Fear and greed can have a huge influence on our decision making processes. Rather than making rational, informed decisions, we are driven by fear and greed and herd mentality to do stupid things.
Irrational decisions driven by fear and greed are the antithesis of rational, well-thought out decisions driven by enterprise architecture planning and governance.
In an interview with Fortune Magazine 28 April 2008 (and on a day of teaching students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business), Warren Buffet stated: “when people panic, when fear takes over, or when greed takes over, people react just as irrationally as they have in the past.”
Similarly, in The Wall Street Journal 18 April 2008, an MIT financial economist, Andrew Lo, stated: “You have to understand the mechanism of how fear and greed impact market decisions.”
Fear and greed are affected by our endocrine system. According to Andrew Lo, “for better or for worse, biochemistry makes money go to our heads. ‘We need to understand that physiological aspects of brain behavior really impact financial decisions.”
Testosterone is the hormone that makes us irrationally exuberant, confident and greedy, and another hormone, cortisol, causes us to feel fear and gloom.
Do these hormones and the resulting emotions we feel impact our decisions and behavior?
“Among males and females, testosterone is a natural component in the chemistry of competition…it enhances persistence, fearlessness, and a willingness to take risks. Among athletes it rises in victory, and falls in defeat. “
Endocrinologists have identified “the ‘winners’ effect,’ in which successive victories boost levels of testosterone higher and higher, until the winner is drunk with success—so overconfident that he can no longer think clearly, assess risk properly or make sound decisions.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, “too much cortisol, secreted in response to stress, might in turn make them overly shy of risk.”
In the face of fear and greed, decision making is impaired and becomes irrational. Decisions are no longer driven by the facts on the ground or by judicious planning or sound governance that comes with disciplines like enterprise architecture. Instead, people become slaves to their hormones and emotional effects.
In Fortune Magazine, Warren Buffet warned against falling into the fear/greed trap of decision making. He stated: “I always say you should get greedy when other are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. But that’s too much to expect. Of course [at a minimum] you shouldn’t get greedy when others get greedy and fearful when others get fearful.”
Rather than optimizing decision making, our fears and greed destabilize our ability to think clearly and rationally. When this happens, we need to rely more than ever on our enterprise architecture target and plans and on our governance processes, so that we stay focused on our goals and path to them and not be sidetracked by, as Alan Greenspan stated, “irrational exuberance” or irrational fears.