The Secret Life of Decisions: How Unconscious Bias Subverts Your Judgement
Making decisions is a critical part of every executive’s job. However we know so little about the often subliminal processes that shape the decisions we make. The Secret Life of Decisions exposes the unchallenged myths and distortions that impact our reasoning ability, raising our awareness of the many traps we can fall into. Meena Thuraisingham and her collaborator, Wolfgang Lehmacher, have drawn from decades of work with leaders showing that even the most talented leaders and teams can end up making sub-optimal decisions. This is rarely because they had poor critical thinking faculties but rather because they did not pay enough attention to the often invisible traps hardwired into our thinking processes, letting through only information that conforms with our current beliefs, mental models and expectations. This leaves many leaders and businesses exposed. Rather than being the rational output of our reasoning abilities, the authors show decision making to be a highly imprecise process. As decision makers we come to the table armed with our own perspectives, preferences, filters, heuristics and biases, influenced by a broad range of social influences many operating subliminally. The Secret Life of Decisions is an essential read for developing and seasoned executives who have to work through increasingly complex and high stakes decisions. It treats choosing wisely and the thinking involved as a skill, which as with many other skills, can be improved with the guided practice and supporting tools provided here. The journey however starts with awareness that comes from outing the ’secret’ forces that can sabotage the quality of our decisions.
entity and its players m e m o r i e s c a n d ec e i v e 41 and could materially influence the approach you decide to take when moving to the due diligence stage and the alertness and vigilance with which you do so. Close Up We present two real case scenarios, both of which demonstrate the impact of memory on decision making. For obvious reasons these scenarios, while keeping close to the accuracy of the circumstances, have details changed in order to protect confidentiality. Case 1 Peter
being reopened and re-litigated multiple times. While the CEO allowed the issues airtime, he was pleased at the end of the meeting that there was agreement on all key aspects of the implementation plan. Peter was not so sure. Following this meeting and as agreed with the CEO, Peter summarised the key decisions and the agreed next steps, sending the meeting minutes around to all his peers. He was careful in the minutes to ensure he did not overstate the outcomes and kept closely to the sentiment
causing him to miss many vital clues about the nature of the market he was now in and the adjustments he had to make. Christian’s decision bias Christian struggled to reorientate his thinking to the new paradigm, influenced heavily by an experience-driven frame of reference, one he had built a successful career on. It was clear that this experience was acting as a filter and influencing at a subliminal level all his business and leadership responses to his new assignment. Challenging the
extract synergy value. Still the Lazios themselves, including John, remained ‘untouched’ by this, blaming everything including competition and the oversupply of wine. The Board appeared unable to take any action against the Lazios who were majority shareholders and boardroom rifts started to occur, rumbling on for years, while Southern Horn’s reputation as a premium wine company spiralled downwards. Within five years the company had halved its stock value. John in the meantime spent an
undisclosed number of millions building a new office for himself in the UK and in SA and continued his bullying behaviour, lavish parties and company-paid holidays. Dissent was crushed and there was no one there to question his decisions. Executive meetings were progressively done away with and questions about transparency of reporting were emerging with rumours that the Lazios had enough support around the Board table now to take the company private, and rid themselves of the scrutiny of