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How To Make Experience Count for Something

November 17, 2014| Von Mo Tooker | L/H General Industry, P/C General Industry | English

I talked about "snap and stick behavior" in my last blog post: how the decision making process can be wrecked by participants not taking on board the multiple perspectives available to them. I also explained the way Gen Re’s people are working to change the way they behave in meetings to eliminate what’s termed the confirmation bias (or first conclusion bias).

This time, in a similar context, I want to discuss our work on the part that experience and expertise play in decision making.

We take it for granted that as risk professionals we constitute an industry of experienced experts - the intellectual capital of our people is one of the most important ingredients in the mix when it comes to creating effective re/insurance products.

But how does experience relate to expertise? Or more precisely, how does experience ultimately become expertise?

The natural way for us to encode insights from experience into long-term memory is to store a summary of the gist of what happened and tag it with information about how the experience made us feel, along with some specific representations of the stand-out features of the experience.

It’s really a casual approach to encoding learning from experience that doesn’t capture sufficient cause and effect detail.  It’s dangerous because this long-term memory attached to potentially incorrect or misleading data can leave us open to making bad decisions in the future.

At Gen Re we’ve decided that conducting post-mortems on significant decisions is one way of deriving sharper expertise from shared experiences. Using what we’ve learned from the latest neuroscience around decision making, we’re starting to introduce a debriefing framework into the decision making process.

We think that by analyzing the root cause of an outcome we should be able to make some improvements to the process itself.

So now debrief meetings involve participants sharing what went well and what didn’t go so well to make sure that we crystallize, document and codify the detail of the learning experience. If decision makers absorb their lessons more deeply during a debriefing, we think they will retrieve a more reliable version at a later date.

We continue to extract additional learnings from our introduction of debriefs.  We look forward to having a more in-depth conversation with you about how the Human Element impacts your organization.


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