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Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You Hardcover – January 6, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1422126127 ISBN-10: 1422126129 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422126129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422126127
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Think again, the authors say. They are right. Reading this book will not mean you pursue a mistake-free career. But choosing to read it may be one of your better decisions."

"Think Again ends constructively, with feasible safeguard options such as group debate, accountability, governance, and monitoring that protect one from poor choices." --T+D Magazine

About the Author

Jo Whitehead and Andrew Campbell direct the Strategic Management Centre at Ashridge Business School. Sydney Finkelstein, the author of Why Smart Executives Fail, is a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and regularly lectures on leadership and why leaders fail.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
It uses very specific examples and gives good summaries where applicable.
robert mccafferty
Given the difficult circumstances business leaders around the world are currently facing, this book is highly recommended.
M. Muth
They conclude with some very good suggestions for how to improve decision making processes in organizations.
Nicolay Worren

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By loka on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all, if you haven't read any other titles on neuro-science or decision-making, this will be a good introduction.

I gave it a 2-star rating because I have read books like: How We Decide, Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior and I found these titles more informative and engaging. If you have similar stuff on your bookshelf, don't bother reading this one.

This book tries to do 3 thihgs:
1. How we make decisions and why are we prone to making wrong decisions.
2. What are the situations under which we are most vulnerable in making a flawed decision.
3. What can we do about it.

For starters, 95% of what is written about 1. is a shallower and briefer reproduction of the books I mentioned above.

For 2., it tries to teach us how to spot "red flags" i.e. misleading experience, misleading judgments, inappropriate self-interest and inappropriate emotions. (Which, I think, could be summarized in one word: biases). Basically, it says that we have to beware of our biases, which are generated from our previous experiences and emotions, because they work subconsicously.

For 3.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Diego Azeta on May 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The authors of "Think Again," impeccably credentialed and versed in management strategy, are eminently qualified to scrutinize the performance of executives and senior managers in making organizational decisions. In their book they discuss numerous cases involving high-ranking decision makers. It is quite sobering, though not at all surprising, to see so many atrocious decisions consistently being made by people who are supposed to be masters of that craft. Evidently, these professionals are nowhere near as proficient as they are usually deemed to be. In view of the prevalence of this situation, it is hard to avoid concluding that, on the whole, top decision makers are no better at doing their job --making the right decision-- than would be a randomly selected employee drawn from the ranks of their own organization. Even more troubling is the fact that no other professional field of endeavor seems to suffer from such an appalling condition.

The book tackles this disconcerting problem by proposing a framework which consists of three parts: a description of how our brains make decisions and how it can be tricked into false judgments, an explanation of four posited conditions under which flawed thinking is likely to happen, and a set of safeguards prescribing how to counterbalance the four sources of error. The brain is presented as a pattern recognition apparatus that employs emotional tagging and one-plan-at-a-time processing to make sense of what's going on in the world and devise a response to the perceived challenges. Most of that processing, however, is conducted beyond the realm of consciousness, so the hapless (and ostensible) decision maker is in an extremely weak position to question the validity of the brain's verdicts or its torrent of neural decrees.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Selden on June 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Most leaders make bad decisions. Even great leaders can make bad decisions." The introduction to "Think Again" leads with this statement. The authors Fnklestein, Whitehead and Campbell then proceed to show why. Most importantly, they provide a framework for recognising when such bad decisions may occur and how to safeguard against such decisions.

The book is in three parts - How your brain makes decisions; Why decisions go wrong; and Red flags and safeguards (for recognising and preventing bad decisions).

Part 1, reviews much of the research and current thinking on how the brain works. One particular point of interest that the authors note, is our propensity to tag all our major decisions with emotional tags - tags which can and often do, override rational thinking.

Part 2 chronicles many of the wider known decisions that have proven to be wrong, such as Kennedy's Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, Wang Computers' disastrous (the company now no longer exists) decision to opt for their own proprietary operating system rather than adopt the industry IBM PC standard, and Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax debacle. But the authors also provide many case studies of practising managers who have made mistakes in areas such as change management, taking on new roles, and new product or production processes etc. These should prove most insightful to managers at all levels.

All of the cases in Part 2 are used to illustrate the four reasons for bad decision making - misleading experiences, misleading pre-judgments, inappropriate self-interest and inappropriate attachments. The authors describe these as potential "red flags". In addition to cases, the authors describe a number of studies to demonstrate their point.
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