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)
|Self-interested biases||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|
|Affect heuristic||Has the team fallen in love with its’ proposals?||Apply the check-list|
|Groupthink||Were there dissenting opinions, were these opinions fully explored?||Discretely obtain dissenting views|
|Saliency bias||Could the diagnosis be overly influenced by an analogy to a memorable success?||Are
there other analogies?|
How similar are this and other analogies to the current situation?
|Confirmation bias||Are credible alternatives included with the recommendation?||Request additional options be provided|
|Availability bias||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|
|Anchoring bias||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.|
|Halo effect||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