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Management Mistakes in Strategic Decision-Making

Understanding the thinking mistakes, many of them completely unconscious, that lead to business difficulties
  • Overview

    In both Industrialised Countries and in Developing Countries, business plans fail at an extraordinary rate. For

    example, companies spend more than $3 trillion on acquisitions every year, yet the M&A failure rate is between 70% and


    The fundamental point behind this course is that, neuroscientists say, 95% of our thinking is actually unconscious – that is, we’re not even consciously aware that we’re processing thoughts.  Further, neuroscientists argue that we also take thinking “shortcuts” – heuristics, more of less “rules of thumb” – to save us the tiring labour of thinking through lots of matters thoroughly and carefully. The problem, from the point of view of corporate decision making, is that these unconscious rules of thumb often mislead us. Board members and Executive Management regularly commit cognitive mistakes, often with disastrous consequences.  

    Cognitive scientists now believe that there are, extraordinarily, almost 200 unconscious cognitive biases. A prominent example, for instance, is groupthink, when the desire for harmony or for comformity in a group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision making outcome. After the 2008 Financial Crisis, for instance, government reports in four different countries – the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, and Iceland – traced an important element in the banking crisis to be groupthink on the Boards of Directors of even prominent, well-established banks. 

    The course deals with a number of the most prominent thinking mistakes, but, beyond that, commentary is included both on a number of industry examples and also cultural experiences in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as the Industrialised World.

    Who should attend? 

    • Board Directors and Senior Management
    • Corporate Counsel
    • Institutional Investors
    • Divisional Heads and Line Managers
    • Risk and Compliance Managers
    • Corporate Lawyers

    Course Highlights

    — Analysing the mistaken thinking processes that lead to business failures

    — Understanding the many unconscious cognitive biases

    — Implementing Strategies for Overcoming Organisational and Personal Biases

    — Case studies of a range of industries in the Industrialised World and in Developing Countries   


    Session 1: Mistakes Abound: A Survey of Common Business Mistakes

    • Mistakes in Business
    •  How many businesses, large and SMEs, fail each year?  
    • The vast majority of transformation projects fail

    Common Failures

    • Financing hurdles
    • Product introduction
    • Failure to keep up with changing market  conditions
    • Mergers & Acquisitions

    Case Studies: Failed product launches; failed M&A deals

    Session 2: GROUP EXERCISE #1: Learning About Our Own Thinking Processes

    Session 3: Mistakes Created by Faulty Thinking Processes

    • Recent research in Behavioural Corporate Finance has shown that systematic mistakes, and unconscious biases, are surprisingly common in managerial decision making

    Case Studies: How Kodak lost its direction; Why did the Airbus A380 fail to take off?

    Session 4: Examining Heuristics: What Are the Unconscious Thinking Mistakes That Cause Trouble or, Worse, Business Failures?

    • Our unconscious thinking processes save us time and energy
    • But the unconscious thinking processes come with a cost: unconscious biases we are not even aware that we have
    • The prominent groups of unconscious biases are related to: Belief  - belief formation and reasoning processes; Memory – biases that either enhance or impair memory recall; and Social -  biases that affect or are affected by social relations

    Session 5: Cognitive Errors: The Anchoring Effect: “Even Irrelevant Numbers Influence Our Decisions!”

    • Understanding the Anchoring Effect
    • Experimental Findings
    • The Significance of Anchoring in Retail, Marketing, and in Business Negotiations

    Case Study: The Anchoring Bias in showroom sales


    Session 6: Cognitive Errors: The Priming Effect: Influenced by More Irrelevant Stimuli

    • Understanding the Priming Effect
    • Experimental Findings
    • Colours have priming effects too
    • The power of priming in marketing
    • The impact of priming in commercial mediation

    Case Study: The Priming strategies of famous brands

    Session 7: Cognitive Errors: Confirmation Bias

    • Understanding Confirmation Bias
    • Experimental findings
    • The types of confirmation bias: biased search for information; biased interpretation of information; biased memory recall of information

    Case study: the phenomenon, the appeal, and the consequences of “fake news”

    Session 8: Cognitive Errors: Hindsight Bias: “I knew it all along!”

    • Understanding Hindsight Bias
    • Experimental findings
    • The relevance of hindsight bias in financial decision-making and in marketing

    Case Study: Media reporting of Cisco’s rise, fall, and turnaround:  the prudence of trusting media reports?

    Session 9: Cognitive Errors: The Overconfidence and Optimism Biases

    • The Value of Self-Belief: Mohammed Ali – “I’m the greatest!”
    • Understanding the related biases of overconfidence and optimism
    • Experimental findings
    • The sometimes misguided decision-making of business bosses

    Case Studies: The Overconfidence bias: jumping to conclusions; the Optimism bias and planning fallacies: over budget and over time

    Session 10: GROUP EXERCISE #2: Do National Cultures Influence Thinking Processes?

    Session 11: Cognitive Errors: Gender Bias

    • Understanding Gender Bias and issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
    • Experimental findings
    • Growing diversity across societies and organisations
    • Gender differences and psychological responses towards risk

    Case Studies: The #MeToo Movement: Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East

    Session 12: Cognitive Errors: The Availability Bias

    • Understanding the Availability Bias
    • Experimental findings
    • How the media influences our perception of the frequency and significance of events
    • The influence of the availability bias in business: managerial decision making; workplace performance appraisals; retail store locations; the behaviour of shoppers

    Case Study: The influence of the Availability Bias on investment decisions


    Session 13: Groupthink

    • Understanding Groupthink
    • Experimental findings
    • The conditions that lead to groupthink
    • Groupthink across cultures

    Case Study: The influence of Groupthink on leading banks during the Financial Crisis

    Session 14: Authority Bias

    • Understanding Authority Bias
    • Experimental findings
    • Cultural differences in the significance of authority figures: Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East

    Case Study: CEO “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap and Decision-Making at Sunbeam

    Session 15: The Halo Effect

    • Understanding the Halo Effect
    • Experimental findings
    • The significance of the halo effect in hiring and in marketing
    • The significance of the halo effect on Boards of Directors

    Case studies: The halo effect in the fashion industry; Media coverage of the World’s Most Admired Companies: What should we believe?

    Session 16: Consistency Bias: Self-Serving Reasoning -“Mistakes were made, but not by me!”

    • Understanding Consistency Bias
    • Experimental Findings
    • Self-Serving Bias in negotiations
    • Self-serving bias in the workplace

    Case Study: The practice of “scapegoating” in failed projects

    Session 17: The Status Quo Bias: Companies Benefitting from a Lack of Attention

    • Understanding the Status Quo Bias
    • Experimental findings
    • The power of the status quo bias in decision-making
    • Customer default options as a strategy

    Case Study: Retirement Savings Plans


    Session 18: Strategies for Overcoming Personal Biases

    • The damage to business interests caused by unconscious personal biases
    •  Who me? Creating the awareness of unconscious biases
    •  Using Artificial Intelligence to investigate suboptimal investment decisions
    • The new strategy of “nudging” employees to encourage more desired behaviour: office design; encouraging healthier eating and lifestyles, with an impact on productivity; changing default settings in options; pension saving; influencing choices by making desired behaviour changes both attractive and easy
    •  Debiasing training courses

    Session 19: Strategies for Overcoming Organisational Biases

    • The destructive force of organisational biases
    •  Basic improvement strategies
      1.  Building a critical thinking culture
      2. Gathering viewpoints privately
      3.  Doing a “premortem
      4. Appointing a “red team”
      5. Choosing from a complete set of alternatives
      6. Adopting where possible a policy of nudge management: improving the efficiency of meetings; improving efficiency in planning; improving task  efficiency; improving knowledge sharing
      7.  The advantages of nudge management strategies

    Session 20: Strategic Management Tools to Minimise Mistaken Thinking

    • The Balanced Scorecard
    • Gap Analysis
    • VRIO Analysis
    • SWOT Analysis
    • Porter’s 5 Forces
    • PESTEL Analysis
  • Our Tailored Learning Offering

    Do you have five or more people interested in attending this course? Do you want to tailor it to meet your company’s exact requirements? If you’d like to do either of these, we can bring this course to your company’s office. You could even save up to 50% on the cost of sending delegates to a public course and dramatically increase your ROI.

    If you want to run this course at a location convenient to you or if you want a completely customised learning solution, we can help.

    We produce learning solutions that are completely unique to your business. We’ll guide you through the whole process, from the initial consultancy to evaluating the success of the full learning experience. Our learning specialists ensure you get the maximum return on your training investment.

  • We have a combined experience of over 60 years providing learning solutions to the world’s major organisations and are privileged to have contributed to their success. We view our clients as partners and focus on understanding the needs of each organisation we work with to tailor learning solutions to specific requirements.

    We are proud of our record of customer satisfaction. Here is why you should choose us to help you achieve your goals and accelerate your career:

    • Quality – our clients consistently rate our performance ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’. Our average overall score awarded to us by our clients is nine out of ten.
    • Track record – 10/10 of the world’s largest banks have chosen us as there training provider and we have delivered training across the largest banks and have trained over 25,000 professionals.
    • Knowledge – our 100+ strong team of industry specialist trainers are world leading financial leaders and commentators, ensuring our knowledge base is second to none.
    • Reliability – if we promise it, we deliver it. We have delivered over 25,000 events both in person and online, using simultaneous translation to delegates from over 99 countries.
    • Recognition – we are accredited by the British Accreditation Council and the CPD Certification Service. In an independent review by Feefo we scored 4.2/5 on service and 4.7/5 on Coursecheck
This course can be run as an In-house or Tailored Learning programme


  • Dennis Driscoll


    Dennis Driscoll is an international lawyer.  He is the former Dean of the Law School at the National University of Ireland (Galway).  At Galway, he was the Chairman of an annual workshop, designed for in-house legal counsel, on the legal problems of multinational companies.  He has also been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University and Peking University Law School.  For the past decade, he has given training programmes on CSR/Corporate Governance to more than 500 companies in Europe and in Emerging Markets, especially in China.  He is the author of the forthcoming study International and Comparative Corporate Governance.



The course will take place at a central London hotel. The map attached details some of our most frequently used venues.