A recurring theme in this column is the presence of various cognitive biases in us humans and how often they affect our decision-making in Fantasy Premier League (FPL). Being aware of these biases is only the first step to managing them however and, given that we are usually talking about mindsets that have rooted and evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, not succumbing to them is often easier said than done.
While there are many strategies for managing our cognitive biases, one fundamental yet extremely effective one is the checklist. Checklists are not just for remembering what you need from the supermarket or codifying the things you should (but probably won’t) do at work this week, they’ve been used to radically improve safety records in everything from airplanes to factories to hospitals and so on.
Might they also help you make better FPL decisions? Let’s see.
What is a Checklist?
A checklist, in case you don’t know, is a method and practice of recording information as a means of compensating for our limited ability, as humans, to remember stuff and to pay attention. The idea of a checklist is that you follow the items step-by-step and/or cross off each item once the required action is complete.
Checklists can be a motivational tool, sometimes they encourage us to get things done simply by their mere existence and they simplify tasks by breaking them down into sections. They can improve performance and efficiency, allowing the application of a systematic method to whatever it is we need to get done. Finally, as mentioned, they can also help us circumvent some of our deep-rooted cognitive biases.
Some examples of the impact of checklists include the World Health Organisation’s surgical care checklist which, after its introduction in 2001, reduced surgical complications by 36 percent and the rate of hospital deaths by 47 percent in just its first year of operation.
Checklists have also been adopted by the air travel industry where they have been credited with substantially decreasing the number of air crashes since their introduction in the 1980s. Not only do they help cabin crews remember important things like shutting the doors to the plane properly, they also reduce the impact that social conventions and hierarchical status can have on airplane safety.
In his book ‘Outliers’, author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell describes how the poor safety record of a particular Korean airline was partially attributed to co-pilots being unwilling to question their more senior pilot colleagues, to the point that, on at least one occasion, a co-pilot was actually willing to allow the pilot to fly the plane into the side of a mountain rather than break social and hierarchical norms by pointing out that he was about to fly into the side of a mountain. Checklists systematised much of the airline’s cockpit activity, thus effectively removing this power imbalance and dramatically improving their safety record.
If you’d like to read more about the topic of checklists in general, I’d recommend ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande which is considered by many to be the core text in this area. Meanwhile, we’ll move on to the important stuff; how checklists might help improve your FPL decisions.
The first area of benefit to point out relates to memory. It is said that the average human mind can only really remember 5-9 items at a time, which isn’t a lot when it comes to making complex decisions.
Realistically, if you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you already have at least a decent idea of how to play Fantasy Football and you have probably accumulated some dos and don’ts based on your experience of the game to date. The problem is, it’s not always easy to remember all of these principles when you make a transfer, choose a captain or decide whether to Wildcard. The result is that we often make mistakes in FPL that end up being all the more frustrating due to the fact that we feel we knew not to make them.
The process of consulting a checklist before making an FPL decision means that you won’t have to worry about remembering your golden rules and, furthermore, you’ll get the opportunity to look at the decision in the context of these rules, which might be enough to make you think twice if you find it breaks too many or to help you choose which of two options might be the best.
If you’re the sole manager of your FPL team, hierarchy won’t be an issue in a literal sense but, in a more abstract sense, checklists can help combat two frequent enemies of good FPL management; ego and overconfidence.
If you are a successful FPL manager, it is not unreasonable for you to trust your instincts when it comes to Fantasy Football decisions, but it can be dangerous to make decisions based on instinct alone. Equally, if things are going well for you, it is easy to become overconfident and start to believe that everything you touch will turn to FPL gold. Most of the time, we don’t realise that we’ve grown overconfident until we’re looking back, searching for a reason why things haven’t gone so well.
However good a manager you are, effective decision-making requires a degree of rigour and self-awareness. Checklists offer a timely reminder of this when we likely need it the most. As rapper Ice Cube once said; “Chickity-check yo self before you wreck yo self”, though it remains a matter of some debate whether he was talking about FPL specifically.
Another common challenge of FPL managers is impulse control. If you’ve had a bad Gameweek, it’s hard not to hit the Wildcard button or take a points hit (or 12) and unnecessarily overhaul your team as a response. Equally, if you’re falling behind your rivals, it is tempting to play a chip to try and close that gap as soon as possible. If you’re excited about a match or a particular fixture, you might impulsively play your Triple Captain chip and, of course, there’s the classic ‘knee-jerk’ where you sign a player you probably shouldn’t have just because they had a really good Gameweek.
Checklists can provide objective criteria against which to measure the viability of these decisions and, merely by providing that buffer between impulse and action, they can help avoid a spur-of-the-moment decision that you might live to regret in the not-too-distant future.
Checklists; are they boring? Yes. Are they useful? Also, yes. Checklists can help compensate for our limitations in terms of memory, ego and impulse control and, thus, employing them as part of your FPL decision-making process has the potential to dramatically improve your Fantasy decision quality.
But what makes a good checklist? And how should they best be used? These are questions I’ll address in my next article as well as sharing the ‘Transfer Decision Checklist’ I have drafted and which I’ll be using to guide all my transfers this season. Until then.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM GAMEWEEK 4
- Saturday summary in brief
- Crystal Palace 3-0 Spurs: Son injury update after Gallagher shines
- Arsenal 1-0 Norwich: How new-look Gunners fared in Gameweek 4
- Brentford 0-1 Brighton: Bees defence impresses despite defeat
- Leicester 0-1 Man City: City defence back to its best
- Man Utd 4-1 Newcastle: Ronaldo’s 13-point debut assessed
- Southampton 0-0 West Ham: Antonio banned for Gameweek 5
- Watford 0-2 Wolves: Semedo and Marcal’s FPL appeal assessed
- Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa: Villa attack causes Chelsea defence trouble
- Leeds 0-3 Liverpool: Alexander-Arnold hauls again as Leeds defence suffers double blow
- Everton 3-1 Burnley: Calvert-Lewin ruled out for two to three weeks