How “noise” impacts decision-making at work

10 June 2021
Latest Insights From Symmetra, Workplace



Humans are fallible. When making judgments or even when undertaking important decisions, we frequently haphazardly select information which suits our pre-dispositions. We easily rely on data which is inaccurate, inapposite or simply false. In the workplace, this deficiency leads to failures in business and talent management decisions.

One factor which negatively impacts our decision-making is bias. Authors Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstein show however that Noise is an equally pernicious element in judgment-making. In any area where a decision does not flow from strict and absolute rules, random variability occurs. Judges, doctors, loan assessors, managers and executives reach startlingly different conclusions when supplied with exactly the same data.

This result is both unfair and unacceptable when individuals at the receiving end expect decisions not to be arbitrary or capricious. Algorithms solve some of these issues but they are not perfect. Training and implementation of appropriate techniques can help to alleviate the ills of bias and noise See Symmetra Conscious Decision Making Workshops. Leaders need to orchestrate decision making processes that counteract noise and bias. This is something that every organisation needs to seriously consider when the alternative is recurring and leads to costly poor decisions.