Risky Business: unlocking unconscious biases in decisions

Author Anna Withers and Mark Withers
Book discussed 26 October 2016
Review by Andrew Parrock

“Risky Business” provides a practical framework to make us more aware of, and consciously address, over one hundred unconscious thinking biases, so we can make better decisions. It’s easy to dip in and out if you don’t have time to read it cover-to-cover.The author’s “R.I.S.K framework” groups thinking errors into four categories, each with two memorable “characters”:

Relationshipswith people, things and ideas:
Author – fills in gaps when we are faced by the unfamiliar.
Knight- defends the attachment we have to people, things and ideas.

Self-Interest:
Gambler-overestimates the upside and underestimates the downside of risks.
Butler- leads us to behave in ways that we believe a more powerful person wants us to behave.

Short-Cuts:
Judge- attributes greater significance to the person or information that has captured our attention.
Captain- selects information that supports an earlier decision, and ignores data that contradicts it.

Knowledge– biases from learned and valued specialisms:
Archivist- extrapolates from past experience and applies old solutions to new problems.
Prisoner- seeks solutions only from within the boundary of our particular worldview.

The authors describe 10 thinking tools that if used systematically, will increase the chance of mitigating the biases.The R.I.S.K Framework can be applied to ourselves, to teams and to organisations. The book’s last section is aimed specifically at very senior leaders looking to create organisational cultures that encourage people to make effective decisions. This practical handbook provides realistic methods people can learn to use to improve their personal crucial decision-making. The book is very readable and shows how ideas pioneered by Kahneman and Tversky (“Thinking Fast and Slow”) can be applied in practice.

Buy it. Read it. Use it.

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