Caught in a Zombie / Decision Trap

My teenage son loves to play the popular video game Minecraft by Mojang AB and particularly enjoys creating hidden traps to catch friends and unsuspecting zombies!  These traps are just as well camouflaged and insidious as the traps we can encounter every time that we make a decision.  And, as with most traps, if you know what to look for, you can avoid the most devastating traps that ultimately lead to failed decisions.

A number of years ago, Harvard Business Review published (and re-published) an article titled “The Hidden Traps in Decision Making” by Hammond, Keeney and Raiffa.  These professors have teamed up on multiple articles and books on the topic of decision making but this particular article was named “Best of HBR” no doubt because of its applicability and relevant insights. 

Below are just a few of the traps detailed in the aforementioned article. Consider whether you have fallen into any of the following traps on recent or upcoming decisions:

  • Status-Quo Trap – Decision makers show a strong tendency to select options that maintain the status quo even when those options are shown to be less than optimal.
  • Sunk-Cost Trap – Once an organization has selected a course of action, the tendency will be to make future choices that justify a past choice – even when the past choice is no longer relevant.
  • Confirming-Evidence Trap – This trap causes us to seek out information that supports our preferred option and ignore or under-value information that contradicts it. (Guilty, your honor!)

So, what decision traps tend to capture you?  Have you learned the signs and developed rules for avoiding them?  If you are unfamiliar with decision traps and the steps you can take to avoid them, check out the HBR article “The Hidden Traps in Decision Making”.


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