Noise — A Flaw in Human Judgment

Abstract

Imagine that two doctors in the same city give different diagnoses to identical patients—or that two judges in the same courthouse give markedly different sentences to people who have committed the same crime. Suppose that different interviewers at the same firm make different decisions about indistinguishable job applicants—or that when a company is handling customer complaints, the resolution depends on who happens to answer the phone. Now imagine that the same doctor, the same judge, the same interviewer, or the same customer service agent makes different decisions depending on whether it is morning or afternoon, or Monday rather than Wednesday. These are examples of noise: variability in judgments that should be identical.

In Noise, Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein (opens in a new tab) show the detrimental effects of noise in many fields, including medicine, law, economic forecasting, forensic science, bail, child protection, strategy, performance reviews, and personnel selection. Wherever there is judgment, there is noise. Yet, most of the time, individuals and organizations alike are unaware of it. They neglect noise. With a few simple remedies, people can reduce both noise and bias, and so make far better decisions.

Packed with original ideas, and offering the same kinds of research-based insights that made Thinking, Fast and Slow (opens in a new tab) and Nudge (opens in a new tab) groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers, Noise explains how and why humans are so susceptible to noise in judgment—and what we can do about it.

Presentation Video

About the Keynote Speaker

Olivier Sibony is a professor, writer, and advisor specializing in the quality of strategic thinking and the design of decision processes. Olivier teaches Strategy, Decision Making, and Problem Solving at HEC Paris. He is also an Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

Before he was a professor, Olivier spent 25 years with McKinsey & Company in France and in the U.S., where he was a Senior Partner. There, he was, at various times, a leader of the Global Strategy Practice and of the Consumer Goods & Retail Sector.

Olivier’s research interests focus on improving the quality of decision-making by reducing the impact of behavioral biases. He is the author of articles in various publications, including “Before You Make That Big Decision,” co-authored with Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, which was selected as the cover feature of Harvard Business Review’s book selection of “10 Must-Reads on Making Smart Decisions”. In French, he also authored a book, Réapprendre à Décider (opens in a new tab).

Olivier builds on this research and on his experience to advise senior leaders on strategic and operational decision-making. He is a frequent keynote speaker and facilitator of senior management and supervisory board meetings. He also serves as a member of corporate, advisory, and investment boards.

Olivier Sibony is a graduate of HEC Paris and holds a Ph.D. from Université Paris-Dauphine.


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