How groups make risky decisions

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The South East branch was delighted to welcome 'The Risk Doctor', David Hillson, to their latest branch event; this being the 8th Alan Webb memorial lecture. Branch members gathered at Rowfant House in Crawley for the presentation on Wednesday 9th July 2014.

There are many influences when groups make decisions, especially when the decision is perceived to be both risky and important. These influences can be summarised in the “triple strand” of conscious, subconscious and affective factors.

This presentation reports on recent research which has revealed the main drivers of group behaviour in these situations. Understanding and managing these drivers allows groups to make good decisions – find out how. An expanded emotional literacy framework is proposed to enable groups to make good decisions by understanding and managing the underlying influences on group risk attitude.

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How groups make risky decisions

  1. 1. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 1 How groups make risky decisions Presented by Dr David Hillson The Risk Doctor The Risk Doctor Partnership david@risk-doctor.com www.risk-doctor.com
  2. 2. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 2 Acknowledgement The ideas and concepts in this presentation were developed jointly with Dr Ruth Murray-Webster See www.RARA-risk.com
  3. 3. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 3 What’s the problem? Everyone has to make decisions Personal, private, professional … All decision-making is risky and important Decision process/outcomes are uncertain Decision process/outcomes matter
  4. 4. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 4 Sounds familiar ? Risk can be defined as “uncertainty that matters” Can risk management help decision-making? Human element is essential in both RM and DM All risk is managed by people All decisions are made by people Groups are more complex than individuals Multiple influences on group decision-making Link risk management & decision-making through risk attitude
  5. 5. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 5 Two-part solution Understand so we can manage Need to understand & manage: 1. Risk attitudes 2. How decision-making groups operate
  6. 6. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 6 Understanding “risk attitude”
  7. 7. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 7 “Risk Attitude” = “Risk” + “Attitude” Attitude: “Chosen response to given situation” Risk: “Uncertainty that matters” Both are affected by perception “What is the situation?” “How uncertain is it? How much does it matter?” Risk attitude: “Chosen response to uncertainty that matters, influenced by perception” Many levels: individual, group, society, nations… Exists on a continuous spectrum
  8. 8. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 8 RISK SEEKING RISK AVERSE RESPONSETOUNCERTAINTY The risk attitude spectrum – + RISK TOLERANT RESPONSETOUNCERTAINTY – + All images from FaceTrace™ © Copyright BrainJuicer 2006
  9. 9. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 9 What influences perception? “Triple strand” Conscious factors (situational assessments) Subconscious factors (heuristics and cognitive bias) Affective factors (feelings and emotions) … together influence perception & risk attitude “Triple strand” is copyright © 2007 David Hillson & Ruth Murray-Webster
  10. 10. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 10 Conscious factors Make your mind up Rational decision-making Measurable criteria Situational aspects
  11. 11. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 11 Heuristics = “Rule of thumb” / “Gut feel” Individual availability, anchoring, confirmation trap… Group groupthink, risky shift, cultural conformity… Cognitive biases Familiarity Level of relevant skill/knowledge/expertise Manageability Possibility of control or choice Proximity Closeness of risk in time or space Propinquity Potential for direct consequences Subconscious factors
  12. 12. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 12 Affective factors Feelings, emotions, instincts & intuition How do I feel? BEHAVIOUR WONDER DESIRE
  13. 13. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 13 Understanding how groups operate
  14. 14. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 14 Possible influences on decision-making groups Individuals in group with various levels of power Group dynamics Decision context Organisational culture Wider environment Societal norms National culture
  15. 15. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 15 Are these factors all equal?  “Ripples in pond ” hypothesis:  Influence directly proportional to propinquity  “How much does it matter to me/us?” (closeness)  Closer to decision = stronger influence  Two-phase research to test 1. Rich interpretative analysis of real decisions (x 8) 2. Web-based survey (x 281) [Ref: “Managing Group Risk Attitude” by Ruth Murray-Webster & David Hillson, pub. Gower 2008]
  16. 16. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 16 Research results a b c d e f g h a b c d e f g h 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 Normalisedrankingscore Strength of influence score (Q5) Mean ranking score (Q6) Two distinct groups: Primary (a-e), Secondary (f-h)
  17. 17. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 17 Research results Primary factors a Individuals with high power b Individuals with high propinquity c Organisational culture d Decision context e Group dynamics Secondary factors f Individuals with low power g Societal norms h National culture a b c d e f g h a b c d e f g h 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 Normalisedrankingscore Strength of influence score (Q5) Mean ranking score (Q6)
  18. 18. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 18 Five primary factors Closer analysis: Two co-equal “lead influences” Linked by group dynamics Secondary factors less influential Stakeholders with highest power and propinquity Situation Decision context underpinned by organisational culture Group Dynamics (the bridge)
  19. 19. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 19 “Bow wave” not “Ripples” Lead influences (primary) first … … followed by supporting influences (secondary)
  20. 20. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 20 “Bow wave” not “Ripples” Directionoftravel Primary factors 3. Group dynamics 1. Lead influence: Either (a) stakeholder factors Or (b) situational factors 2. Supporting influence: Either (a) situational factors Or (b) stakeholder factors Secondary factors
  21. 21. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 21 Implications Group behaviour is mainly influenced by: Either a strong leader, who can supersede situational factors (context & culture), with group dynamics following the leader; Or strong situational factors, with influential individuals adapting to fit, with group dynamics following the context & culture
  22. 22. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 22 Bringing it all together
  23. 23. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 23 How groups make risky decisions Wide range of influences on DM groups Stakeholders, Situation, Group dynamics Risk attitudes affect individuals & group Influenced by “triple strand” Complex! Difficult!! Important!!! Addressing risk attitudes can help, leading to optimal decision-making
  24. 24. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 24 So much for understanding, what about managing?
  25. 25. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 25 Managing risk attitudes Key: Risk attitudes are chosen Can be modified if necessary Yes, but how? Use techniques from emotional literacy
  26. 26. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 26 Basic Emotional Literacy 1. Recognise emotions  …and acknowledge them as entirely natural 2. Understand emotions  Why do I/we feel them, do they help or hinder? 3. Appropriately express emotions  …in a way that supports my/our objective 4. Deal with emotions  Don’t have to be a victim The Four As Awareness Appreciation Assertion Action
  27. 27. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 27 A good start, but… The Four As can apply to group decision-making … but they are not the whole story Need to be Aware of group behaviours and influences (especially primary factors) … and Appreciate why they are happening … then Assert the need for change … and take appropriate Action to achieve it REALLY ? ALWAYS ???
  28. 28. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 28 From Four As to Six As Assertion and Action not always required Sometimes unmanaged situation is fine Need to Assess whether change is needed If not, can Accept status quo (and monitor)
  29. 29. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 29 The Six As Model Assessment Assertion & Action Intervention required Acceptance Intervention not required Awareness & Appreciation of Stakeholder factors Situational factors Group Dynamics Monitor&review Monitor&review
  30. 30. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 30 Practical steps – 1 Seek awareness of: Self and others in decision-making group (levels of power and propinquity) Situational aspects (organisational culture, decision context) Group dynamics, including “triple strand” influences Facilitation can promote awareness and uncover bias in a non-threatening way
  31. 31. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 31 Develop appreciation of stakeholders & situation Empathy for others’ point of view Confidence in your own perspective Understanding of decision context Knowledge of organisational culture Practice makes perfect Mentoring/coaching & honest feedback can help Practical steps – 2
  32. 32. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 32 Risk is not managed by robots but people Decisions are not made by robots but people Human psychology is major influence in both Risk attitudes are key And finally …
  33. 33. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 33 Awareness & Appreciation Assertion & Action Acceptance Assessment or And finally … Group decision-making is risky & important Complex web of influences Research indicates set of primary factors Stakeholders, situation, group dynamics Managed risk attitudes are vital Modified emotional literacy offers framework The Six As Model
  34. 34. © 2008-14 The Risk Doctor Partnership, Slide 34 For further information: Dr David Hillson The Risk Doctor Partnership Tel +44(0)7717.665222 david@risk-doctor.com www.risk-doctor.com www.RARA-risk.com

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