On Thursday 14 January 2016 Nick Benschop will defend his PhD thesis entitled 'Biases in Project Escalation: Names, Frames & Construal Levels'. Supervisors are Professor Kirsten Rohde, Professor Harry Commandeur (both Erasmus School of Economics) and Professor Mark Keil (Georgia State University) and his co-supervisor is Dr. Arno Nuijten (Erasmus School of Economics). Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Professor Aurelien Baillon (Erasmus School of Economics), Professor Eric van Heck (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Professor Egon Berghout (Faculty of Economics & Business, University of Groningen).
About Nick Benschop
Nick Benschop was born on January 29, 1987 in Gouda. He graduated cum laude for his M.Sc. degree in Economics & Informatics, with a specialisation in Economics & ICT, from the Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2011. His interest in (research on) escalation of commitment and biases was formed during the master seminar on IS project escalation. This seminar was hosted by Dr. Arno Nuijten who later became his master thesis supervisor as well as the copromotor for this dissertation. While still a student, Nick submitted his master thesis research to the 2011 Bled e-Conference in Bled, Slovenia. His research was accepted into the main conference, which gave him his first experience of what performing research and being part of a scientific community was like. After this visit to Slovenia, the choice was quickly made to pursue a career in academics.
In 2011, shortly after obtaining his M.Sc. degree, Nick started his PhD research at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. During his time as a PhD student, he discovered his passion for teaching and was involved in several courses related to information systems, behavioral economics and project management/escalation at the Erasmus School of Accounting & Assurance (ESAA), the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) and the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). Nick attended and/or presented his work at several conferences such as European Conference on Internal Audit and Corporate Governance (IACG) and the European Conference of Information Systems (ECIS). His work has been published in several conference proceedings and in Management & Organisatie (M&O). As a PhD candidate, Nick went on three research visits to the Georgia State University in Atlanta. There he met with Prof. dr. Mark Keil whose work sparked his initial interest to do research. These research visits led to collaboration on several studies in this dissertation. Prof. Keil provided invaluable support and feedback and has since become Nick’s third promotor. Nick currently serves as a lecturer and researcher and the Erasmus School of Accounting & Assurance (ESAA).
Abstract of 'Biases in Project Escalation: Names, Frames & Construal Levels'
Many information system (IS) projects are unable to meet their targets or even fail completely. Decision makers in these projects unfortunately aren’t always perfectly rational and they may be prone to biases which can lead to irrational decision making. As a result of such biases, project escalation can occur where resources continue to be devoted to a failing project.
In this dissertation, several biases are studied which thus far have remained (mostly) unexplored as causal factors of project escalation. Results from three studies indicate that both project names and construal levels can bias decision makers and that they can increase the likelihood of project escalation. A fourth study applies a previously known causal factor of escalation, framing, in a novel manner. The findings suggest that there is a strong link between the framing of managers and their view of a project.
Combined, the studies demonstrate that factors which at first sight may seem innocent or unimportant are quite capable of influencing the likelihood of project escalation. In fact, even factors that are completely unrelated to the project itself also appear to be capable of influencing project decision making indirectly. These findings underline the importance of not only focusing on characteristics of the project and the organizational context but also on the potential biases of the decision maker in order to obtain a more complete view when evaluating projects.