11Megabiases that Undermine DQ

Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.

—Francis Bacon

Chapter 10 summarized the biases and traps that shape our judgment and influence our decisions. It took the traditional behavioral science point of view, which is primarily descriptive—the study of what people naturally do. That field of research has grown immensely over the past 50 years and has contributed greatly to the field of decision making. Much has been learned about the decision traps that people naturally fall into.

While behavioral psychologists have documented how individuals behave, others have been studying the behavior of organizations. Beginning with the work of Herb Simon, Jim March, and Richard Cyert, researchers have developed a theory of the firm, and other models for how decisions are made within organizations. Again, the focus of this work has been largely descriptive, characterizing what happens naturally. In combination, these behavioral sciences have created a large body of knowledge about how humans behave, either individually or in groups, when left to their own devices.

When behavioral scientists give prescriptive advice—that is, when they tell us how we should act, rather than how we naturally act—they mainly describe how to recognize and avoid decision traps that result from human biases. That is valuable, but it isn't enough to get to decision quality (DQ). No one reaches his or her destination by merely knowing where the potholes are in the road. ...

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