Are You Reliable and How Do you Know?

Submitted By:
Sarah Shepherd, Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

Noise: How to Overcome the High, Hidden Cost of Inconsistent Decision Making by Daniel Kahneman, Andrew M. Rosenfield, Linnea Gandhi and Tom Blaser
Harvard Business Review, October 2016

As educators and school leaders, our roles frequently involve spontaneous judgments that are guided by our philosophy and past experiences. Kahneman et al. express concern with such practices, primarily because humans are unreliable decision makers. Studies show that professionals often make decisions that deviate significantly from those of their peers, from their own prior decisions and from the guidelines of the organization, thus creating “noise.” A distinct concept from bias, noise has financial consequences; educators will see that there are also ethical, pedagogical and organizational concerns. For example, the analysis of inconsistency is especially poignant for its relevance regarding building high quality relationships. Unpredictability can be detrimental to the construction of trust and belonging in a classroom and to the decisions that teachers routinely make. For administrators, it can jeopardize the integrity of leadership structures. The article suggests several remedies, such as conducting a noise audit to investigate the quality of decisions being made or adopting procedures that promote mission-based consistency ensuring that employees use similar methods to “seek information, integrate it into a view of [a] case and translate that view into a decision.” Training, clearly, is critical. Better decisions are made not only by reducing biases, but also by enhancing the consistency of mission-driven behavior.

Teaching Practice
Leadership Practice
Psychology & Human Development