Why You Need To Change Your Mind

As I’m writing this, ATAGI, the expert group advising us on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, is meeting to reconsider its advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

ATAGI initially approved the vaccine as safe for all adults, and that advice still applies. But, due to a small risk of blood clotting issues, ATAGI added caveats downgrading it to the second choice for some age groups. Now it’s reconsidering that advice.

Why could this advice change?

Well, the vaccine hasn’t changed, but the risk profile has – especially in Sydney, where COVID-19 cases are rising. In a low-COVID environment, you can understand why ATAGI chose to be cautious with recommending that vaccine. But as the risk of COVID-19 increases, the balance tips in favour of the vaccine.

By the time you read this, they might have already changed it. Or they might not, and will wait until next week’s meeting to reconsider it again.

Either way, it’s good to see ATAGI questioning and re-assessing its own advice.

It’s exactly what we should all do – but often we don’t.

We don’t like to change our minds – especially publicly. When politicians and other public figures do it, they are labelled untrustworthy, ‘wishy washy’, or ‘back-flipping’.

But there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind in the light of new information. It’s not weak; it’s flexible. It’s not backing down; it’s being well-informed. And it’s not wishy-washy; it’s adapting to change.

Here’s another example …

A few days ago, Michael Brennan, the chair of Australia’s Productivity Commission, said allowing office workers to work from home a few days a week is good for productivity (I agree!). But this is the same Productivity Commission that released a report in November saying working from home harms innovation and productivity.

Should we criticise this ‘back-flip’? Of course not! If both statements are based on good evidence, and the evidence has now changed, we should be glad they changed their opinion.

As economist John Maynard Keynes said:

’When my information changes, I change my mind. Why, what do you do, sir?’

Prove yourself wrong.

In 2013, Warren Buffet invited hedge fund trader Doug Kass to attend the annual meeting of Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway. Kass was a vocal critic of Buffet and even bet against him on the stock market. But Buffet wanted to expose shareholders to a contrarian view, so they didn’t fall into the trap of confirmation bias, where they only hear what they want to hear and tune out everything else.

As we get older – and presumably wiser – we think we know what’s ‘good’, what’s ‘right’, and what’s ‘true’. But in a fast-changing world, be prepared to challenge your assumptions.

When you make a decision, don’t stop there. Proactively seek new information – especially information that might change your mind – so you can review and re-assess that decision. If that means you need to stop and change direction, stop and change direction!

Change your mind!

When you find new information, assess its impact on your decision and plan – in one or more of these ways:

  • More: Invest even more in the original course of action.
  • Less: Do less than you had originally planned.
  • Same: Intentionally remain with your original course of action.
  • Upgrade: Keep to the original path, but make it a higher priority.
  • Downgrade: Give it a lower priority.

Your car’s GPS will start ‘re-routing’ when it detects a change in the traffic conditions ahead. Apply the same flexibility to your journey when the external environment changes.

Oh, and get vaccinated!


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