Posted by: terryhowe | February 27, 2010

Human Factors of Risk: Part 2

I’ve been rereading Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Volken, Schell, and Wheeler and this is the second of two parts on the human factors of risk.  The factors that let people accept risk in the backcountry are the same factors that let them accept it in business.

  • Risky Shift Effect: Groups tend to accept risks that no individual would accept alone.
  • Communication and Empathy:  People with poor communication skills and/or little empathy may bully others into bad decisions.
  • Stress: People that perceive themselves under stress may make poorer decisions.
  • Low Self-Confidence: A person with low self confidence may not share important information with the group.
  • Unwilling to listen: An “experienced” person may be unwilling to listen to less experienced people in the group.
  • Overconfidence: An “experienced” may misinterpret data they have observed because they are overconfident in their abilities.
  • Limited Observation: Making observations of several variables and ignoring several others that can add up to a different conclusion.
  • Lack of Experience: Even experienced people may lack experience in a particular scenario.
  • Lack of Leadership: If there is no clear leader, decision making can be stalled.
  • The Big Picture: It may be easy to focus on a couple factors and ignore several small factors that can add up to a bad decision.

Of these factors the one that interests me the most is overconfidence.  I’ve seen so many times in myself and others when people gain a little experience and consider themselves “experts”.  In retrospect, we find out we were clueless.


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