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July 30, 2023

How Leaders Can Avoid The Complacency Trap

Complacency often manifests as an error of omission. Errors of omission are errors of inaction — the failure to make a decision or to respond to a situation. Research shows that humans have a rather significant omission bias, as we favor errors of inaction to errors of action. Errors of inaction are viewed as less blameworthy, less intentional, and less immoral than errors of commission. As a case in point, a client of mine recently declined to address an early warning sign of mistrust out of a concern that addressing it would make things worse. To compound this bias, errors of inaction are often not even noticed. Russell Ackoff, a pioneer management professor, once wrote:

"Errors of omission are horses of a different color. Decisions not to do something are seldom made a matter of record. Therefore, it is at best very difficult to become aware subsequently of the fact that a mistake was made, let alone who made it."

Omission bias influences leaders to hold back, even when intuition tells them something is amiss. Even in retrospect, it's difficult to spot an error of omission. Without a feedback loop, leaders don't just fail to act once; they fail to act time and time again until they are labeled complacent. The best leaders view errors of omission and commission as equally disruptive and detrimental.

How Leaders Can Avoid The Complacency Trap

Posted by ACASA on July 30, 2023 at 10:35 PM in Interesting | Permalink


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