No matter how well educated and thoughtful we aspire to be we are all prone to a variety of unconscious psychological biases and errors. Knowledge workers, whose raison d’être is to make good decisions are just as vulnerable to this as the rest of us, although the implications of poor decision-making can be magnified.
Psychologists have been aware of the significant strengths and potential pitfalls of human decision-making for decades, despite this much of this knowledge has only recently begun to filter into the corporate domain, where its application can really make a difference.
Raising awareness and understanding of the potential problems cognitive bias can cause is an important and necessary first step to bringing about behavioural change but it needs to be accompanied by systemic interventions designed to improve the decision-making process through enhanced openness and scrutiny, while drawing on a diverse range of opinion.
There is already widespread recognition amongst professional service firms that certain routine tasks can now be performed more accurately and efficiently by computers that use complex algorithms in order to work out what to do in a given situation. Alongside this, the value of the skills required to perform such tasks is being undermined, meaning firms that are committed to preserving their profitability need to increase their investment in developing those skills which cannot easily be replaced by computers. High-end judgement-based skills are a prime example of this.