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Psychology for Enterprise Architects

        posted by , September 12, 2012

This is not exactly news — people aren't perfectly logical. We all have emotions and biases that influence decisions and judgments. As Enterprise Architects, it is useful to understand a few common cognitive biases and how they tend to impact EA.

Irrational Escalation

The tendency to throw good money after bad — increasing commitment based on previous losses.
EA example: sunk costs influencing architectural decisions

Neglect of Probability

The tendency to disregard probability when making judgments and decisions.
EA example: rejecting a architectural approach because of perceived security risks (despite the risk being low)

Mere Exposure Effect

Dislike of the unfamiliar.
EA example: resistance to new strategies

Omission Bias

Viewing harmful actions as much worse than equally harmful inaction.
EA example: living with architectural problems for fear of being punished for a failed attempt at fixing them.

Hyperbolic Discounting

The tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs.
EA example: when tactical approaches are preferred to strategic


The urge to disagree just to assert oneself.
EA example: difficulties getting buy-in for architectural decisions — even when they plainly make sense.

Semmelweis Reflex

The tendency to reject new evidence that contradicts a well accepted paradigm.
EA example: architectural paradigms take decades to change.

Unit Bias

The tendency to want to finish a given phase of work or task.
EA example: continuing with a project everyone knows is doomed.

Zero-risk Bias

The urge to reduce the probability of a small risk to zero — no matter how high the cost.
EA example: excessive focus on security and audits.

Ambiguity Effect

Avoiding options that entail a small degree of uncertainty.
EA example: plan-up-front and big bang approaches

Availability Cascade

Repeat something enough and it becomes true (or at least people start to believe it).
EA example: successful EA teams employ marketing techniques such as sound bites

Optimism Bias

The tendency to be overly optimistic about the outcome of one's plans.
EA example: unrealistic business cases

Ostrich Effect

Ignoring the obvious.
EA example: ignoring obvious business and technology gaps

Well Travelled Road Effect

Underestimation of familiar tasks and overestimation of unfamiliar tasks.
EA example: contributes to resistance to change

Disregard of Regression Toward the Mean

Expecting exceptional events to continue.
EA example: over spending on IT in a good financial year and deep cuts in a bad financial year

Endowment Effect

People demand more to give up something they already have then they would be willing to pay to acquire it.
EA example: when retiring a legacy system users may demand excessive features for the new system.

Similar articles: Psychology for Leaders: 38 Point Cheat Sheet

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