Friday, July 17, 2015

Were We Lucky or Smart?

Eric J. McNulty, Director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, has written a highly useful blog post for Strategy+Business.   He examines outcome bias and how to overcome it.  Outcome bias, put simply, is the tendency to evaluate a decision (or set of decisions) simply based on the result.  In other words, if the outcome is positive, people assume that good decisions were made, and that an effective decision-making process was employed.  If the results are less than desirable, people presume that  the parties involved made faulty decisions and engaged in a flawed decision process.    Of course, that need not be the case.  We sometimes achieve great results despite some poor choices and a flawed process.  Similarly, we sometimes experience poor outcomes despite having made sound decisions.  How do we overcome outcome bias?  McNulty has a simple question that should be considered when great results are achieved:  Were we smart and capable or were we simply lucky?  By asking about the role of luck, we get people to consider the role of external and/or uncontrollable factors that may have contributed to our success.  It causes us to look beyond ourselves and to look beyond the simple explanation that our wonderful capabilities led to success. 

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