In the January 2009 issue of the HBR, authors Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein describe why good leaders can sometimes make bad decisions. Key quote of the article: “Our brains leap to conclusions and are reluctant to consider alternatives; we are particularly bad at revisiting our initial assessment of the situation(p.86)."
The authors offer three compelling unconscious reasons/distortions from neuroscience:
--Self Interest—if inappropriate, always distorts and corrupts decisions.
--Misleading Memories—subconscious pattern analysis sometimes sees what’s happening as the same pattern we’ve seen before, but that’s not always the case and gets us into troublesome decisions.
--Distorting Attachments—we fall in love with ideas, people, and places, which can become infatuations that take us down a road of infatuation that clouds judgment.
The authors point out “red flags” to look for. Here are just a few of the many they offer; :
--Lay out all options.
--Consider the principal decision maker—and assess his/her possible self interests, misleading memories, and distorting attachments (I have my clients always appoint a “devil’s advocate” for all major decisions. It can be a person or a team, but it/they keep the process honest).
--Consider anyone else whose opinion holds great weight in the decision- making process and consider his or her self interest, misleading memories, and distorting attachments.