A Bat and Ball Walk Into an Office…


By Joe Moore

A bat and a ball walk into an office. An ordinary office. Not an ordinary bat and ball story though – a puzzle.

Here is the puzzle from page 44 of Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast and slow”.

A bat and ball cost $1.10

The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.

How much does the ball cost?

I have introduced the bat and ball puzzle to many offices since June this year. I have lots of stories!

Some ask whether the $1.10 includes the GST. Others say a bat is useless without a ball – so the ball costs nothing.

The most popular response is “10 cents – but, I know it’s wrong”. Then someone else pipes up and assures them they’re not wrong.

Well, the answer of 10 cents is wrong.

It’s intuitive, the quickest answer, and wrong.

Many people smile as they say “10 cents – but, I know it’s wrong” – indicating it’s an emotionally appealing response. They’re almost saying “it’s probably wrong, but I got there easily and I’m happy with my answer”.

After I have the one or two (at the most) people who successfully solved the puzzle explain why the answer is 5 cents, the remainder of the workshop participants have an “Oh shit!” moment –  the familiar response to having the obvious pointed out after the event.

What can we learn from the response to the puzzle? Discussions about why some of us feel comfortable getting it wrong, essentially acknowledging we are not prepared to put in the effort required to still our intuition.

Easy, quick, appealing answers trump effort and quiet the nagging voice doubting the accuracy of the answer.

Sometimes though we need an accurate answer, not simply an effortless one.

Find out what happens if you do not shush your doubting, nagging voice – give it a megaphone and ask others what they think. The more uncertain you are – the more you need a better question to ask of others and not a better answer to convince yourself.

A bat and ball walk into an office. You would think one of them would have noticed. Not so much.

About Joe:  Joe Moore is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore & Associates. Joe and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders, managers and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts before they escalate into situations that are more volatile. You can read more of Joe’s posts and contact him here

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

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