Fresh Look – the wisdom of back-up plans

You are going into politically charged meeting and have a game plan for how it will unfold. The meeting takes an unexpected turn, but you have a back-up plan and shift to it. Sounds wise, doesn’t it? Not necessarily. On the face of it, back-up plans seems prudent, but actually, their existence ups the chances that you will use them whether they are superior to the original plan or not.[1] In our hypothetical case above, the original approach you used in the politically charged meeting might well have been better than the back-up. It is important that you keep this back-up plan paradox in mind when you are planning. Otherwise, you might reject your original course of action prematurely or when it is unwarranted.

[1] C. Napolitano & A. Freund. 2017. First evidence for “the backup plan paradox.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146 (8): 1189–1203.