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Instinctive businesses

The book of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2017 has been translated into Italian, and it sheds light on what really moves economic actions for individuals and businesses

Instincts. Often, much more often than you think, human behaviour is guided by instincts, irrational drives, various different contributory causes, emotions mixed with calculation. This also happens for entrepreneurs, their creatures (companies), managers, production organisations. As if to say: of course, rationality is there and it has to be, but it is not enough.

On the other hand, understanding how the mechanism of economic choices actually works is crucial, as is the awareness of the elements that influence the future of a market or of a business. All this however while taking into account that one of the basic assumptions of basic economic theory – rationality in choices – is in fact devoid of any foundations or nearly. It is on this particular kind of adventure that Richard Thaler set off, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2017, and who has dedicated his entire career to studying the idea (once radical), according to which economic agents are predictable individuals who are prone to making mistakes. “Misbehaving” has just been translated into Italian and it is a summary-book of his intellectual and research journey.

Thaler’s essential thought, and that of his book, is simple. Traditional economic theory assumes that individuals are rational.But from the very beginning of his research, Thaler understood that these automatons did not in any way resemble real people who reason depending on different stresses, make mistakes, get back on track, change route. It is a contrast between the Homo sapiens (amicably referred to by Thaler as Human) and theHomo economicus (whom Thaler refers to as Econ). The author writes: “Compared to the fictional world of Econs, human beings (Humans) have many anomalous behaviours, and this means that economic models generate an amount of incorrect predictions, predictions which may have very serious consequences”. The reasoning about this statement takes up the whole volume. Which is not written like an economics manual, but rather like a life story, which in some parts is amusing even. And which has an objective:

to get an academic discipline back on its feet.

Thaler’s book is therefore useful reading for all. Including for production organisations. It is no surprise, right in the last few pages of the book, that the author reveals three important steps to understand: observe, collect data, say what you think. Principles of behaviour and of investigation which also refer to businesses.

What Thaler writes is not just the glossy summary of one of the most advanced frontiers of economic analysis (which among other things draws on the very best in economic thinking, recalling also how John Maynard Keynes was among the first to “practice behavioural macro economics”), but also an adventure of thought which is addressed to everyone.

Misbehaving. The birth of behavioural economics

Richard H. Thaler

Einaudi, 2018

The book of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2017 has been translated into Italian, and it sheds light on what really moves economic actions for individuals and businesses

Instincts. Often, much more often than you think, human behaviour is guided by instincts, irrational drives, various different contributory causes, emotions mixed with calculation. This also happens for entrepreneurs, their creatures (companies), managers, production organisations. As if to say: of course, rationality is there and it has to be, but it is not enough.

On the other hand, understanding how the mechanism of economic choices actually works is crucial, as is the awareness of the elements that influence the future of a market or of a business. All this however while taking into account that one of the basic assumptions of basic economic theory – rationality in choices – is in fact devoid of any foundations or nearly. It is on this particular kind of adventure that Richard Thaler set off, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2017, and who has dedicated his entire career to studying the idea (once radical), according to which economic agents are predictable individuals who are prone to making mistakes. “Misbehaving” has just been translated into Italian and it is a summary-book of his intellectual and research journey.

Thaler’s essential thought, and that of his book, is simple. Traditional economic theory assumes that individuals are rational.But from the very beginning of his research, Thaler understood that these automatons did not in any way resemble real people who reason depending on different stresses, make mistakes, get back on track, change route. It is a contrast between the Homo sapiens (amicably referred to by Thaler as Human) and theHomo economicus (whom Thaler refers to as Econ). The author writes: “Compared to the fictional world of Econs, human beings (Humans) have many anomalous behaviours, and this means that economic models generate an amount of incorrect predictions, predictions which may have very serious consequences”. The reasoning about this statement takes up the whole volume. Which is not written like an economics manual, but rather like a life story, which in some parts is amusing even. And which has an objective:

to get an academic discipline back on its feet.

Thaler’s book is therefore useful reading for all. Including for production organisations. It is no surprise, right in the last few pages of the book, that the author reveals three important steps to understand: observe, collect data, say what you think. Principles of behaviour and of investigation which also refer to businesses.

What Thaler writes is not just the glossy summary of one of the most advanced frontiers of economic analysis (which among other things draws on the very best in economic thinking, recalling also how John Maynard Keynes was among the first to “practice behavioural macro economics”), but also an adventure of thought which is addressed to everyone.

Misbehaving. The birth of behavioural economics

Richard H. Thaler

Einaudi, 2018