Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The decision making triangle

Project management, risk management, and other related disciplines are replete with triangles. Here's one more for the collection, taken from an article on "metacognition" by Marvin Cohen and Jared Freeman.

As you can readily see, it's all about decision making under stress [indeed, that's the paraphrase title of their paper] when information potential [in the form of choices and perhaps disorder] may be maximum but data may be incomplete, conflicting, or unreliable.

Their principal conclusion:
Proficient decision makers are recognitionally skilled: that is, they are able to recognize a large number of situations as familiar and to retrieve an appropriate response. Recent research in tactical decision making suggests that proficient decision makers are also metarecognitionally skilled. In novel situations where no familiar pattern fits, proficient decision makers supplement recognition with processes that verify its results and correct problems

Of course, my eye is drawn to the word 'familiar'. In point of fact, there is a decision bias described by Tversky and Khaneman, named by them as "availability bias". In a word, we tend to favor alternatives which are similar to things we can readily bring to mind--that is, things are that are readily available in our mind's eye.

Back to Cohen and Freeman: "More experienced decision makers adopt more sophisticated critiquing strategies. They start by focusing on what is wrong with the current model, especially incompleteness. Attempting to fill in missing arguments typically leads to discovery of other problems (i.e., unreliable arguments or conflicts among arguments)."

Of course, there's the issue of calling the question and getting to convergence--or, in sales: getting to yes!  Discovery is good, but it is also is the mark of a more experienced decision maker to stay on course and only evaluate new discoveries if they are truly in the path to a decision on the current problem. 

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