Honesty as a value proposition

Honesty as a value proposition. — VGR writes here about honesty as a meaningful value addition
(on its own,i.e: considering honesty as a separate entity in the hiring decision is meaningful) to the modern corporate environment.
Ofcourse, most of his suggestions are based on executive management positions.

Anyway, my experience, suggest that treating honesty as a single dimensional value is not enough.
Honesty under uncertainty vs Honesty under certainty form two very different beasts.

I believe it’s easier to be Honest under certainty. I think when there’s uncertainty,
people tend to form stories(scripts as vgr would call it), and everything they say, do, report etc. are built around it.

There’s a question about intentionality of this specific type of dishonesty, but I’ll leave that to philosophers.
I’ll just observe that the forms of this dishonesty, map very well with another VGR work on his mailing list “Be Slightly Evil” deception.
Now, of itself it doesn’t exactly mean lying, but it doesn’t exactly mean you can take what is reported to you at face value either.

Either way, the point I was making is honesty about probabilities and their expected values, is very very hard to ascertain in interviews.
But they have an inherent value that’s near impossible to quantify or enumerate.

Honesty under uncertainty is perhaps the hardest to practice. When you don’t have a revenue stream that meets your expenses,
but are hoping to meet the expenses in the future, you have a strong incentive to believe you have a very good chance of achieving that.
Not to mention the set of cognitive biases, human beings are so very vulnerable to.

None of us are perfect Bayesian agents.
The biggest challenge in startups I have seen so far is communication of aprior probabilities and the dependent probabilities.

Another area this honesty about uncertainty comes into play is investment advising, people management,HR management,academic research,etc..

In my experience these are the areas where a whole lot of signalling and powerplays link goes on.

In investment with NNT seems to have started some work in exposing some of the dishonesty.
Since I have no experience working with that field, I won’t comment on what effect it has had,
but will point out that it was one of the areas, which used to have flashy,after-work life, and a very heavy, formal signalling at work life.

Another perhaps side-effect of this Honesty about uncertainty is under-confidence.The converse definitely seems true.
Lack of honesty under uncertainty, seems to have a high correlation with over-confidence.

The trouble with looking for honesty and treating it as an economic proposition is that, it rarely works one way to be honest between two agents…
And very typically, in business uncertainty is treated with dishonesty(A strong positive bias, driven by positive signalling needs), and people who have made honesty a habit can’t stand it.
Infact some habituation or set of causes lead some eople to demand and expect a honesty, to the level of trying to quantify probability values to personal uncertainities and use it to compare decisions for inconsistency.

To use the Gervais Principle terms, Losers avoid/deny uncertainities. They prefer to turn a blind-eye to uncertainities. They prefer to escape from the uncertain parts of reality.

The Clueless, run bravely against uncertainty. In the presence of uncertainty, they activate their super-hero fantasies and try to run against it and fight.

The Sociopaths, realise they have limits on what they can do against uncertainty, but figure out how they can use it and the predictable behaviours of people around it to get what they want.


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