Harvard On Forecasting

1 Dec

There is an outstanding, and extensive, resource available on the Harvard University website dedicated to one of my favourite research subjects, Affective Forecasting, by Wilson and Gilbert (the link appears below). I’ve covered Affective Forecasting multiple times on this blog, across various contexts. So, in order to provide a primer for anyone interested in exploring this topic further and clicking the link, I’ll attempt to briefly revisit Affective Forecasting from an organisational perspective.

One of the downsides of having large amounts of experience in a specific domain is that sense making can become fixed (Klein, 2007 for examples). If an experienced decision maker has a run of success, their critical insight is put at risk. This means success can diminish the capacity to draw a conclusion, and then critically analyse that conclusion with questions such as “how could I be wrong? What else could be at play which I might have overlooked?”. The result is that the past and present is projected into the future, uncritically, and used to forecast an outcome or future condition. And this is affective forecasting crudely expressed, a current emotional state is used to predict a future emotional state.

If time pressure and competing demands are added to the mix, then the past is more likely to become a proxy indicator of what will happen in the future (see Weick and Sutcliffe, 2007, Kahneman, 2011, Taleb, 2013 for examples). This has all sorts of consequences for decision making.

Experienced organisational decision makers, should work hard to maintain critical insight despite current demands and pressures. For example, If a leader affectively forecasts and is operating with a non-critical team, then decision traps such as group think can easily take hold.

As the source material will reveal, methods such as encouraging critical reflection on organisational decisions before execution, and consulting someone or a team who has lived your intended future to broaden the frame of reference can prove effective. I’ll leave Wilson and Gilbert to explain the rest.

Link to Wilson and Greening on Affective Forecasting


Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Klein, G. (2007) The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Currency

Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in and Age of Uncertainty, Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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