In this post I will be drawing upon the work of Kahneman, Lavallo and Sibony (2011) in how to find dangerous biases before they lead to poor-decision-making. Developing the skills to to appraise and critically judge the trustworthiness and relevance of multiple sources of evidence is a critical element of evidence based practice. Kahneman et al identify a number of specific biases, questions and actions which could be used to improve the rigor of decision-making. These have been summarised and adapted and in the following table.
Avoiding Biases and Making Better Decisions - A Checklist - Summarised and adapted from Kahneman, Lavallo and Sibony (2011)
|Is there any reason to suspect that the team of individuals making the recommendation are making errors motivated by self-interest?
|Review the proposal with care
|Has the team fallen in love with its’ proposals?
|Apply the check-list
|Were there dissenting opinions, were these opinions fully explored?
|Discretely obtain dissenting views
|Could the diagnosis be overly influenced by an analogy to a memorable success?
there other analogies?
How similar are this and other analogies to the current situation?
|Are credible alternatives included with the recommendation?
|Request additional options be provided
|If this decision was to be made again in a year’s time, what information would you want and can you get more of it now?
|Develop checklists of available information for different types decisions
|Do you know where the numbers came from – are there unsubstantiated numbers – have they been extrapolated from historical data?
|Check the figures against other models, are there alternative benchmarks which can be used for analysis.
|Is the team assuming that a person, organisation or innovation which is successful in one area will be just as successful in another?
|Eliminate false inferences- seek alternative examples
Ask about the proposal
|Overconfidence, planning fallacy, optimistic biases, competition neglect
|Is the base case overly optimistic?
|Have outside views been taken into account?
|Check for disaster neglect
|Is the worst case bad enough?
|Conduct a pre-mortem to work out what could go wrong
|Check for loss aversions
|Is the recommending team overly cautious?
|Realign incentives to share responsibility for the risk or remove the risk.
How could this check-list be used to improve decision-making within educational settings?
- Ensuring the check-list is applied before the action is taken which commits the school or college to the action being proposed.
- Ensuring the decision-check-list are applied by a member or members of staff who are both sufficiently senior within the school/college, whilst at the same time is not part of the group making the recommendation. Separation from recommenders and decision-makes is desirable and which has implications for governance and leadership.
- Ensuring the check-list is used in whole and not in parts and is not 'cherry-picked' to legitimate a decision.
Kahneman, D., Lovallo, D and Sibony, O. (2011) Before you make that big decision ... Harvard Business Review, June 2011