The Speed — Bump Effect
“He’s a black guy. I wanted him to succeed, but didn’t get there.”
When Sallie Krawcheck, the former chief financial officer of Citigroup, sat down for an interview with PBS correspondent Paul Solman, they talked about the 2007–2008 financial crisis that had shaken the world economy a few years earlier.
KRAWCHECK: I think about my old industry — financial services, where my experience watching those companies go into the downturn was not, “it’s a bunch of evil geniuses who perfectly foresee the downturn.” Quite the opposite. It was a group of hard-working individuals who miscalled the downturn. And as I think back to those teams, which are pretty non-diverse, they were people who had grown up together, gone to the same schools, looked at the same data over years and years, and came to the wrong conclusions.
SOLMAN: Peas in a pod.
KRAWCHECK: Peas in a pod, so to speak. I’m not sure they’d love it if you called them that, but peas in a pod. And I remember clear as a bell one day where a senior investment banker was describing a complex security, and a woman who was in a consumer banking role stopped and said, “What the heck is that? And why are we doing it?” And there wasn’t, going into the financial crisis, enough of “What the heck is that?”
SOLMAN: But are women actually more likely to say, “I don’t get it?”
KRAWCHECK: I think when you get diverse groups together who’ve got these different backgrounds, there’s more permission in the room — as opposed to, “I can’t believe I don’t understand this and I’d better not ask because I might lose my job.” There’s permission to say, “I come from someplace else, can you run that by me one more time?” And I definitely saw that happen. But as time went on, the management teams became less diverse. And in fact, the financial services industry went into the downturn white, male and middle aged. And it came out whiter, maler and middle-aged-er.
In the interview, Krawcheck argued passionately for diversity. But was she right? Could diversity have made a difference?
Half a dozen people sat in the waiting room of a behavioral research lab in Singapore. All of them were ethnic Chinese who lived in the city-state and had come to the lab to compete in a stock-trading simulation. What they didn’t know was that they were about to participate in an experiment that would upend much of the conventional wisdom about diversity. In fact, they had no idea that the study had to do with diversity at all.
A research assistant came in and escorted each person from the waiting room to an individual cubicle with a computer and a trading screen. The participants then received instructions on how to calculate the value of the stocks.
The simulation was a simple version of a real stock market. The six participants were free to buy and sell the stocks among one another using their computers, and they could see all completed transactions, bids, and offers on their screens. After a practice round, they began trading for real money.
The researchers ran this simulation with dozens of groups. Some groups were homogenous — all Chinese, the majority ethnic group in Singapore. Other markets were more diverse: they included at least one member of an ethnic minority, Malays or Indians. The researchers monitored the accuracy of trades in these different markets. How close were the prices to the correct values of the stocks, based on the information available to the traders?
“The diverse markets were much more accurate than the homogenous markets,” said Evan Apfelbaum, an MIT professor and one of the study’s authors. “In homogenous markets, if someone made a mistake, then others were more likely to copy it, as if they trusted each other’s decisions too much,” Apfelbaum told us. “In diverse groups, mistakes were much less likely to spread.”
These results held up even when the researchers took the experiment to a very different part of the world: Texas, where the diverse markets included a mix of whites, Latinos, and African Americans. Just like their counterparts in Singapore, the Texas participants priced stocks more accurately when they were in diverse company. And they were more likely to copy each other mindlessly when they were in a group with similar others. As a result, homogenous markets led to more price bubbles — and crashed more severely when those bubbles burst. Diversity deflated the bubbles.
What made the diverse groups different?
Before the participants started trading, they individually answered questions about a few pricing scenarios. The researchers then used these answers to see if diverse groups had come to the lab already equipped with better pricing skills. But that wasn’t the case.
The answer lay in the trading data. In homogenous markets, traders seem to have put a lot of confidence in their peers’ decisions. Even if someone made a mistake, people often assumed it was a reasonable choice. They trusted one another’s judgments — even bad judgments. In diverse markets, people scrutinized mistakes more intensely and copied them less often. They saw errors for what they were. They distrusted each other’s views.
Having minority traders wasn’t valuable because they contributed unique perspectives. Minority traders helped markets because, as the researchers put it, “their mere presence changed the tenor of decision making among all traders.” In diverse markets, everyone was more skeptical.
We tend to trust the judgment of people who look similar to us, so homogenous groups reduce tension and make for smooth, effortless interactions. Of course, that’s not always a bad thing. It can be easier to get things done when we are confident that we can rely on our peers’ judgment. But it seems that homogeneity makes things too easy. It leads to too much conformity and not enough skepticism. It makes it easier for us to fall for bad ideas.
Diversity, in contrast, is less familiar and feels less comfortable. It threatens to be a source of friction. And that makes us more skeptical, more critical, and more vigilant, all of which make us more likely to catch errors. “We tend to think that if someone looks different, they also think different — that they have different views, different assumptions,” Apfelbaum told us.“That leads to healthy decision making. There might be some discomfort, but it makes us more objective.”
Apfelbaum and his colleagues dug further with another experiment. In that study, they put together groups of four participants and asked each person to evaluate the profiles of high school students who had applied to a top university. Here’s an example:
Which student do you think would be a better candidate for admission to an elite school?
If you are like most people, you answered A. It seems like an easy decision. Student A had nearly perfect grades and better test scores on both critical reading and math. Though B took one more Advanced Placement course, A is clearly stronger academically. And A’s extracurricular record doesn’t seem any worse than B’s. When you ask people individually rather than in a group, most respondents pick Student A.
But the experiment had a twist. In each group of four, only one person was an actual participant. The other three were actors, instructed to give the wrong answer when it was time to share their choices. The real participants didn’t know the others were in on the experiment.
The three actors went first. “Student B,” said the first person. “Student B,” said the second. “Student B,” echoed the third. Then it was the real participant’s turn. Some people resisted conformity and, after some hesitation, picked Student A. But many went along with the rest of the group even though Student B was by most criteria an inferior applicant.
You might recognize this setup from the famous Asch conformity experiments, where many people in a similar situation yielded to the group and declared that two lines were of the same length even when one was clearly longer than the other. But Apfelbaum and his colleagues added a new dimension to the experiment. In some of the groups, both the real participant and the three actors were white. In other groups, the actual participant was white, but two or three of the actors were racial minorities. This made a big difference. In racially similar groups, participants often conformed to the group and endorsed Student B. In diverse groups, people were much less likely to accept the wrong answer.
Why does this happen? As in the trading experiment, participants in homogeneous groups were more likely to second-guess themselves when their peers made questionable choices. “It appears to be a ‘benefit of the doubt effect,’” Apfelbaum explained. “In homogenous groups, people seem to rationalize their peers’ mistaken views. They try to think of reasons the others might actually be right — why the weaker applicant might actually be better. In diverse groups, this happens less.”
In diverse groups, we don’t trust each other’s judgment quite as much, and we call out the naked emperor. And that’s very valuable when dealing with a complex system. If small errors can be fatal, then giving others the benefit of the doubt when we think they are wrong is a recipe for disaster. Instead, we need to dig deeper and stay critical. Diversity helps us do that.
Other studies have come to the same conclusion. In a fascinating experiment in 2006, researchers created teams of three — some all-white, some racially diverse — and gave them a murder mystery to solve. It was a complicated case. A businessman had been murdered, and there were several suspects and lots of information to sort through: witness statements, transcripts of interrogations, detectives’ reports, maps of the crime scene, newspaper clippings, and a personal note written by the victim. These materials contained dozens of clues to the mystery, and the researchers made sure that all team members had access to many of the same of clues. But the researchers also gave each person a few unique clues that only he or she knew; the team needed all these clues to find the murderer. This setup captured two important features of complex systems: the truth wasn’t directly observable, and no one person knew all the relevant facts.
Diversity helped solve the mystery. Diverse teams were more likely to recognize that different team members knew different things. These teams also spent much more time sharing and discussing the clues. “The groups with racial diversity significantly outperformed the groups with no racial diversity,” writes the lead author of the study, Columbia professor Katherine Phillips.[x] “Being with similar others leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective. This perspective… stopped the all-white groups from effectively processing the information.”
And researchers found similar results during mock trials with real jurors: racially mixed juries shared more information, discussed a wider range of relevant factors, and even made fewer mistakes when recalling case facts. Again, it’s not that minority jurors performed better than white jurors. When the jury was diverse, everyone did better.
Gender diversity has similar effects. Accounting professors Larry Abbott, Susan Parker, and Theresa Presley, for example, have found that companies that lack gender diversity on their board of directors are more likely to issue financial restatements — revisions of their previous statements due to error or fraud. A financial restatement is an embarrassing failure and can shake investors’ confidence in a company, but it seems that even a small increase in gender diversity makes it less likely that a restatement will be needed. “A more diverse, less cohesive board may be more likely to question assumptions and inquire as to the comparability of accounting with industry practice, resulting in more in-depth discussion and slower decision-making,” the researchers wrote. “These actions are consistent with board gender diversity reducing groupthink and leading to an improved monitoring process.”Ironically, lab experiments show that while homogenous groups do less well on complex decision tasks, they report feeling more confident about their decisions. They enjoy the tasks they do as a group and think they are doing well. Being around similar people feels good. It’s comfortable. There is no friction, and everything is familiar and flows smoothly. Diversity, in contrast, feels strange. It’s inconvenient.But it makes us work harder and ask tougher questions.
The following conversation took place at a prestigious American consulting firm a few years ago.It’s the transcript of an actual discussion between two consultants who were evaluating Henry, a job candidate they had both interviewed.
INTERVIEWER 1: He’s a black guy. I wanted him to succeed, but didn’t get there.
INTERVIEWER 2: He’s very polished and presents well but is not structured in his approach. He couldn’t even say, “These are the three points I’d like to talk about.”
INTERVIEWER 1: It took a lot of prompting. (Sighs.)
INTERVIEWER 2: He is a diversity candidate.
INTERVIEWER 1: He’s not a disaster, but definitely not a bring back.
Henry was very polished, he’s a good presenter, he would add diversity to the firm, and they wanted him to succeed. But his responses just lacked structure.
This same pair of interviewers also considered Will, a white guy. “He’s super polished, confident, and easy to put in front of the client,” one of the interviews noted. “But he has no business intuition.” The other interviewer agreed: Will’s approach lacked structure. But that was OK. Will was new to consulting case interviews; he just needed some more practice. So they called him back for the next round of interviews. They even gave him some feedback before his next interview: he needed to “work on his structure.” Henry didn’t get a second chance.
These consultants didn’t think they had a bias problem. Even as bias crept in, they thought they were evaluating candidates based on merit. For years, orchestras faced the same issue. They viewed themselves as meritocracies, hiring only the best musicians. But they tended to hire many more men than women, despite the gender diversity of candidates and the perceived fairness of auditions.
When orchestras started using a curtain to shield candidates’ gender from judges, the hiring bias went away, and diversity spiked. Many of the best orchestras now have an equal number of men and women.
But in most hiring and promotion decisions, we can’t just add a curtain. So companies have adopted a huge number of diversity programs over the past three decades. Most of these, however, didn’t move the needle. In the United States, in firms with more than one hundred employees, the proportion of black men in management stayed steady at around 3% between 1985 and 2014. The proportion of white female managers has been stuck at around 30% since 2000. In some fields, such as financial services, the numbers are even worse. It turns out that most attempts to increase racial and gender diversity in leadership roles fail.
It’s a paradox: Diversity programs are everywhere, and firms are putting more and more money and effort into them, but we’re not seeing results. Why?
Harvard sociologist Frank Dobbin and his colleagues pored over thirty years of data from more than 800 firms to answer this question. They discovered something stunning: The most frequently used diversity programs didn’t increase diversity. In fact, they made firms less diverse.
Take mandatory diversity training. It’s a very popular program — most Fortune 500 firms and nearly half of midsize companies use it — but it just doesn’t work. Companies introducing it saw the proportion of Asian-American managers fall by 5% and the share of black female managers shrink by nearly 10% within five years. And there was no improvement at all in the representation of white women, black men, and Hispanics.
The results were similar for other popular programs, such as mandatory job tests (which aim to ensure a fair hiring process) and formal grievance procedures (which employees can use to challenge pay, promotion, and termination decisions). It seems these programs should reduce bias against minorities and women, but they actually make things worse.
Dobbin and his colleagues interviewed hundreds of managers to find out why. It turns out that these programs fail to work because they focus on policing managers’ actions — they try to strong-arm managers and limit their discretion in hiring and promotion decisions. But managers resist this approach. “You won’t get managers on board by blaming and shaming them with rules and reeducation,” the researchers wrote. “As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy. Try to coerce me to do X, Y, or Z, and I’ll do the opposite just to prove that I’m my own person.”
In a recent lab experiment, for example, when people felt pressure to agree with a brochure that condemned racial prejudice, they showed more racial bias after reading it. The brochure reduced prejudice only when people felt that they were free to agree or disagree — when the choice was theirs. Dobbin and his colleagues saw the same kind of thing with job tests, too. At a West Coast food company, for example, managers made only strangers — mostly minorities — take the test but hired their white friends without testing them.
What can leaders do? Here are a few solutions that three decades of data have shown to work.
One tool that works is voluntary diversity training. Though people grumble about mandatory programs, they are often happy to participate in voluntary ones. And they are much more receptive to new ideas if they see the training as an optional learning opportunity rather than a forced ritual.
Targeted recruitment is another good approach. The idea is to seek out candidates from underrepresented groups, either within the organization or through existing recruitment programs at universities or minority professional organizations. As with diversity training, it should be up to managers to decide if they want to participate. That way, they will see the program as a way to access a larger talent pool rather than a heavy-handed mandate that limits their authority. “Our interviews suggest that managers willingly participate when invited,” the researchers wrote. “That’s partly because the message is positive: ‘Help us find a greater variety of promising employees!’”
Formal mentoring programs for junior employees (regardless of race and gender) and cross-training programs (where management trainees are rotated through different roles) also help. That’s because these measures don’t impose rules about diversity. They often aren’t even designed with diversity in mind. Instead, they expose managers to different groups, and that alone reduces bias. A male senior manager, assigned to mentor a young woman from a minority group, may get to know her work quite well. When a management role opens up, he might be more likely to suggest her as a candidate for promotion.
Of course, many organizations have informal mentoring arrangements. But formal programs that assign mentors to mentees work much better. Here’s Dobbin and his colleagues:
While white men tend to find mentors on their own, women and minorities more often need help from formal programs.One reason . . . is that white male executives don’t feel comfortable reaching out informally to young women and minority men. Yet they are eager to mentor assigned protégés, and women and minorities are often first to sign up for mentors [in a formal program].
It also turns out that just having someone track diversity can help. For a business unit, that might mean having someone whose job it is to promote diversity — even if they don’t have much power beyond collecting and reporting data. Diversity task forces, for example, periodically look at diversity numbers for different units and figure out opportunities to increase diversity: Is a particular department not getting a diverse enough applicant pool? Are women and minorities who have been at the firm for years not being promoted? Are they not even applying for promotions in certain areas? Once they have answers, task force members can bring up these issues in their own departments.
Tracking diversity in this way works because people want to appear fair-minded. When managers know that someone keeps an eye on the numbers, it makes them ask themselves: Should I take a step back? Do I need to think about a broader set of people who are qualified? Am I just considering the first people who came to my mind?
Many well-meaning leaders who are committed to promoting diversity are frustrated because their efforts have made little difference. The most common strategies, which are all about rules and control, have failed. But the approaches outlined here — voluntary diversity training, targeted recruitment, formal mentoring and cross-training programs, and diversity task forces — work. In Dobbin’s sample of firms, these programs boosted the number of female and minority managers in just five years, often by double-digit percentages.
These things work because they’re soft tools. They don’t try to strong-arm people into giving up control. Instead of enforcing a list of dos and don’ts, they engage managers. They expose them to a wider variety of people. And they appeal to their desire to look good in the eyes of others.
In the age of complex systems, diversity is a great risk management tool. But we can’t force-feed it to an organization. Things get worse, not better, when we use the usual bureaucratic procedures. We need to ease up on the control tactics. Building a diverse organization is a hard problem with a soft solution.
The blood testing company Theranos was once one of the hottest healthcare ventures in the United States. In October 2015, the New York Times named its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, who’d started the company as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, one of “five visionary tech entrepreneurs who are changing the world.” Right around the same time, she appeared on the cover of Inc. magazine. The headline: “The Next Steve Jobs.” Theranos was valued at $9 billion, and Holmes, at only 31, had already amassed a net worth of $4.5 billion. A few months earlier, TIME magazine named her one of its 100 most influential people. Investors poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the company.
It seemed that Theranos had invented a way to run dozens of medical tests using just a drop of blood. With a prick on your finger, you could get tested for hundreds of conditions. No need to draw blood intravenously. No need for big needles. And all this at a fraction of the cost of existing tests.
It seemed like an incredible technology that would disrupt the entire healthcare establishment. “Turning a blood test into an inexpensive, accessible and even (almost) pleasant experience — rather than an expensive, dreaded and time-consuming procedure — makes people more likely to get tested,” noted the New York Times. “As a result, medical problems can be identified earlier, enabling the prevention or effective treatment of diseases ranging from diabetes and heart ailments to cancer.”
Theranos was going to be the next big thing in Silicon Valley. But John Carreyrou, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter with the Wall Street Journal, didn’t buy the hype.He’d read a magazine profile of Holmes and was surprised by how vaguely she talked about the company’s technology. “There were some brief critical sections in there that raised questions for me, but I didn’t think all that much more of it,” says Carreyrou. Then he got a tip that “things might not be exactly as they seem at this company.”
Carreyrou began to investigate Theranos, and on October 15, 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran his story. It was a devastating report, raising questions about the accuracy of the company’s testing device and revealing that Theranos didn’t even use its own technology for most of its tests.Employees admitted that they’d run the vast majority of tests on traditional blood testing machines bought from other companies. “The 31-year-old Ms. Holmes’s bold talk and black turtlenecks draw comparisons to Apple Inc. cofounder Steve Jobs,” Carreyrou wrote. “But Theranos has struggled behind the scenes to turn the excitement over its technology into reality.”
After this initial blow, the house of cards began to wobble. Journalists and regulators continued to investigate the company. And Theranos was soon under legal siege. Its partner, the drugstore chain Walgreens, filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. Some of Theranos’s biggest financial backers also sued, alleging that the company and its founder had lied to them about the technology.Tens of thousands of blood test results were voided, and lawsuits began to pile up from patients who’d received false results. In 2016, Fortune named Holmes one of the “world’s most disappointing leaders.” Forbes revised her estimated net worth: zero.
Months before the meltdown, Dr. David Koch, the president of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, had been asked to comment on Theranos’s promise. Koch is a leading expert in the field, but he had little to say. “It’s impossible to comment on how good this is going to be,” he said. “I really can’t be more definitive because there’s nothing to really look at, to read, to react to.”
Theranos was famously secretive. Holmes insisted that the company had to operate in “stealth mode” to protect its technology. Few had seen its data. No peer-reviewed studies examined its devices. And when journalist Ken Auletta asked Holmes to explain how the technology worked, her response was: “A chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel.” Auletta called this answer “comically vague.”
Several investment firms passed on Theranos because of this vagueness. “The more we tried to drill down, the more uncomfortable she got,” one potential investor told the Wall Street Journal. Google Ventures also considered an investment: “We just had someone from our life-science investment team go into Walgreens and take the [Theranos] test. And it wasn’t that difficult for anyone to determine that things may not be what they seem here” — because Walgreens wanted to do a full blood draw instead of using Theranos’s “revolutionary” finger prick.
Some outsiders figured out that something was amiss. But what about insiders? What about the board of directors, whose job it is to make sure that a company is on the right track?
Well, here is a list of Theranos’s board members in the fall of 2015:
“It’s a board like no other,” declared Fortune magazine.[xli] “Theranos has assembled what may be, in terms of public service, the most illustrious board in U.S. corporate history.”
It was indeed an exceptional group. You rarely see a board with so many former cabinet secretaries, senators, and high-ranking military officials. But the group was also remarkable for its lack of diversity. Other than the two Theranos executives, every single board member — ten out of ten — was a white man. And every one of those directors was born before 1953. Their average age: 76 years old.
Not only did Theranos’s board lack the sort of surface-level diversity that Apfelbaum’s research identified as important, but it also lacked medical or biotechnology expertise. The only still-licensed medical expert in the group was former Senator Bill Frist, who’d begun his career as a surgeon. William Foege, age 79, had once been a leading epidemiologist, but had retired from medicine many years earlier. As a group, Theranos’s directors would have been more at home at a public policy think tank than at a cutting-edge medical technology firm.
Just after the Wall Street Journal published its first critical examination of Theranos, Fortune editor Jennifer Reingold called out the board for its lack of expertise.She wondered if a group with so little collective experience in Theranos’s core field could oversee the company effectively. “While it’s probably useful to have a retired government official or two to teach and offer good leadership skills, when there are six with no medical or technology experience . . . one wonders just how plugged in they are to Theranos’ day-to-day activities.” A mix of backgrounds, Reingold suggested, would have been better.
She was right. To understand why, we have to shift gears and industries. We have to learn why directors who were public servants, military leaders, and retired doctors — the same backgrounds that damned the Theranos board — helped hundreds of small banks weather the financial crisis.
Here is a list of a few community banks founded in the United States in the late 1990s. It’s just a tiny sample from a much longer list, but it captures the basic pattern quite well. Can you spot what it is?
You probably noticed that all the bank failures occurred in 2009 and 2010. That pattern makes sense. The Great Recession wasn’t kind to small banks.
But there is something else about the list, something more peculiar. You might have spotted that the banks that failed had more bankers on their boards of directors than did the banks that survived. If you noticed that, you’re onto something. A recent study that tracked more than 1,300 community banks over nearly two decades across the United States revealed a similar pattern. Banks with many bankers on the board were more likely to fail than banks whose directors had come from a wider range of backgrounds: not only bankers but also nonprofit folks, lawyers, doctors, government people, military officers, and others. Though many of these backgrounds have nothing to do with banking, this kind of diversity — diversity in expertise — saved the banks.
This effect was strongest for banks in complex, uncertain markets. And it’s not that banks with riskier profiles appointed more bankers as directors. Nor did banker-dominated boards accept more risk to achieve higher returns. The study ruled out these explanations. To figure out what was going on, the study’s lead author — John Almandoz, a professor at Spain’s IESE business school — interviewed dozens of board members, bank CEOs, and bank founders. He found three things.
The first is that directors with a banking background often relied too much on their experience. Over and over again, interviewees used the word “baggage” to describe what bankers brought to the board. As one director put it, “The benefits of not having prior bankers is that there is no baggage to speak of in terms of, ‘With this other bank, we did it this way.’”
Then there was overconfidence. “If I got a board which has got a lot of bankers on it, they are going to tend to reach for loans a little bit more because they believe that they have got a little bit more background and experience,” a board member explained.“Whereas other people who aren’t bankers tend to be a little more cautious.”
The third issue was the lack of productive conflict. When amateur directors were just a small minority on a board, it was hard for them to challenge the experts. On a board with many bankers, one CEO told the researchers, “Everybody respects each other’s ego at that table, and at the end of the day, they won’t really call each other out.” But on a board with more non-bankers, “when we see something we don’t like, no one is afraid to bring it up.”
Boards that weren’t dominated by experts behaved like racially diverse teams. The directors argued and questioned each other’s judgment. They took nothing for granted. Bankers didn’t speak the same language as doctors and lawyers, so even “obvious” things had to be spelled out and debated. There was friction, and toes were stepped on. It wasn’t easy. But still, these boards had the best of both worlds. Unlike Theranos, they had a handful of true experts, bankers with deep industry expertise. But — thanks to the amateurs — the weight of that expertise didn’t quash debate and dissent. “Amateurs,” Almandoz told us, “have the naivety to ask questions about things the experts take for granted.”
It’s a familiar conclusion. Remember what Sallie Krawcheck said about diversity? Diversity works because it makes us question the consensus. What the heck is that? Why are we doing it? Can you run that by me one more time?
Surface-level diversity and diversity in expertise work in remarkably similar ways. In both cases, diversity is helpful not so much because of a unique perspective that minorities or amateurs bring to the table but because diversity makes the whole group more skeptical. It ensures that a team doesn’t work together too smoothly and agree too easily. And that’s a big deal in complex, tightly coupled systems, where it’s easy to miss big threats and make mistakes that will spiral out of control.
Diversity is like a speed bump. It’s a nuisance, but it snaps us out of our comfort zone and makes it hard to barrel ahead without thinking. It saves us from ourselves.