Hidden Traps in Decision Making case

| July 21, 2019


Case Writing: 5 pages

– Introduction: Thesis Statement, what’s the case about, How the case approach (Problem, Illustrated), Flow of the case

– Main concept illustrated in the case

– Current situation: Summarized margin issues, use focus to support issues

– Idea Situation: Why with idea, related theory from power point.

– Talk about each concept: name concept, defined concept, provide fact to demonstrate of concept

– Way to get there: alternative solution (Strength, weakness)

– The best way: why

– Conclusion/Summary: how do the concepts present help us understand the case, the issues in the case and decisions that need to be made and tell reader what they just read.



Introduction. 2

Main concept illustrated in the case. 3

Why dealing with fear of failure is an acceptable solution: Support from theory. 5

Conclusion. 6

References. 7


In the process of making decisions, one can easily make disastrous judgments simply because of being at the mercy of the strange ways in which the human brain operates. Various decision-related traps need to be identified and avoided in order to avert negative consequences that may threaten the survival of the business organization. Before making the right decision, every prudent manager should evaluate the circumstance in which the business organization is in. He or she should avoid making the mistake of defending their decisions against unlikely outcomes.

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The thesis statement in this paper proposes that all hidden traps in the decision making process are caused by the tendency for fear of failure among business managers. By avoiding this fear, the manager can succeed in avoiding these traps and making the right decisions. This paper illustrates the main concept illustrated in the case authored by Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006), titled The Hidden Traps in Decision Making. It also provides a summary of the situations illustrated in the case.

From this analysis, the appropriate idea is identified and reasons for its acceptability presented. Support for this idea is obtained from theory, and it is followed by a discussion of various concepts as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, the best way of avoiding hidden traps in decision making is identified. The paper concludes by shedding light on how the concept is helpful in helping to improve the prevailing understanding of the case by Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006).

Main concept illustrated in the case

The main concept discussed in the case is that of hidden traps in decision making. The case highlights the various ways in which the hidden traps occur and what can be done to overcome them. One way is through the anchoring trap. Anchoring is a mental phenomenon, whereby the human mind accords disproportionate weight to the very first information it gets access to. In other words, subsequent thoughts and aspects of judgments are anchored on initial estimates, data, or estimates.

The aspect of hidden trap in anchoring arises because of the fact that anchors tend to take many guises. For instance, they may take the innocuous form of a comment made by a friend or a piece of information presented as a front headline in a newspaper. The case by Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006) posits that in the world of business, most anchors take the form of a past trend or event. For instance, a marketer may attempt to project product sales on the basis of sales volumes in previous years. Savvy negotiators are aware of the fact that anchors provide an excellent basis on which certain decisions are made. For this reason, they use them as a tactic during the bargaining process.

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According to Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006), there are several ways of avoiding the influence of anchoring. One of them is viewing the problem from various perspectives. A decision maker who avoids the first line of thinking that comes to mind is likely to overcome the pitfalls of anchoring. Another solution is to think deeply about a problem by oneself before considering the opinion of others, thereby avoiding becoming anchored by their suggestions. Being open-mindedness also helps in ensuring that one only asks for information that broadens his frame of reference.

Another way for the manifestation of pitfalls in decision making is the status-quo trap. This trap thrives because of the reality that every decision maker carries biases that influence the choices that he makes. These biases manifest themselves in the tendency among decision makers to prefer alternatives that facilitate the perpetuation of the status quo. Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006) point out that this trap thrives in part because errors of commission tend to be punished more severely than errors of omission.

The case provides several actions that one can take to overcome the status-quo trap. One of them is reminding oneself of the objectives ahead and how best they would be served by maintaining the status quo. Moreover, one should never at any one time regard the status quo as the only alternative. Additionally, it helps if one refrains from exaggerating the costs involved in dismantling the status quo.

The third hidden trap, which is also among the most common ones, is the sunk-cost trap, in which case the decision maker makes choices in a manner that justifies his past choices. The decision maker pursues these choices even when they no longer appear valid. The corporate culture of a business organization may promote the sunk-cost trap. Managers who are afraid of being severely punished for delivering unfavorable outcomes may let failed projects continue dragging in the hope that positive results will somehow be achieved in the course of time. Business stakeholders may have to listen to people who were not involved in making the decision its inception to get an objective view of the best course of action.

With regard to the confirming-evidence trap, decision makers decide on what they want to do before deciding on why they want to do it. Naturally, such people end up being subconsciously drawn to ideas that render support to their subconscious leanings. Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006) argue that to deal with this trap, one has to check whether the evidence under examination is being subjected to equal rigor. Moreover, getting a trusted confident to argue robustly against the decision helps establish a more objective approach.

Other traps include the framing trap, the estimating trap, and the forecasting trap. The framing trap thrives on the tendency by people to be influenced by the way the problem is framed in making choices. A crucial solution to this problem is to always frame the problem with different reference points in mind. As for the hidden traps that manifest themselves through estimating and forecasting, the solution lies in refusing to automatically accept the initial frame as well as posing every problem in a neutral way.

Why dealing with fear of failure is an acceptable solution: Support from theory

There is ample theoretical evidence to show that by overcoming fear of failure, a manager can succeed in coming up with a planned strategy. In such a situation, the manager is able to deliberately follow up on the strategy, leading to the realization of the specific goals. Failure to conquer fear may lead to unprecedented change, which brings about unrealized strategy. Some of the objective decisions that can be made in a fear-free environment relate to customer groups customer needs, and distinctive competencies. To arrive at these decisions, two methods may be used: devil’s advocacy and dialectic inquiry.

The main strength of using a devil’s advocate is that objectivity is easily achieved. The devil’s advocate has to endeavor to bring out as many reasons as possible that might bring to the fore aspects of unacceptability in the proposal. However, this success depends on a proper choice of the devil’s advocate. In dialectic inquiry, the main weakness is that the success of decision making depends on how well those arguing out the thesis and antithesis parts understand the issue under analysis.

From this discussion, the best way forward in dealing with the fear of failure is to select a close confidant to play the role of the devil’s advocate. This devil’s advocate helps the decision maker in arriving at objective judgments. This contributes to the realization of functional-level strategy. In decision-making theory, the aim of functional-level strategies is always to improve the effectiveness of the operations of a company. This effectiveness is increased whenever decision makers avoid various hidden traps in the procession of making decisions.


In conclusion, this paper has explored the concept of hidden traps in decision making as presented in the case by Hammond, Keeny, & Raiffa (2006). The hidden traps highlighted include the anchoring trap, status-quo trap, sunk-cost trap, confirming-evidence trap, framing trap, estimating trap, and forecasting trap. In all these hidden traps, an element of fear of failure is discernible, which prevents the decision maker from arriving at the best decision. The concept of devil’s advocacy presents the best solution for addressing the fear of failure as demonstrated in the case. By achieving objectivity and making the right decisions, a manager in a business organization can easily succeed in actualizing all functional-level strategies.



Hammond, J., Keeny, R., & Raiffa, H. (2006). The Hidden Traps in Decision Making. Harvard Business Review,  1-10.

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