Broaden the Decision Frame to Make Effective Decisions

Narrow frames, which pretend that knowledge is complete.

A broad decision frame takes into account
(1) multiple objectives – not just the most salient one at the moment;
(2) multiple alternatives – not just the first option that lands on the table; and
(3) multiple outcomes that could arise in the near and long term – not the expected state of the world.

Common training, common experiences, and frequent interaction all have the effect of leading to shared views on problems.

Although shared views can be beneficial because they facilitate communication and coordination of efforts, they can be harmful when they perpetuate narrow perspectives on a decision problem.

Ironically, a like-minded group is a poor source for new objectives, alternatives, and future scenarios, but more confident in its ability – the consistency of perspective across colleagues leads each individual to feel validated and confident in his or her view of decisions.

A group that starts a brainstorming session without first asking each member to generate his or her own views on a problem risks having a specific view emerge early in the discussion that then frames everyone’s view of the problem.

Techniques for Broadening the Decision Frame

Formal techniques:

  • Considering multiple attributes and alternatives
  • Assessing and weighing future states of the world
  • Using “all four cells” to make accurate predictions
  • Barriers to adopting quantitative techniques

Informal techniques:

  • Informal techniques for broadening the search for information
  • Informal techniques for using a broader set of attributes and alternatives in decisions
  • Informal techniques for broadening diversity of perspective
  • Unfortunately, classic brainstorming can undermine the independence of thought to the extent that early suggestions can entrain everyone’s subsequent ideas. Thus, the best group techniques preserve initial differences in perspective by having individuals think about a problem alone (this stage is often called a “nominal” group), but then pool the information so that others can react to it.

Limitations to Broadening the Frame

Practical limits on broad frames:

  • Elaborate techniques, such as multiattribute choice processes, are time-consuming and risk “analysis paralysis” (How do you know when you have reviewed enough attributes and alternatives?)
  • Recommendations that involve soliciting objectives and alternatives from many different parties risk introducing conflict, politics, and negotiation.
  • More comprehensive processes may increase confidence and satisfaction with a decision, but, if the processes make obvious stark tradeoffs, they may dampen satisfaction with a final decision.

–> Blinking rather than thinking.

More on Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior: Indispensable Knowledge for Evidence-Based Management, 2nd Edition


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