Bad decisions – why do clever people get it wrong?

Politicians, people of commerce, top academics – all wrapped in years of training, bolstered by even more years of experience, and surrounded by experts – and more often than not they simply get it wrong.

British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, cut the reserve army training budget, at a time when the British military is fully stretched. The decision was revoked after 2 weeks. How many banks tried to expand through acquisition, just as others were warning of the impending credit crunch? The world is still waiting for an explanation why there were no tsunnami warning stations in the Indian Ocean, while they existed elsewhere. And who will forget the impresarios who refused to book the Beatles in the early 1960s, because groups with 3 guitarists and a drummer were considered passe?

It would seem that everyone of us could add another story to the list, by merely recounting what we have heard in a meeting today. But have you ever asked yourself why – why does it happen so often, by different people, many of them just bright and decent individuals?

The Harvard Business Review gives us a peep at some of the reasons.

  • Organisations often place too much power with individuals, who do not confer with others.
  • In parallel, few people allow themselves to be part of a system, which analyses how decisions are made.

The article lists 3 types of approaches to this mayhem.

  1. Identify and prioritise decisions
  2. Assess the resources needed to carry out each decision
  3. Management intervention: No, not a contradiction – but a professional phrase of writing “make sure that the task is carried out properly, and on time”. Amazing how many people forget to check that small thing!

The internet is full of silly stories of awful supervisors at work. We can laugh at silly ways to get around moronic bosses, who are often decent and home loving.

Much of this is all to do with employing elementary communication skills. Yet , if we are to be honest, many of us fail regularly here. We do not seem able to learn nor do we institute a system of checks and balances.

Obvious? Probably, but we just don’t do it.

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One Comment on “Bad decisions – why do clever people get it wrong?”

  1. Michael Horesh Says:

    The most common mistakes managers make – 10 very obvious comments, but still the mistakes keep going around. http://www.theage.com.au/small-business/coaching/the-most-common–mistakes-managers-make-20090911-fkia.html


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