Using Design Thinking to Address Escalating Commitment Risks in Decision-making


Plan-continuation bias (PCB) is the cognitive tendency of an individual to continue with an existing plan, even if one or numerous factors threaten the plan or indicate it is no longer viable. In aviation, this bias is colloquially known as “get-there-itis” and has caused pilots to make harmful decisions causing preventable crashes. The purpose of this study was to apply design-thinking (DT) methods to better understand decision-making aspects that can lead to PCB and escalation of commitment (EoC) in a management setting. The DT strategies were employed across six phases: 1. Problem tree analysis, a technique for brainstorming and analyzing causes and effects of EoC and stakeholder mapping completed by the research team; 2. Interviewing a sample of 10 participants with management experience and engaging them with a what’s on your radar exercise where they simultaneously brainstormed ideas and mapped them on a board by importance and context; 3. Affinity clustering by the research team to organize phase one and two into themes; 4. A creative matrix completed by participants based on the findings from phase one and two; 5. Prototyping of a Quick Reference Guide (QRG), a short document explaining a set of ideas, featuring the research/results up to that point by the research team; and 6. Participant critique of the QRG. Solutions included understanding and addressing psychological, sociological, and contextual elements that contribute to cognitive biases and ultimately impact decisions. Keeping an open mind is more complex than individual behavior and requires tailoring an environment that is supportive.


Tim Cooke
Student, Master of Fine Arts, Radford University, Virginia, United States

Joan Dickinson
Professor, Design, Radford University, United States Minor Outlying Islands, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Management and Professional Practice



Digital Media


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