218. cutting
  219. dad
  220. damp
  221. dan
  222. dandelion
  223. danger
  224. data
  225. dating
  226. dawned
  227. day
  228. dead
  229. deal
  230. dear
  231. decade
  232. decades
  233. decide
  234. decides
  235. decision
  236. decisions
  237. decline
  238. deep
  239. defaulted
  240. defend
  241. deluna
  242. demonstrate
  243. desk
  244. detach
  245. details
  246. develop
  247. differently
  248. difficult
  249. dig
  250. digital
  251. diligent
  252. dinner
  253. dioxide
  254. direction
  255. director
  256. disaster
  257. disasters
  258. discount
  259. discover
  260. discovered
  261. disinvesting
  262. disrupt
  263. diversity
  264. documentary
  265. dollar
  266. dollars
  267. don
  268. door
  269. doors
  270. dotcoms
  271. doubled
  272. downhill
  273. draft
  274. dream
  275. dreams
  276. dropped
  277. drove
  278. dug
  279. durbin
  280. dustin
  281. earliest
  282. early
  283. easier
  284. economic
  285. ecosystem
  286. effect
  287. ego
  288. egos
  289. email
  290. emotional
  291. emotionally
  292. emotions
  293. employee
  294. employers
  295. ended
  296. ends
  297. energy
  298. engaged
  299. engaging
  300. engraved
  301. entire
  302. entrepreneur
  303. entrepreneurs
  304. environment
  305. environmental
  306. episode
  307. errors
  308. escalated
  309. escalation
  310. escaping
  311. essentially
  312. establish
  313. evaluate
  314. evaluation
  315. evaluative
  316. evaluator
  317. evaluators
  318. event
  319. eventually
  320. everdeen
  321. evidence
  322. exact
  323. exceptions
  324. excited
  325. exclusive
  326. executives
  327. exit
  328. expecting
  329. experience
  330. experiences
  331. experiencing
  332. expert
  333. expires
  334. explore
  335. extra
  336. extracting
  337. eye
  338. eyed
  339. face
  340. facing
  341. fact
  342. factor
  343. factory
  344. failed
  345. failing
  346. fails
  347. failure
  348. fall
  349. familiar
  350. family
  351. fascinating
  352. fast
  353. father
  354. favorite
  355. feel
  356. feeling
  357. felt
  358. festival
  359. figure
  360. figuring
  361. film
  362. finally
  363. find
  364. finding
  365. fine
  366. fire
  367. firm
  368. firms
  369. fixed
  370. fixing
  371. flags
  372. flashing
  373. flexibility
  374. flights
  375. flow
  376. focus
  377. focused
  378. foghorn
  379. folks
  380. food
  381. forces
  382. forrest
  383. fortunate
  384. foster
  385. founder
  386. founders
  387. frauds
  388. fraught
  389. free
  390. freedom
  391. friend
  392. friends
  393. front
  394. fuel
  395. fuels
  396. full
  397. fund
  398. fundamental
  399. future
  400. gallardo
  401. gallon
  402. game
  403. gaslighting
  404. gates
  405. gave
  406. generals
  407. geothermal
  408. getaway
  409. ghana
  410. give
  411. giving
  412. glass
  413. goals
  414. god
  415. godfather
  416. gold
  417. good
  418. google
  419. government
  420. grace
  421. grandmother
  422. grandparents
  423. grant
  424. gratitude
  425. great
  426. greater
  427. greatest
  428. green
  429. grit
  430. group
  431. grow
  432. guess
  433. guide
  434. gump
  435. guy
  436. guys
  437. habit
  438. hands
  439. happen
  440. happened
  441. happening
  442. happy
  443. hard
  444. hartsdale
  445. head
  446. hear
  447. heard
  448. heart
  449. hearts
  450. held
  451. helmes
  452. helped
  453. helpful
  454. helping
  455. helps
  456. henry
  457. heroic
  458. hesitant
  459. hey
  460. hide
  461. high
  462. higher
  463. highlighting
  464. hired
  465. hiring
  466. hoan
  467. holding
  468. holes
  469. hollywood
  470. honest
  471. honeymoon
  472. hope
  473. hoped
  474. hopes
  475. horizons
  476. hosted
  477. hot
  478. housing
  479. huge
  480. human
  481. humbling
  482. hung
  483. husband
  484. hydrocarbons
  485. hydrogen
  486. idea
  487. ideas
  488. identified
  489. identify
  490. identity
  491. image
  492. images
  493. immediately
  494. important
  495. improve
  496. incentives
  497. inclined
  498. includes
  499. inclusion
  500. incredible
  501. incredibly
  502. indelibly
  503. independent
  504. individuals
  505. industry
  506. inevitable
  507. inigo
  508. initial
  509. insane
  510. insights
  511. interacting
  512. interested
  513. interesting
  514. internet
  515. internship
  516. interview
  517. interviewed
  518. intro
  519. inventors
  520. invest
  521. invested
  522. investing
  523. investment
  524. invited
  525. ironically
  526. irrespective
  527. island
  528. janice
  529. janis
  530. jannis
  531. jeopardizing
  532. jerry
  533. jersey
  534. joanne
  535. job
  536. jonathan
  537. journey
  538. juan
  539. jump
  540. justifying
  541. kathee
  542. kathy
  543. katniss
  544. keeping
  545. kid
  546. kids
  547. kill
  548. killed
  549. kind
  550. kinds
  551. knew
  552. knocked
  553. kodak
  554. label
  555. lack
  556. large
  557. larger
  558. late
  559. launch
  560. launched
  561. layton
  562. lead
  563. leader
  564. leadership
  565. leading
  566. learn
  567. learned
  568. leave
  569. left
  570. lessons
  571. leverage
  572. lexus
  573. lie
  574. life
  575. light
  576. linked
  577. linkedin
  578. list
  579. literally
  580. live
  581. lived
  582. loan
  583. loans
  584. logitech
  585. long
  586. longer
  587. lose
  588. loser
  589. losing
  590. loss
  591. losses
  592. lot
  593. love
  594. luckily
  595. luxury
  596. main
  597. maker
  598. making
  599. management
  600. managers
  601. managing
  602. mandela
  603. mandele
  604. marital
  605. market
  606. marriage
  607. match
  608. max
  609. mcnamara
  610. meaning
  611. meaningful
  612. meant
  613. mechanism
  614. media
  615. mediocre
  616. meet
  617. meeting
  618. meetup
  619. member
  620. mendell
  621. mentor
  622. mentoring
  623. message
  624. metrics
  625. miami
  626. michelle
  627. miles
  628. military
  629. millions
  630. mind
  631. minds
  632. miserable
  633. misrepresent
  634. missed
  635. mistake
  636. mixed
  637. mobilizing
  638. models
  639. moment
  640. money
  641. months
  642. montoya
  643. moon
  644. moonshot
  645. moral
  646. morgan
  647. motivated
  648. motivating
  649. move
  650. movies
  651. mozer
  652. music
  653. named
  654. national
  655. nba
  656. nearing
  657. needed
  658. netflix
  659. networking
  660. nigeria
  661. night
  662. nonstarters
  663. normalize
  664. normalizes
  665. number
  666. numbers
  667. objective
  668. obsessing
  669. obstacles
  670. obvious
  671. occurs
  672. offered
  673. offering
  674. officer
  675. oil
  676. open
  677. opened
  678. opening
  679. opportunities
  680. opportunity
  681. order
  682. organization
  683. organizational
  684. organizations
  685. organizers
  686. original
  687. outcome
  688. outcomes
  689. outset
  690. overinvested
  691. overnight
  692. overwhelming
  693. paid
  694. pain
  695. painful
  696. painfully
  697. paper
  698. parent
  699. parents
  700. part
  701. partner
  702. parts
  703. party
  704. passed
  705. paterson
  706. path
  707. paths
  708. paul
  709. pausing
  710. payments
  711. people
  712. percent
  713. perfect
  714. perks
  715. persist
  716. persistence
  717. person
  718. personal
  719. perspective
  720. persuaded
  721. phase
  722. phenomenon
  723. phone
  724. photography
  725. picks
  726. pineapple
  727. pioneered
  728. places
  729. plan
  730. plane
  731. play
  732. players
  733. playing
  734. plenty
  735. plug
  736. plunged
  737. podcast
  738. point
  739. points
  740. popcorn
  741. position
  742. positive
  743. possibility
  744. potential
  745. poured
  746. pouring
  747. power
  748. powerful
  749. practical
  750. practically
  751. president
  752. pretty
  753. prevent
  754. prices
  755. principles
  756. prior
  757. private
  758. problem
  759. problematic
  760. problems
  761. proceed
  762. process
  763. produced
  764. product
  765. professional
  766. professor
  767. progress
  768. project
  769. projects
  770. promised
  771. promising
  772. promoted
  773. prone
  774. propel
  775. proposal
  776. prospects
  777. protagonists
  778. protect
  779. prototype
  780. prove
  781. psyche
  782. psychologist
  783. psychology
  784. public
  785. puerto
  786. pull
  787. pulled
  788. pump
  789. pumping
  790. punish
  791. pursue
  792. pursuing
  793. put
  794. putting
  795. qanoon
  796. quality
  797. question
  798. quickly
  799. quint
  800. quit
  801. quitter
  802. raised
  803. ranks
  804. rapid
  805. rational
  806. reach
  807. read
  808. reading
  809. real
  810. reality
  811. realize
  812. realized
  813. reasons
  814. rebound
  815. recession
  816. recessions
  817. recognize
  818. recognized
  819. recognizing
  820. recommended
  821. recording
  822. rectify
  823. red
  824. refused
  825. refusing
  826. regret
  827. regrette
  828. regular
  829. regulatory
  830. relationship
  831. relationships
  832. reluctant
  833. remember
  834. remote
  835. renewable
  836. report
  837. required
  838. research
  839. resort
  840. resources
  841. respected
  842. responsibilities
  843. responsibility
  844. rest
  845. restaurant
  846. rethink
  847. rethinking
  848. return
  849. reveals
  850. rewarded
  851. rican
  852. rick
  853. rid
  854. ripping
  855. risk
  856. road
  857. role
  858. roll
  859. romantic
  860. room
  861. rose
  862. rubenstein
  863. runner
  864. runs
  865. sappi
  866. sat
  867. satisfaction
  868. scared
  869. schedule
  870. school
  871. scientific
  872. score
  873. seawater
  874. selecting
  875. sell
  876. send
  877. senior
  878. sense
  879. separate
  880. series
  881. setbacks
  882. sets
  883. setting
  884. seventeen
  885. shaping
  886. shelved
  887. shifting
  888. shirt
  889. shorthand
  890. shoulders
  891. show
  892. showed
  893. shows
  894. shut
  895. shutting
  896. signal
  897. signals
  898. significant
  899. similar
  900. simple
  901. simultaneously
  902. sit
  903. situation
  904. skills
  905. slesin
  906. sliver
  907. slow
  908. small
  909. smiling
  910. social
  911. software
  912. solidified
  913. solve
  914. son
  915. sooner
  916. sort
  917. soul
  918. sounds
  919. southern
  920. sparse
  921. speak
  922. special
  923. spend
  924. spending
  925. spent
  926. sponsoring
  927. sponsors
  928. spreadsheet
  929. standing
  930. stands
  931. stanley
  932. star
  933. start
  934. started
  935. starts
  936. startup
  937. stayed
  938. staying
  939. steals
  940. step
  941. stepped
  942. steps
  943. stick
  944. stigma
  945. stock
  946. stop
  947. stopping
  948. store
  949. stores
  950. stories
  951. story
  952. straight
  953. strategies
  954. strategy
  955. street
  956. stressful
  957. strike
  958. structure
  959. struggled
  960. stuck
  961. student
  962. students
  963. studied
  964. studios
  965. study
  966. stuff
  967. style
  968. submit
  969. succeed
  970. succeeded
  971. successful
  972. suck
  973. suddenly
  974. sue
  975. suggesting
  976. suit
  977. sunk
  978. superpower
  979. supervisor
  980. support
  981. surprising
  982. system
  983. tackle
  984. tackling
  985. talent
  986. talk
  987. tangible
  988. targets
  989. tasked
  990. tattooed
  991. team
  992. teams
  993. ted
  994. teenager
  995. telling
  996. tells
  997. tendency
  998. tents
  999. terms
  1000. therapy
  1001. thinking
  1002. thought
  1003. threats
  1004. throw
  1005. throwing
  1006. tie
  1007. time
  1008. times
  1009. today
  1010. told
  1011. top
  1012. totally
  1013. toxic
  1014. trading
  1015. transmitter
  1016. trap
  1017. trapped
  1018. traps
  1019. trendy
  1020. triumph
  1021. trust
  1022. trusted
  1023. tubes
  1024. turbulence
  1025. turn
  1026. turned
  1027. turning
  1028. turnover
  1029. turns
  1030. twenty
  1031. twitter
  1032. uc
  1033. ultimately
  1034. unacceptable
  1035. unavailable
  1036. uncollectable
  1037. undercut
  1038. understood
  1039. uneasy
  1040. unhappy
  1041. unknowns
  1042. unstuck
  1043. upset
  1044. urging
  1045. vacuum
  1046. values
  1047. verizon
  1048. victim
  1049. vietnam
  1050. view
  1051. vision
  1052. voice
  1053. wait
  1054. waited
  1055. walk
  1056. wanted
  1057. war
  1058. warranty
  1059. wary
  1060. watching
  1061. water
  1062. ways
  1063. wealth
  1064. wear
  1065. west
  1066. wildest
  1067. wile
  1068. win
  1069. wisdom
  1070. wishful
  1071. words
  1072. work
  1073. workaround
  1074. worked
  1075. working
  1076. worklife
  1077. workplace
  1078. works
  1079. world
  1080. worried
  1081. worse
  1082. worth
  1083. writing
  1084. wrong
  1085. wrote
  1086. xts
  1087. yeah
  1088. year
  1089. years
  1090. young
  1091. younger
  1092. zaps