Chaco Canyon Consulting

Cognitive Biases and
Workplace Decision-Making


Most of us don't realize how many decisions we make every day, because we make so many decisions outside our awareness. And most of us believe that when we make decisions, we make rational decisions. Not so. Cognitive biases are tricks of the mind that help us make decisions more quickly — and often, less rationally. We can improve decision quality by becoming more aware of our decisions and more aware of cognitive biases.


For most of us, making decisions is a large part of what we do at work. Some people are called "decision makers" and they do indeed make decisions. But what many don't realize is that the rest of us make decisions constantly — and these decisions do matter. When you're choosing a name for a variable or subroutine while writing a program, or choosing your words while talking to a customer, or participating in a debate at a meeting, or writing an agenda or invitation list for a meeting, or even deciding what to do next, you're making decisions.

We tend to believe that, for the most part, we make our decisions rationally. We'll admit that when stressed or hurried, we might not make our most rational decisions, but otherwise, we decide rationally.

That is a mistaken belief.

Cognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Making

Cognitive Biases and
Workplace Decision-Making

Very few of our decisions are purely rational. Almost all decisions are subject to a range of non-rational influences that psychologists call cognitive biases. They affect the quality of our decisions, and most of the time, we're unaware of their influence.

In this eye-opening yet entertaining program, Rick Brenner serves as a guide through the fascinating world of cognitive biases. He'll introduce the concept and survey some of the more common cognitive biases, showing how they can affect the decisions we make at work. And most important, he'll give concrete tips to help you control the influence of cognitive biases on those decisions.

After you're introduced to this vital and still-growing field of knowledge, you'll have more awareness of the limitations of your decision-making practices. You'll learn how to improve them by dealing with the effects of cognitive biases, and you'll learn how to structure group decision-making to improve the quality of decisions your teams make.

This program helps people who make decisions. As it turns out, that's just about everyone in the knowledge-oriented workplace. Participants learn:

  • What a cognitive bias is
  • What differentiates cognitive biases from bigotry
  • How some specific cognitive biases are defined, how they distort decisions, and what can be done to avoid that distortion
  • How to recognize what kinds of decisions are susceptible to which cognitive biases
  • How cognitive biases affect group decisions
  • How to check for cognitive biases
  • How to distinguish cognitive biases from groupthink
  • How to organize the "cognitive bias zoo"
  • How to recognize the devious uses of cognitive biases for manipulating decisions
  • How to prevent manipulative use (abuse) of cognitive biases

Participants learn to appreciate the true challenges of dealing with cognitive biases. Most important, they learn strategies and tactics for limiting their effects, or, having discovered that a cognitive bias might be playing a role, how to intervene to enhance decision quality.

Program structure and content

We learn through presentation, discussion, exercises, simulations, and post-program activities. We can tailor a program for you that addresses your specific challenges, or we can deliver a tried-and-true format that has worked well for other clients. Participants usually favor a mix of presentation, discussion, and focused exercises.

Based on attendee interest, topics will include, for example:

  • What a cognitive bias is
  • Definitions of specific cognitive biases
  • How cognitive biases affect decision-making in various domains, for example:
    • Conversation
    • Debate
    • Requirements analysis
    • Policy development
    • Performance evaluation
    • Design
  • Recognizing the effects of cognitive biases
  • Interventions
  • Educating teams about cognitive biases
  • Next steps: strategies for applying what you've learned about cognitive biases

Whether you're a veteran of workplace decision making, or a relative newcomer, this program is a real eye-opener.

Learning model

When we learn most new skills, we intend to apply them in situations with low emotional content. But knowledge about how people work together is most needed in highly charged situations. That's why we use a learning model that goes beyond presentation and discussion — it includes in the mix simulation, role-play, metaphorical problems, and group processing. This gives participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations. And it's a lot more fun for everybody.

Target audience

Decision makers at all levels, including managers of global operations, sponsors of global projects, business analysts, team leads, project managers and team members.

Program duration

Available formats range from 50 minutes to one full day. The longer formats allow for more coverage or more material, more experiential content and deeper understanding of issues specific to audience experience.

Currently scheduled public events
Here is a currently scheduled public event for this program:
Portland Country Club, 11 Foreside Road, Falmouth, ME 04105: May 21, 2015, Monthly Meeting, Maine Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
 

If you would like to observe this event to help you evaluate the suitability of this program for your organization, please contact me to inquire whether VIP admission is possible.

Photo credit: barefootliam.

Rick BrennerWhether you're a decision maker or someone about whom other people make decisions — or both! — the right coach can make a difference in your life. I might be the right coach for you. Call me, Rick Brenner, at (866) 378-5470 for a no-cost informal chat. Sign up in November and receive two hours as a bonus. Check it out!
What People Say About Rick's Programs
  • "Rick is a dynamic presenter who thinks on his feet to keep the material relevant to the group."
    — Tina L. Lawson, Technical Project Manager, BankOne.
  • "Rick truly has his finger on the pulse of teams and their communication."
    — Mark Middleton, Team Lead, SERS
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