• ICSL

Flaws in Decision Making

G. Balasubramanian | Chairperson, Board of Advisors, ICSL | Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School


George Santyana, Poet, Philosopher and Critic observes:

We are much better in believing than seeing.


Many leaders seem to fail due to this belief syndrome. Some of the reasons for such failures can be attributed to their poor decision making process. The reasons for such incorrect and poor decisions have been analyzed by several researchers and studied.


Dr. Paul Shoemaker analyzing the organization growth and the decision- making process of its leaders attributes the following reasons for the failure of the organizational leaders:

  • Over confidence

  • Reliance on flawed estimation rules

  • Precedence for confirming over dis-confirming evidence

In a study conducted with 1290 computer industry managers with a series of questions about their industry, 95 percent were confident that they had estimated correctly while only on 20 percent of the time they were correct. The reason was attributed to their overconfidence that they knew and they should be correct.


In his book “constraints of corporate decisions” A.M Kantrow recounts a practice. In British infantry when a canon was fired two soldiers were asked to stand in attention, one to the right side of the canon and the other on the left side of the canon with one arm held upto the chest. No one knew the origin or purpose of the ritual. Investigations revealed that when canons were placed on wagons pulled by horses and fired the horses tend to move to the right or left depending on the force. The soldiers were expected to hold the horse when they move. Though horses had vanished, the practice continued for a long time. Kantrow observes that in most organizations such phantom practices continue even though the old practices have vanished. Such flawed rules are followed by leaders of organizations without being questioned.

In a study conducted with 1290 computer industry managers with a series of questions about their industry, 95 percent were confident that they had estimated correctly while only on 20 percent of the time they were correct.

Leaders also tend to decline the discomforting evidences. They do not look for evidences that will disprove the received wisdom. They refuse to agree that impossible could be possible. Established wisdom entertains them in a comfort zone and any threat to it is seen as inappropriate and an evidence of insubordination.

(Ref: Article on Organizational Renewal: Overcoming Mental Blind Spots –Dr.Paul J.H. Shoemaker- Harvard Business School)


We do face many evidences in an academic environment that our decision making process remains questionable because of the above patterns. Do you really think that in a fast moving knowledge society we possess the necessary competencies to take appropriate and correct decisions? If not, what should we do to acquire these competencies? Can we make an effort to learn from the above?

0 views
  • ICSL YouTube Channel
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • ICSL Facebook Page
  • ICSL Twitter Account
  • ICSL LinkedIn Page

International Council for School Leadership

(c) 2020 ICSL

Website developed and maintained by Reachout Services, Delhi, India