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Decision Without Blinders

  • Date Submitted: 07/24/2010 03:34 PM
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Decisions without blinders

by Max H. Bazerman and Dolly Chugh
Harvard School of Business
Lecture review

Executives tend to be unaware of the feelings—both positive and negative—that
their direct reports have about them. Knowledge of the positive emotions feels good, but
ignorance of the negative emotions can create a blinder that engenders other problems.
Unwittingly, executives condition their people to tell them what they want to hear, even
when what they need to know differs. You shoot just one messenger, and the other
messengers get wind of it. The chances of you hearing bad news, much less conflicting points of view, diminish in direct proportion to the number of messengers in your wake.
      In their article, “Decisions Without Blinders,” Bazerman and Chugh examined bounded awareness, a phenomenon that occurs when cognitive blinders prevent a person from seeing, seeking, using, or sharing highly relevant, easily accessible, and readily perceivable information during a decision-making process. Bounded awareness can
happen at various points in the decision making process when decision-makers don’t
gather relevant data, consider critical facts, or understand the relevance of the information
they have. It can happen later when these decision makers don’t share information with
others, thereby bounding the organization’s awareness. Most decision-makers fail to
notice the specific ways in which they limit their own awareness, but failure to recognize
those limitations can have grave consequences.
        Systems thinkers have given us a useful metaphor for a certain kind of blinding
behavior in the phenomenon of the boiled frog. The phenomenon is this. If you drop a
frog into a pot of boiling water, it will frantically try to leap out. But if you place it gently
in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the
water gradually hearts up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, and before long,...


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