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Decisions, Decisions

Posted by: Jena McGregor on July 2, 2007

Over at Harvard Business Online, Babson College professor and management thinker Tom Davenport is saying that decision-making is the next big thing. Or rather, the next big thing will be a careful examination of decision-making processes at work.

I’m not sure I’d ever call the very crux of good leadership and management—the ability to make wise, quick, and well-informed decisions—“the next big thing.” Sounds a bit like a way of quietly trumpeting his new book, which looks like an intriguing read on analytical decision-making and the competitive advantage it can afford.

On the other hand, I do agree with Davenport that decision-making seems to be getting fresh attention. Leadership sages Warren Bennis and Noel Tichy have a new book coming out this fall called Judgment. Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley’s design guru, Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is working on a book about the role gut instinct plays in making decisions—a related BW column of his sparked an interesting debate. And increasingly, managers are using new tools, such as desktop dashboards or prediction markets to help them tap better data or the wisdom of the crowds to make tough calls.

Still, no matter how many books you read or tools you employ, no matter whether you fall on the gut or the analytic side of the how-to-make-decisions debate, making tough calls is just that: Tough. How do you make decisions? Are there any tools you use?

Reader Comments


July 2, 2007 2:53 PM

When it comes to decision making research I personally like Gary Klein of Klein Associates ( and his recognition primed decision making books. I learned about him years ago through a professor at Seton Hall and have read several of his books and learned quite a lot.

David Matiella

July 4, 2007 9:09 PM

There are decisions that come easy to me because of my years of experience and the common sense that it is the right thing to do. When it comes to a dynamic competitive environment, my decision making is based on enormous studied information. But, at the end of the day, gut and survival instincts prevail.

Bob Cannon

July 5, 2007 7:03 AM

This is exactly why I wrote "Taking Aim for Better Decision-Making." It is a serious problem and getting worse.


July 5, 2007 9:30 AM

I agree with David. Coporate America loves to use research and analysis when it comes to decision making but these are, more often than not, crutches they can point back to if their decision is bad. "But I used the research to make my strategic moves...". Phooey. Use all you have when making the tough choices. Your experience, discussions with your best people, the numbers, what your gut tells you and a cold realization that luck plays a big part in everything you do. Even very smart people make a bad decision now and then. Nobody's batting 1000 unless they're cheating.


August 28, 2007 8:42 AM

Whenever possible, allow for as much time as you can to pull back and keep an open mind. When you have a question, and you observe, facts have a way of bubbling to the surface, truth will wave at you, and, if you sleep on it, facts and understanding will sift through your unconscious and then rise.
Avoid snap decisions, but when forced to make a snap decision, take at least 10 minutes if you can to drop assumptions and reactions.

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