Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles

Reviewed on , book by Paul C. Nutt

Extracts decision-making lessons from a series of interesting debacles in the business world. The main point here is that you set direction from objectives, not from ideas. We’re comfortable pursuing the first idea and spending all the effort evaluating this idea, in lieu of discovering alternatives that exist in the unknown. We must be more cognizant of this bias, and realize that time may be better spent discovering alternative ideas that fulfill the objective, not optimizing the same idea. We also need to realize our bias towards ideas that seem risk-free (“no-one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM”), instead of investigating the ones with very high rewards (“but has anyone gotten promoted from buying IBM?”). This point is iterated again and again with examples, and once I got 40% into the book I ended up quickly skimming through the rest and the chapter summaries because it got incredibly dry. This is an important lesson, but the book becomes more reminiscent of a report or academic paper than a practical resource for decision-making at this point. I recommend reading the first few chapters, for sure.