Is There Still a Role for Judgment in Decision-Making?

In: Business and Management

Submitted By joxin25
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A growing number of management tomes seem to advise against applying human judgment when making key decisions, notes Professor Jim Heskett. Is good old-fashioned intuition out of date? What do YOU think?

by James Heskett

In the last several years, a veritable tsunami of advice on how to make decisions has hit the Internet and what few shelves remain in our local bookstores. The advice is a distant relative of early ideas about decision theory in which we were advised to construct decision trees, mapping outcomes, attaching values to each one, and estimating probabilities that various combinations of outcomes might occur. Judgment entered into the construction of the resulting "decision trees," but the process itself was a way of injecting a certain amount of objectivity and analysis into the decision to be made.

In recent years, we have been advised to make certain decisions in a "blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, to "think twice" by Michael Mauboussin, and to think "fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman. The replacement of customs and biases with data, "big" or "small," has been intended, at least in part, to drive out such things as tradition, habit, and even superstition in endeavors ranging from child rearing to professional sports. After all, wasn't the book and film, Moneyball, at least in part a glorification of the triumph of statistics and probabilities over intuition and managerial judgment in professional baseball?

Two recent books add to the genre of advice on decision-making. One advises us how to make better decisions. The other helps us ensure that we don't allow our decisions to get sidetracked (or sidetrack them ourselves).

In their book Decisive, the Heath brothers cite four major reasons—all linked to common human traits—why we make poor choices and how to avoid doing it. They are: (1) the "narrow framing" of problems that makes us miss…...

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