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Joy Wilson

Spectrum Training services

Learning and Development Consultant

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Dodgy Decisions – When your reality check bounces


Why do managers want to or fail to see some things and not others? What are the filters that screen, cloud, and distort their reality?

Perception is our manufacturing process it leads to an output or product.  In this case the product is a decision, judgment, a conclusion we reach about a situation.  The process of thought involves all the steps that take us to that conclusion.

We all receive a constant supply of data from our senses; we extract clues from our environment at work, an environment cluttered with people, machines, and noise. We cannot pay attention to everything that is happening around us only some of the information leading to decisions can be processed usually spontaneously without reflective thought.  Often this leads us to rely on plausibility or what is believable and appearing likely to be true to help us to judge and make a decision.

Individuals seem to spontaneously expect and welcome events or inputs which conform to expectations influenced by their personal characteristics, personality and those life experiences which have been rewarded or punished in the past. These subconscious expectations are like a hypothesis that helps us to make assumptions that such-and-so will naturally occur.

In this assumptive world, an individual selects those relevant bits of sensory data from the immediate environment which influenced by previous experience has been identified as useful in some way. This data process works negatively as well to filter out of a situation those realities that the individual’s previous experience suggests are not useful.

We see what we expect or want to see and we filter out what we do not want to see

Consequently, plausible decisions are made in the absence of proof and facts yet, plausible accounts of a situation are often good enough, comfortable and acceptable for managers to act upon.

To avoid the many problems associated with perceptual distortions, managers must consciously withhold evaluative judgments about events and situations and focus upon obtaining additional data often this involves confronting situations that they do not want to see. When managers focus upon the pattern into which these events fit that they can begin to understand the situation. This is called taking a functional point of view and it requires withholding speculative judgments until clear verification of the facts relating to the situation are feasible

Managers who recognise those personal influences that distort their view of the world have a stronger base for decision making and that critical small edge over their peers and competitors.  Fact is the only material that can be presented in an entirely non-dogmatic way. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong in his or her facts.

And so, this reflection leads me to recent situations which involve impaired judgement and a failure to check on reality and the magical poem that follows is dedicated to:

The British Government, Police and Press – (if) the cap fits!
The guy who stepped over the woman who collapsed at the airport in Qatar – what! Don’t tell me – you didn’t see her?
The three distorted idiots in Jordan
The manager who completely over reacts to a mistake made by an employee – get a grip on reality!

A Mouth was talking to a Nose and an Eye.
A passing listening Ear
Said, Pardon me, but you spoke so loud,
I couldn't help by overhear."
But the Mouth just closed and the Nose turned up
And the Eye just looked away,
And the Ear with nothing more to hear
Went sadly on its way.
Poem by Shel Silverstein poem by. You can find it in the fabulous book A Light in the Attic

Ensure your decisions are based on fact - make smarter critical decisions with our problem Solving & Decision Making Training Course Download available here:

Author Profile Picture
Joy Wilson

Learning and Development Consultant

Read more from Joy Wilson

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