Author Archives: don

Making The Cloud Transaction Psychologically Secure: Overcoming The Availability Heuristic

Making The Cloud Transaction Psychologically Secure: Overcoming The Availability Heuristic

A cognitive heuristic is a shortcut our brains employ when forming beliefs or making decisions (Reber and Reber, 2001). An availability heuristic is a type of shortcut designed to make decisions quickly based on information already existing within one’s mind and assumed to be accurate. This is great time saver with everyday events but results in a lot of failures when making decisions about something more hidden from our awareness. The choice involving cloud computing is an example of how a limited mindset can create bias and poor decision making.

Limited Imaginations Equal Faulty Beliefs

The science behind the availability heuristic theory is heavily researched and universally accepted. When writing about the how the availability heuristic can go wrong Schneier, (2008) references two of the many studies dealing with the availability heuristic. Tversky and Kahneman’s (1973) study demonstrated that 70% of the time participants will guess wrong when asked which is more likely, words that begin with the letter K or words that have K as the third letter. Since humans can more easily imagine words beginning with K we feel comfortable with our guess yet there are more than twice as many words with K as the third letter.

In another study Carol, (1978) asked participants to imagine a particular candidate winning an election. One group imagined President Ford and the other Carter. Both groups were later asked who they thought would win the election. Most often participants picked the candidate they imagined earlier winning.

If we could observe one’s millisecond reasoning leaning on the availability heuristic while addressing the cloud it’s negative view would sound something like, “There. There is my critical data where I can see it, fix it, and move it whenever I see fit.” The reality of malfunctioning software, hardware, or stolen data are much more distant and uncomfortable for thinker to employ.

Filling in the Blanks of Client Imaginations

By picking up where the imagination leaves off you may be able to put yourself in a better position to help a potential client correctly assess their decision making process. Keep in mind that when we use availability heuristic the process is outside of our conscious awareness so there are no direct routes to allay resistance. However a well-timed question could help a client discover more accurately where his or her resistance lies.

The next time you encounter some form of resistance try asking a question like, “Walk me through a scenario where this proposal could be a bad decision for you.

The answer may surprise you and the client and can put both of you in a better position to try the case more objectively.

By Don Cleveland

Presenting The Cloud A Subcategory To Connect With Clients

Presenting The Cloud A Subcategory To Connect With Clients

Last week I heard a newscaster announce that the, “cloud” overhanging the economy revolves around what our legislators are going to do about the fiscal cliff. This terminology has nothing to do with the topic of cloud computing but everything to do with our audience’s mental reflexes when it comes to associating common, “cloud” usage classifications with cloud computing.

Everyone understands that cloud computing is not the visible collection of water or ice particles in the air http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cloud?s=t but when their cognitive processes engages the word cloud the associations made are much like the newscasters usage. This creates insecurity in an industry where security is the paramount concern. Other words that come up in the dictionary.com reference above include smoke, dust, dim, obscure, darkens, gloom, trouble, and suspicion. Even if car manufactures produced a car that could fly it could never be named, “the Cloud”. It isn’t until definition number eight that cloud computing is mentioned on the dictionary.com site and many dictionaries don’t even include a computing reference. This hurdle will be overcome by presenting the cloud as a subcategory.

Categories are More Important Than Definitions

It’s inconvenient for the human brain to adjust to a different definition of a word that already exists in our categorical rendering of it. This is explained by Yamauchi & Markman’s, (2000) finding that categories serve as organizers of knowledge. Since our knowledge is organized according to these categorical hierarchies, defining cloud computing is a little like my wife hiding treats in the vegetable drawer in our refrigerator. The kids know the treats are there but they can’t find it. Similarly, our brains recognize the context of cloud computing but are not grasping the full meaning without a pre-existing bias. When cloud computing filters into our mind set alongside idioms like, absent-mindedness and, lost in reverie is it any wonder that security concerns are raised?

Creating a New Category?

Cognitive science again and again points out that our learning is tied up in grouping similar concepts together. Applying this concept practically means that cloud computing is faced with the task of going beyond redefining a term, which could take a long time, and creating a category that differentiates itself from common current connotations.

When I moved from the northern part of the US to the south I was immediately branded as a northerner when I said, “pop” in reference to a soft drink. In the south, “coke” is a regionalism for all soft drinks. This is quite a victory for Coke and its marketing team who created a new category based on their brand name.

By tearing a page out of Coke’s playbook perhaps one of us can figure out how to make the cloud synonymous with safety just like a mouse is no longer limited to something scurrying across the floor.

By Don Cleveland

References: Yamauchi, T., & Markman, A. B. (2000). Inference using categories. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 26(3), 776-795. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.26.3.776

Mental Simulations And Cloud Computing: Faulty Reasoning Meet The Coming Reality

Mental Simulations And Cloud Computing: Faulty Reasoning Meet The Coming Reality

My journey to purchasing a MacBook Air and adopting the cloud for all my data storage needs was fraught with many naysayers. What amazed me most was the salesman who challenged my commitment.

When faced with the idea of selling me something without a traditional hard drive no less than four salesmen attempted to talk me out of it. When pressed for reason all they could tell me was that the MacBook Pro was better because it contained a hard drive and a DVD slot for about the same price. When I explained that I was a writer and wanted the lightweight and faster processing capabilities an interesting social transaction took place that demonstrated the mismatch between my mental simulations and the salesman’s reasoning. Similar disconnects are happening every day as decisions are made about utilizing cloud computing.

These salesmen simply did not believe I wanted to store data on the cloud and forgo storage on a hard drive. They attempted to appeal to my sense of reason using a decision-making theory called economic utility. They’re thinking was that surely the Pro made more sense than the Air because it offered a better value that I could see, feel, and touch. Never mind that I didn’t want a heavier machine with a fan and a hard drive but a more nimble notebook and cloud storage. I was framing my decision around what I valued subjectively also known as a mental simulation. I’m imagining the quick start-up and thin design alongside the loss of data I had already experienced with traditional storage.

Mental Simulation Trumps Utility Theory

The four salesmen I dealt with were applying a version of the utility theory that tried to appeal to my rational need to get more for the same money. For them and MacBook Pro buyers it is easier to imagine data they can drag around in a metal box. My imagination was more geared to less hassle and adjusting to remote storage to meet that goal.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, echoed a theme that has become prevalent over the last decade when he said, “humans are not either thinking machines or feeling machines but rather feeling machines that think.” (http://phys.org/news/2010-11-antonio-damasio-probes-mind.html) For the cloud-computing enthusiast, this means that clients need help re-imagining their future alongside cloud computing applications.

Whenever I’m around people with a MacBook Pro I ask them why they didn’t choose the air. They get an uncomfortable look on their face and tell me that they just couldn’t imagine not having a hard drive or a slot to slip in a movie or download a program. So like many companies that put off cloud computing services, fear inhabits the mind rather than efficiency.

Potential cloud adopter’s mental simulations must be understood and addressed whether they are rationalizing or responding subjectively. As they imagine their future in the cloud, help them make sure that future is realistically assessed.

By Don Cleveland

Reframing The Cloud Computing Argument: Managing Inaccurate Perceptions

Reframing The Cloud Computing Argument: Managing Inaccurate Perceptions

Human rationality is quickly becoming a castaway in the study of economics and psychology. That humans make decisions irrationally is an irrefutable precept as evidenced by empirical research. What these studies have uncovered is than when it comes to dealing with the emotions that naturally arise in the decision making process, avoiding risk trumps rational decision-making. The key issue is how the issue is framed to begin with.

One of the problems with cloud computing is overcoming its name. For most people, “the cloud” does not relate to some diagraming by computer scientists to illustrate how cloud computing operates. That frame of reference is only relevant to a narrow portion of tech savvy professionals. When most people here the word, “cloud” they unconsciously begin framing a set of references like: dreamy, foggy, haziness, overcast, and overshadow. Without being aware of it, putting one’s valuable data in the cloud becomes a lot more like driving one’s children around in an exploding Pinto from the 1970s than purchasing the latest technology.

Reframing the Risk Aversion Perception

Since cloud computing is a lot less risky than its associations listed above it’s necessary to reframe the issue along more rational lines. This challenge entails a shifting from a risk aversion position to a risk taking perspective.

In Tversky and Kahneman’s, “The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice” this issue is addressed by highlighting experiments that presented participants with cases involving life or death decisions about populations. What they found was that people will chose to pursue the option they perceive is the least risky regardless of the actual facts involved. By manipulating mathematical language in two scenarios people chose risk aversive strategies rather than taking a risk to save more people based on the way the question was framed. In fact the situations were exactly the same. Those waiting to get comfortable with the idea of the cloud will be waiting a long time without the issue being reframed to a more realistic assessment.

This reality something the automobile salesman understands instinctively. After a test drive and the perception that someone is interested in the car but not ready to make a decision, they will push the customer to take the car home for the night. Known, as the, “Puppy Dog Close” the hope is that the owner will fall in love with the idea of buying the car rather than sit in the dealership and talk himself out of it by thinking about everything that can go wrong.

In the same way cloud computing professionals can reframe cloud computing from some risky data dreamscape to a more realistic position where the cloud makes financial sense and security is less an issue than those butterflies fluttering in the pit of their stomach first indicated.

By Don Cleveland

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