What Were They Thinking? Unconventional Wisdom about Management
Author: Jeffrey Pfeffer
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Date Published: July 2007
From the Publisher:
The research question for this study was, “What are the cognitive or emotional mechanisms that enable people to pursue strategy that is contrary to their stated goals, even in light of evidence that suggests that their strategy is failing to achieve those goals?” The phenomena under study were people in systems that pursued strategies contrary to their desired goals. The people under study were driven by activities contrary to their own self-interest–until massive failure occurred. An examination of each of these cases revealed what the participants were thinking as they rushed to their own demise. The study identified 6 patterns of thinking that were present in the cases. These error-prone patterns were the magic answer, tyranny of the immediate, strategic inertia, strategic muddling, wooden-headedness, and invulnerability. A common fundamental error was found to underlie each of the patterns. The fundamental error was the denial of complexity–reducing the complex issues into simplistic perspectives that hamstrung their stated goals.