Inspired by Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational
Chapter 7: The High Price of Ownership: Why We Overvalue What We Have
Have you ever heard of “loving is not necessarily owning” wise saying? If you were raised in Indonesia, you may often sing it along… Mencintaimu tak mesti memiliki hiks hiks… Its high wisdom spreads a safety net for the misfortunes, men and women, including boys and girls, since they don’t always get what they want, even what they want most. Nonetheless, the society needs the concept of ownership. Together with rule of law, governance, and social virtues, ownership has founded the civilized world.
I do not believe in a utopia world where people do not need to earn and own money and use it to transact with others, like in Star Trek. Only in heaven are people happy without money and economic transactions. The abundance nature of heaven makes people do anything, probably including work activities, only because they just love doing it. Private ownership does not matter anymore. What matters is the relationship with beloved people, the pious, angels, and ultimately God. But that is a story in the hereafter. Here, in the real world, we do care about owning things. It’s just the way God created us.
So we do need owning things. Actually we do own things. A big house. Another big house. Fancy cars. Firms. Stocks. Money. They all often define us and our happiness. Even a beautiful wife and children are considered as our belongings. In my opinion, people cannot posses other people. They are only in relationships with us. Now, we start smelling something fishy about ownership. We often feel owning something that is out of proportion. Possessive attitude towards wife and children is just an example. Another in the case of public servants is the one toward office facilities mandated by People. Another in the context of information management is the one toward corporate information and knowledge. In the last example, corporate information ownership by individuals results in information hoarding, making it hard to share.
From the above discussion, we can conclude that outrageous ownership can be very costly. Well, we can say there is nothing wrong or right about the ownership itself. Our attitude towards ownership is the suspect. Consequently, WE as the responsible agents have to introspect ourselves. How? Yes, it is a valid question. How do we control our attitude towards ownership? Although important to ask, probably it is not the first question ought to ask. We do need to know where we can slip and how. Only after that are we able to devise a controlling mechanism against outrageous ownership. Dan Ariely in his Predictably Irrational discloses his research findings in this field.
Here is the research…
At Duke University, basketball is most like a religious experience. Since the stadium is relatively small, the intimate atmosphere inside it can go high to the roof. Besides, the small size limits the number of maniac fans in each event. This makes tickets very hard to get, especially for a national championship game. Through a complicated procedure, a fan should put his best effort to earn the ticket. In spite of the hard work, there is still a chance not to get it. With his colleague Ziv Carmon, Dan saw an opportunity to experiment with this near-havoc situation. On the one hand, he called 100 fans not having the ticket and said something like, “Hi William, we probably are able to sell ticket for tonight. How much would you be willing to pay for one?” In general the offers to those fans were valued about $170.
On the other hand, he went to fans having the ticket and said something like, “Hi Joe, we know you have the ticket for tonight, but we also know that you probably need to focus on your backlog assignments. We may be able to sell your ticket. What’s your minimum price?” In general, those who owned a ticket valued it about $2,400. Wow, $2,400 versus $170, about 14 times factor. Think about it. It’s like the old saying says. “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor!” The one offers $170 for having the ticket considered $170 quite a lot of money. He considered also what else he could do with the money. Unlike William, Joe argued that Duke basketball was a huge part of his life. The experience would be a defining memory that he could pass to his children and grandchildren. From a rational perspective, both the ticket holders and the non-ticket holders should have thought of the game in exactly the same way, but in fact just owning the ticket made Joe value it very very significantly more than William. Note that both Joe and William similarly worked very hard to get the ticket.
Here is Dan’s explanation…
First irrationality, we generally fall in love with what we already have. When you want to sell your old VW bus, you start to value the memory with it out of proportion. Second, we focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain alternatively. In the case of that VW bus, now we start to think what we may lose, i.e. the use of the bus with all of the memories, than what we may gain, i.e. money to buy something else we need. Third, we assume that other people will see the transaction from the same perspective as we do. We strangely expect the buyer to share our feeling about the VW bus. In the same token, you want the buyer to see what good with the bus as you see it. Indeed, it is easy for him or her to notice the stain in the corner of the dashboard.
There are other peculiar aspects of ownership explained by Dan Ariely in the book. First, the more work we put into something, the more ownership we feel for it. Right? O yes, that’s why we resist the change in our firm or office since we just love and own what we usually do. Second, we begin to feel ownership even before we really own something. This peculiarity is indeed used by an online auction to boost the price. Someone who keeps bidding higher feels that the thing is already her or his belonging, so that s/he needs to ensure her or his ownership. A trial promotion is another deliberate use of this peculiarity. There are more examples in the book you may need to read.
Here is my own conclusion…
We just need to be cautious that we can start feeling ownership of something before we really own it. And when we feel owning something, we can feel more ownership. Well, if we are able to be humble and recognize our irrationality, probably it is easy for us to be aware. Many things to which we claim ownership are probably not our belonging. Furthermore, it is easier for us to give away. Knowledge we know. Information we hoard. A position we hold. Money we save in the bank. Stocks we are afraid of when the market is bearish. A chance we have in a heavy traffic road. Time we enjoy ourselves. Of course, we do not have to give away all of our belonging, but if the time comes, we shall surrender to the Death and God. At this point, I would like to suggest that stewardship is the best replacement of ownership.
We do own our money, assets, stocks, houses, cars, etc, but we own them appropriately and we are the stewards of those things so that they are beneficial for us and others.
We do not own our wives (husbands) and children. We are the stewards responsible for their well-being.
We do not own our positions. We are the stewards of the office we serve.
We do not own information and knowledge we know. We are just the stewards of it. So share it.
We do not own our time. We are the stewards of free time given to us.
We do not own our lives, because God has all, including our lives.
We are to God and we are to God returning.
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Minggu, 15 Februari 2009
Inspired by Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational