Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How do we make decisions?

Jesse Stay recently wrote a post entitled Name a Better Phone. This post can be examined on a variety of levels, including the applicability of a phone to a person's particular needs. Jesse's post itself briefly discusses this.

At the same time my experience may be different than yours. You may need something cheaper. You may not need a camera. You may just need the phone features. All these factors go into the purchase of a cell phone.

Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins looked at this in much more detail. (H/T Louis Gray.)

Jesse, and many others who are defending Apple, contend that “the thing that people aren't realizing is that the definition of "phone" has changed for most of
society. For those buying these types of devices they're not looking for just a phone.”

Jesse went on to say that “It's stupid to not recommend it solely on phone functionality.”

I disagree with that statement strongly, as do the global usage numbers for mobile phones. The definition of phone has changed for a minority of society. Most people still use a phone for texting and calls -something for which a smartphone is not required (otherwise, we wouldn't call them smartphones, but phones, since no one would own a "dumb" phone).
Ask yourself: who reads Consumer Reports? Certainly not us, the early adopters.

It's people like my dad who read it religiously before making a purchase. People who use phones to, you know, make phone calls with.

While these thoughts align with some other things that have appeared here in the Empoprise-BI business blog, I want to focus upon another part of Jesse's post - namely, the METHOD that he used to make his phone decision.

Partialities aside, when you rate phones, as a whole, feature-by-feature, side-by-side with the other phones that I own, the iPhone 4 still outperforms them, hands down. Even Consumer Reports confirms that. The iPhone 4 takes better pictures than my Evo. It takes better video. The iPhone 4 has so much better screen quality than my Evo. I can edit my movies on my iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 lasts at least 3 times as long in battery life than my HTC Evo. The iPhone 4 has a better, more consistent application experience than my Evo. There’s simply no comparison on those features. The iPhone beats the Evo in user experience and simplicity (My 2 year old has issues with the Evo – he has no problem with my iPhone). It has better parental controls. It has a much smaller, easier-to-hold form factor. It has FaceTime, and before you say the Evo has apps that do that, the Evo has not integrated it into its Operating System and phone book, and that’s a huge difference.

Forget about the specifics here. What Stay did was to choose two products, list a number of attributes, and compare each product on the basis of the listed attributes. Actually, Stay wasn't the first person to do this; Consumer Reports initially did it, as Stay notes.

Now this sounds like a reasonable and superior way to do things. Set your evaluation criteria, take the two (or more) products and evaluate them against the criteria, and then let the superior solution just pop out of the process at the end. Now perhaps people can argue about the weighting of the various criteria (Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins' dad might assign a higher rating to "voice call quality" than Jesse Stay would), but there's no quibbling with the process.

Or is there?

Let's face it - we live in a world in which many people are deciding to use a particular web hosting service (or, conservely, to NOT use a particular web hosting service) because of a hot female race car driver. I'm not sure where Consumer Reports would put THAT on its charts.

And, conversely, we seem to use these non-logical methods for the bigger decisions. David Maister:

Michael Lovaglia, (a professor at the University of Iowa) proposed Lovaglia’s Law: The more important the outcome of a decision, the more people will resist using evidence to make it.

Maister continues:

I have always been fascinated by the fact that (in spite of what they teach us in school) logic, reason, rationality and sensible analysis seem to play so little part in human affairs – at the office, in our home lives, and elsewhere.

It sometimes seems as if, for all of us, nearly all the time, rhetoric triumphs over reason, personality over substance, politics over merits, neuroses over facts.

I’m not saying this as a complaint. I’m saying that it’s a more accurate critique of human affairs than the misleading interpretation we sometimes fool ourselves with – that our smarts (logic, reason and rationality) are what drive the world.

Bearing this in mind, I wonder how many of us are making decisions on the iPhone 4 based upon objective criteria (either "The iPhone 4 has a better feature set" or "The iPhone 4 performs poorly in the one feature that is really important to me"), and how many of us are making iPhone 4 decisions based upon other factors (Apple is cool, Apple is evil, Steve Jobs steals body parts from deserving people, Woz is a good dancer)?
blog comments powered by Disqus