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Guide to Decision-Making: Getting it more right than wrong by Helga Drummond

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5 Conspiracies of optimism: group dynamics

“How could we have been so stupid?”

John F. Kennedy

ST BENEDICT ENJOINS ABBOTS TO TAKE COUNSEL. His rules recognise that some decisions are too important to be left to individuals. Yet groups frequently make bad decisions. The World Health Organisation (WHO) works through a committee structure with elaborate checks and balances. Yet it seriously overestimated the probable death toll from SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and swine flu. For instance, it advised countries to plan for a worst-case scenario of 7.5m deaths from swine flu. By mid-2010, the final death toll was below 18,000, compared with the normal global death toll of 500,000 from ordinary influenza. Countries that listened to the ...

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