Your Guide to Avoiding Decision-Making Traps in Crisis Management

Best Practice Guide

First – the facts about decision making in a stress context

Let’s face it, decision making is hard. It’s hard in any context, but especially difficult in crisis when stress is high, and the brain and body go haywire. All of those factors conspire to make crisis decision making more irrational – yes, irrational.

Early research on this subject confirmed that subjects under stress generally failed to consider all possible options before making a decision. The result being: decisions turned out to be less systematic and more hurried than those made under normal conditions. Sound familiar?

In fact, subsequent research shows that we’re barely scratching the surface, when it comes to how stress impairs our decision-making capacities. Case in point: we now find that under the broad banner of ineffective decision making falls a more targeted class of decision derailers, a concept introduced by experts in business resilience and continuity, Guy Higgins and Jennifer Freedman.

Like the name implies, decision derailers are barriers to rational decision making. They are, by definition, behaviors that
get in the way of effective decision making. Decision derailers tend to be acute in practice, which means a team’s decision-making strengths won’t necessarily compensate for derailing behaviors. So it’s particularly important for crisis practitioners, who undertake decision making under the most stressful of situations, to fully understand decision derailers and adopt mitigation strategies to overcome the worst effects of those derailers. We’ve, therefore, pulled together a
pocket guide to help crisis teams do both.

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