Archives For Decision making

In a series of occasional posts on this blog, I’ve discussed some of the pitfalls of heuristics based decision making as well as the risks associated with decision making on incomplete information or in an environment of time pressure. As an aid to the reader I’ve provided a consolidated list here.

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Racing the Devil

21/03/2011

This railway crossing near miss due to a driver ‘racing the devil’ is, on the face of it, a classic example of the perversity of human behaviour. But on closer examination it does illustrate the risk we introduce when transitioning from a regine of approved operational procedures to those that have been merely accepted or tolerated.

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As the latin root of the word risk indicates an integral part of risk taking is the benefit we achieve. However often times decision makers do not have a clear understanding of what is the upside or payoff.

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One of the current concepts in decision making theory is that of bounded rationality. In essence we (humans) try to act rationally but are constrained by the limits of time and information on our decisions. So if we make decisions in this way what are some useful, ‘tools of the trade’ that can guide our decision making?

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So why is one in a million an acceptable risk? The answer may be simpler than we think.

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Disappointingly the Black Saturday royal commission report makes no mention of the effect of cognitive biases upon making a ‘stay or go’ decision, instead assuming that such decisions are made in a completely rationa fashion. As Black Saturday and other disasters show this is rarely the case.

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One of the positive outcomes from a disaster such as Black Saturday is that a window of opportunity opens in which opinions, behaviour and even public policy can be changed.

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