But I caught this one. Like a Pokémon. Here's how it went down.
Part of this includes the task of creating 170 pages for each of the major products the company sells. These pages have information about products that will help staff sell, ship, and promote them.
In the HTML template I created for all these pages is an iframe that points to the product record on the public website in order to "single source" additional information and display it on the intranet along with the non-public content.
I have to manually set up each page, which takes a minute, and manually load the iframe links which will take slightly less.
The approach I'm taking is to create all the pages and apply the HTML template, then go through them a second time to add the links. The idea is that fewer hand movements per page equates to quicker repetition, and improved efficiency (though I might be wrong, as I haven't tested both methods yet).
Project Manager advised me that the Marketing Manager is overhauling the public website, so that might kill my iframes. So it might be best not to put them in.
I needed to find out if that's the case, so I requested that information from the Marketing Manager.
While I waited for my reply, I continued on as I was, aware that I might need to go back in and take out the iframe part of the template for each page. The shroud of possible re-work loomed menacingly.
Here's when I encountered the anomalous behaviour.
The Anomalous Behaviour
This was when the strange thing happened.
I didn't want to open the email yet.
I fully realised that by not looking at it, there was a 50% probability of continuing to use the wrong HTML template. That I could save myself time and minimise re-work simply by checking it and applying the decision in my subsequent actions. Needless to say, it felt bizarre and wrong that I shouldn't want that!
I asked myself why I didn't want to learn the information yet.
The answer surprised me:
I wanted less cognitive load!
I wanted to get through all the product pages with the HTML template I was using and then go through them all again as a set, as I had PLANNED. I wanted to do that regardless of how many changes I had to make in the template.
I didn't want to halve my set of 170 into two sets of "these have the right HTML template, and these have the wrong HTML template" because I was AFRAID that even that slight additional complexity in my workflow might cause me to make a mistake and apply INCONSISTENCY in the site.
To trace these matters back to familiar models, let's look at the words I've highlighted above:
- PLANNED: I had a plan I knew I could handle, and I wanted to stick to it. The chance existed that the new information might derail my plan and force me to make a new one. I was resistant to that. But why?
- AFRAID: It is my observation (call it a hypothesis) that all human motivations can be traced in essence to either a fear or a desire. In this case, a fear was the the motivator; fear of making a mistake.
- INCONSISTENCY: As Dr Robert Cialdini points out in his splendid book Influence: The Power of Persuasion, the "consistency principle" of psychology was at work here. My need for consistency (which I have habitually tried to rid myself of ever since being introduced to the concept by Cialdini's book!) crept up on me. It overrode what should have been a fiscally responsible decision. The right decision would have been to read the Marketing Manager's email immediately to learn her decision, and then take the most efficient course of action on the assumption that my brain and tools could handle any degree of work complexity. But I didn't! I postponed putting the information into my noggin because the urge to be consistent with what I was doing was stronger than the urge to do less work. Mental!
On closer examination, that fear of inconsistency in my work was derived from my fear of being evaluated poorly by my client, which is a form of the fear of reaction (explained in this YouTube video). I'm normally not very susceptible to it because I know how to spot it. But in this case it was tied to my professional reputation, upon which my livelihood partially depends, and as a result it got me anyway!
What can you take from this?
If you have, ask yourself why. Be honest, and perhaps a little vulnerable, when you answer it.
You might surprise yourself.
Thanks for learning!