Adventures in hairlessness

 In Insights, Life decisions, Realizer Blog

As the barber held the clippers above the middle of my head, ready to shave a grade 1 stripe down the middle, he said “are you sure?”

Rewind 24 hours and I had been issued a bet by a school friend. I was age 18 and 5 of us were about to embark on our biggest adventure yet, a 4 week voyage round Europe via trains through 11 different countries. In the pub the night before, he had wagered the princely sum of 10 quid that I wouldn’t shave my head.

In the heat of the moment, and with the glow of alcohol, I had agreed. Not aggressively or competitively, just plainly said “yeah ok, why not”. After all I’d be out of the country for a month and on a big adventure.

Funnily enough I wasn’t at all the type of kid to take risks. When my friends were toying with amateur vandalism of street signs on a night out, I just shrugged and left them to it. But when it came to appearances I was more daring. Aged 16 I had bought a pair of 26 inch flares and a purple hooded top to try and fit into the Indie Music Stone Roses crowd. This had come slightly unstuck when a local youth took offence at my trousers and started chasing me down the road, a race he was always bound to win based on the un-aerodynamic flapping of my flared jeans.

So, I was open to the idea of experimenting with a new hairdo. Or more precisely not having any hair to do anything with.

I was also open to the idea of ten quid in my pocket, for some reason growing up I had been the kid who saved judiciously – although I’d managed to squander the money in large splurges on what now seem nonsensical items. I can still understand the 250 quid BMX with yellow mag burner wheels. But the African grey parrot for 400 pounds? What was I thinking…?

So it was the money that temptation of 10 quid that lured me over the edge into an adventure in hairlessness.

I said, “I’m sure” and milliseconds later the clippers cut into the centre of my fringe and mowed their way back along the middle of my head, leaving me looking like a reverse Mohican. Too late now, the decision was done and the rest had to go.

With 21 years hindsight to mull over this decision, was it a good one or a bad one?

As a financial transaction and as a measure of utility it was somewhat of a disaster as I looked like a pale baked bean, no one of the opposite sex would come near me, and I had to spend 6 quid on a hat so made a profit of 4 quid.

But as a way of testing my identity out, and learning how to make and not make decisions under peer pressure – I reckon it just might have been worth it after all.

From a wider decision-making perspective, the story is quite indicative of how teenagers make decisions. Research shows they operate in a strange world where many decisions don’t involve multiple choices at all, they are what can be called single choice decisions – whether or not I am going to do something. Should I go to school today or not? Apparently only 30% of teenagers decisions involved more than 1 choice. Crazy huh.

Well actually not – similar research into corporate decision making shows that 71% of corporate decisions were “whether or not” decisions, lacking consideration of viable alternatives.

And in the same research, they showed that over a 5 year period, looking at 1048 business decisions, the type of process used to make decisions mattered more than how much analysis was done, by a factor of 6. Companies with top quartile decision making process were extracting 7% percentage points more ROI than those in the bottom quartile of decision making process.

So, if you want to get better business results, and avoid bad haircuts – have a good think about how you make decisions.


Decisive by the Heath brothers

Lovallo & Sibony on corporate decision making

Baruch Fischhoff studied teenage decision making