Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Hindsight Bias

    Posted 04-03-2019 10:11 AM
    Hello everyone,
    I was wondering how one would manage hindsight bias while learning things and applying them in design/field/coursework?

    As engineers, we work on hundreds of projects in our lifetime. How can we overcome the sense of overconfidence and/or overestimation of our judgement and understanding of a problem? I know having experience and mentoring are a few ways to go about it. But, what would be the right "mantra" to follow?

    Case studies and examples are welcome!

    Aditya Deshmukh EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Staff Geotechnical Professional
    Geo-Technology Associates, Inc.

  • 2.  RE: Hindsight Bias

    Posted 04-10-2019 08:19 AM
    The only way to develop good judgement is through experience.  No two projects are exactly alike.  Even if your current project appears to be easy or routine, it should be given the same consideration of all items that you encounter. 

    As license professionals we are considered the authority and expert charged with safe design.  You are expected to provide answers during meetings.  "I don't know" is not an answer.  "I will get back to you" or "I will check into it" are acceptable answers.  Always be firm and try not to contradict yourself.  That said, be humble and listen to everyone's concerns.  You want to be perceived as prudent and cautious, not overconfident and ruthless.

    Keep in mind, that your highest priority is public safety.  This is never something that should be taken lightly.  

    Listen to your gut.  If a design makes you uncomfortable, find out why.  Conventional design is easy to recognize and makes you feel at ease.  You will likely be confident in your approach.  Unconventional designs will make you nervous and they should.  Ask if this design meets basic stability requirements, has been done before, or is its concept missing something?  Spotting things you are unsure about is more important than knowing all the strengths and values of all the components.

    Many engineers work alone in a 1 person practice.  Do they know everything?  Are they expert engineers who are infallible?  Talk to some of them!  You will find that they are humans who have questions, problems, and concerns... just like students!  They need to attend continuing education classes, too!  They will also likely have a network of colleagues who they frequently call for help!  And a book shelf full of resources!  ASCE can help you build this network and library.  The biggest danger in engineering is not asking for help or having a second set of eyes check your work.  It is upon you to recognize your limitations and project yourself as a competent professional who is willing to work as part of a team.

    Chad Morrison, P.E., M.ASCE
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207

  • 3.  RE: Hindsight Bias

    Posted 07-28-2019 09:29 AM
    Excellent advice Chad, that I have habitually linked just a bit differently.

    One sign of an expert is the professional who states "I don't know but  I will check into it and will get back to you." 

    One of my favorite questions when someone answers something to the effect, "Yes, this is the right way to go," is 
    HDYK?. . . .How Do You Know?

    This is a particularly sticky, challenging question to some of the more 
    experienced folks who are used to just "Getting on with it."
    But more than a few times, it caused them to check back, and then change their "Right way to go."


    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880