Questionmark report explores the consequences of ill-informed decisions

TRUMBULL, CT USA – February 20, 2020 – Questionmark, the leading provider of enterprise-grade assessment software, has released a report on why decisions matter.

When it comes to decisions we make at work, most of us can point to the occasional mistake we would rather forget.  However, as a report released today by Questionmark shows, some workplace mistakes are destined to go down in history.

The report highlights seven ill-informed business decisions.  Some, such as Excite’s decision not to buy ‘overpriced’ start-up Google for just $750,000, were caused by a failure to spot the evolving trends of their sector.  Others, such as the infamous 1999 Mars probe crash, were triggered by basic and avoidable mistakes.

  • Math mayhem destroys Mars probe – in 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter hit the planet’s atmosphere and burst into flames.  After 10 months in space and a budget of $125million, its failure resulted from one simple mistake.  During the design phase, the probe’s speed had been calculated in metric units.  When building the thrusters, however, the engineers programmed the speed in imperial measures.
  • Google fails to Excite – by the late 1990s, Google was making headway.  But not everyone saw its potential.  Early internet pioneer ‘Excite’ was offered the chance to buy Google for just $750,000.  Their decision to decline is surely one they regret.
  • Blockbusters spurns Netflix – compared to the old-fashioned and poorly run local video store, Blockbusters appeared to be a symbol of modernization in the 90s.  Unfortunately for them, the world was already changing.  In 2000 they turned down the chance to purchase a small ‘mail-order’ internet start-up called ‘Netflix’.  In 2013, they closed their doors forever.
  • Motorola’s not-so-smart call – smartphones may be all but ubiquitous in 2020, but their emergence was a trend that, some argue, Motorola’s futurologists failed to spot.  Despite being a leading player in the mobile market, Motorola chose to prioritize alternative innovations.
  • A Kodak moment to forget – the beloved camera brand was the first to innovate and understand digital technology.  However, they chose not to use it.  Despite making early advances, they lacked faith that it would ever deliver a quality that would satisfy consumers.  The business left the technology in the lab and for others to pioneer.
  • Aon fails to insure against bribery – in 2009 the insurance company was fined £5.25million for failing to establish an effective anti-bribery system.  At the time, this was the biggest ever fine levied by the FSA.  Regulators were unimpressed that they had insufficient processes and had failed to test staff on their knowledge of counter-bribery procedures.
  • UK publishing industry fails divination – the rest of the decisions on this list reflect poor judgement by individual companies.  However, in the 1990s almost the entire publishing industry famously failed to judge the marketability of the world’s most famous wizard.  Twelve publishers turned down J.K. Rowling’s submission for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ before Bloomsbury finally took a chance on the risky project.  Today the Harry Potter franchise is worth $25 billion

Lars Pedersen, CEO, Questionmark, says: “Most ill-fated workplace decisions avoid the history books.  But there are parallels between the failures which hit the headlines and the more common errors that occur day-to-day. 

“Decisions matter.  So, the decision-making process should be informed and defensible.  Our report explores how organizations that are serious about getting the best out of their people and process need to be serious about assessment.  That way employers and employees can learn, adapt, and improve the decisions that matter the most.

“Read our report to understand these ill-fated decisions and the more common mistakes organizations make.”

The cost of poor decisions

Poor decision making comes at a tangible cost.  Not only is performance weaker but the risks of compliance failure are higher.  Regulators continue to show their teeth with considerable fines levied on financial services ($300bn since 2009), US utility businesses ($20bn since 2000) and US pharmaceutical companies ($38bn since 2000).

The report highlights that staff assessments make a real and lasting difference to an organization’s performance.  Studies show that after introducing assessments, 58% of companies see an increase in employee retention, 58% in productivity and 60% in customer satisfaction.

For more information on the impact of good decision making, the consequences of bad decisions and how staff assessments can drive business performance, download the full report.