I am always looking for decision making tools that are simple to use, yet comprehensive. Consultants love two-by-two matrices because they appear to reduce a complex situation to a couple of dimensions. A value/ease matrix is one of the most common. In this type of matrix the lower value and harder items go in the lower left box; higher value and easier items go in the top right. While this sort of problem parsing is aways an interesting exercise, I fear it often under appreciates the complexities of the situation. The devil is, after all, in the details.
Heidi Adkisson, over at her blog IA Think, has a good example of a simple matrix to show how "decision-making style impacts the design process." In this case, the sweet spot in the center of the matrix represents the right balance of time, involvement, and exploration. Very interesting. Link
It seems these days that everything we learn must be taught to us explicitly. It used to be we learned the essentials--judgment, ethics, discipline--during the course of learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. That's not good enough now.
"We're impaired, can't control it."
what they can control is how to make better decisions so they can keep
their lives on the right track. "It's about living the rest of my life.
I'm only 14 and I have a big life planned ahead of me. I don't want to
mess it up."
It appears that superstition is a decision criteria. Today may be a great time to invest in the stock market because others are superstitiously staying away. Or is it some other reason?
"Comparing the Dow Jones Industrial performance on a typical Friday from
1955 to 2005 to those times when the 13th day of the month fell on a
Friday, revealed that the index performed better on the day synonymous
with bad luck and superstition."
Malcolm Gladwell quotes author Steven Johnson in New Yorker magazine:
Playing a video game is, in fact, an exercise in 'constructing the
proper hierarchy of tasks and moving through the tasks in the correct
sequence,' he writes. “It’s about finding order and meaning in the
world, and making decisions that help create that order.
John Greenberg at the Goodmind blog posted a great summary
of what he learned at the Blogging Goes Mainstream conference sponsored by the Business Development Institute. He
writes that “Blogging constitutes a new form of decision-making.” He goes on to
write that blogs let people use conversations, not knowledgebases and databases,
to help them make decisions. Link
If true, I think this statement is dangerous. How do we separate
the bullsh#tters from the honest and informed? The ability of any blogger to
self-publish to the world for free reveals how little we know about a wide
range of topics. We may have opinions about this body of ignorance, but so
what? Are others to base important decisions on the uninformed opinions of a stranger? Only
at our peril. What do you think?
There is a related commentary by Richard Tomkins in today’s Financial
Times, called “The truth, the half truths and nothing resembling the truth.”
Link requires subscription.
"When making a decision of minor importance, I have
always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital
matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision
should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the
important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the
deep inner needs of our nature." --Sigmund
Role-based user interfaces and information displays is a great way to use computers to make better decisions. Here's one example from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
A new software called WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders), provides information from the perspective of the role of the responder, for example, an emergency medical specialist.
To aid decision making, users can specify the role they are
currently performing at the scene of an incident, and WISER organizes
the critical information in a sequence most relevant to a first
responder on-the-scene, a Hazmat specialist, or an emergency medical
"First responders in general, and Hazmat units in particular, must
make decisions quickly in handling hazardous-materials incidents," says
Dr. Jack Snyder, NLM Associate Director for Specialized Information
The ultimate extension of role-based customization is individual customization: the tool would understand what you already know, what you need to learn, and your thinking preferences and decision-making style. It would have a total user base of "one."
Read the medgaget article on WISER here. Download the WISER software for free here.