Currently viewing the tag: "Making decisions"

Cognitive barriers

A few days ago some of my new friends created two projects in an event (BragaSustainabilityJam) whose support base was sustainability. Some of the barriers they encountered in the definition of the problems can be analyzed now with other lenses.

When we are faced with complex problems our fragility in decision emerges because the barriers in decision-making do not pass only by the lack of information, they pass also by our behaviors of resistance to change.

Lisa L.Shu and Max H. Bazerman says: “We highlight three cognitive barriers that impede sound individual decision making that have particular relevance to behaviors impacting the environment.

First, despite claiming that they want to leave the world in good condition for future generations, people intuitively discount the future to a greater degree than can be rationally defended.

Second, positive illusions lead us to conclude that energy problems do not exist or are not severe enough to merit action.

Third, we interpret events in a self-serving manner, a tendency that causes us to expect others to do more than we do to solve energy problems.”

However these behaviors can be used as an advantage to help make decisions in many situations.

Deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning were and are for so many, both privileged forms of logic and so we use them more often.

These two modes, based on “scientific tradition”, allow a person to declare at the end of a process of reasoning if a statement is true or false.

But today the acquisition of knowledge is not a purely abstract, conceptual exercise. It is an exercise that involves interaction, observation and a constant research on the world around us.

Understand things does not imply trail a path of progress toward an absolute truth, but rather a set of interactions that evolves with the environment or ecosystem where the need of understanding is felt.

Today make decisions implies accepting possibilities and responsibilities be it in non-profit projects as in any business and to look for the intersection of two worlds that converge – what is reliable and what is possible.

“Visualize an x-axis, with absolute focus on reliability on the left and absolute focus on validity on the right. If you drew two bell curves, the center of the business person’s curve would probably be on the left, toward the reliability end, and the center of the designer’s bell curve would probably be on the right towards validity. That is, the mean for business people would be centered more on reliability and for the designers on validity. You will have some overlap of the two curves: designers who are reliability-oriented and business people who are validity-focused. So we have fruitful group in the middle where, I think, you can take business people and imbue them with design thinking skills, and make them more validity-oriented thinkers.” – Roger Martin

The design approach for problem solving problems, assumes that it is difficult to create a good alternative, but if you’ve developed a really good, the decision on which alternative to choose becomes easy.

According to  Boland e Collopy, the attitude and the analytical techniques used by the managers are useful for situations where the problems are stable, whereas a design attitude is required, when a possible alternative is required.

The first step that leaders and managers must give is to understand the differences between how they go in business and prospects of designers about how to solve problems.

Corporate decision-makers tend to follow a very analytical process, making decisions by understanding all the options available, which leads to consumption of time and difficult management of information considered relevant. The desired analytical rigor is in fact only if the information is relevant and acceptable in the decision-making process.

Design thinking points the construction of prototypes and iteraction as a way to learn. It synthesizes the interdisciplinary information and develops concepts that can be translated into new steps to action and when embrace constraints (rules are constraints) shows the evolution of the work through the design.

“The design is focused on resolution and as such requires an intervention, not just understanding. Whereas scientists describe how the world is, the designers suggest how it could be. It follows that the design is an activity central to the military profession, always that they allocates resources to solve problems, design is always a central component of operations.” – Banach

The environmental problems and the military issues are two major dimensions which although complex can be seen under the prism of design thinking.

To address the issue of decision making or choice of possible alternatives it is important that do not let us reduce to the “old school”.

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This article is an improvement of an old one.


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Raise the anchor for sharing, collaborative problem-solving and decision-making

Ask questions, share ideas, draw up, argue and seek consensus towards a new knowledge are essential activities in understanding the messages that are sent to us.

Ask questions and a mainly do good question is not an easy task. But answering good questions, which we believe are usually difficult, without being influenced by a series of judgments based on partially trusted information or even insignificant, nor is it!

When the question is difficult and the answer does not arise immediately we tend to give an answer based on an easier hypothetical question but related to the difficult one.

“When confronted with a problem — choosing a chess move or deciding whether to invest in stock — the machinery of intuitive thought does the best it can. If the individual has relevant expertise, she will recognize the solution, and the intuitive solution that comes to her mind is likely to be correct.”- Kahneman.

When we seek solutions to a problem should be natural to share ideas, be open to ideas different from ours and find the relevant common points that serve as a starting point for a possible consensus.

However this naturalness is often overshadowed by something that we have in us and which serves as reference for our comparisons, i.e. an anchor that we hold to our previous experience and prevents us from understanding of other viewpoints.

Even when we are trying to consciously avoid this influence of anchoring we normally load the values imbued in the anchor.

These systematic errors, are not under the effects of our emotional state, they are built and evolved into us cognitively.

If on the one hand, this chain that links us to our experience is a limit when we try to establish a process of sharing and collaboration, on the other hand, the fear that our opinion is not shared by others or that does not meet their needs can lead to a conflicting situation.

When we participate in a discussion in a group, there is an almost primary social desire approval that nourishes our hope to make a wise idea to a problem, but our anchors can strangle our arguments and prevent the satisfaction of our needs of belonging.

Human thought naturally focuses around existing knowledge and the best way to generate new ideas is to add something new.

So that our ideas are shared by the other elements of the group or organization we have to find the common points of interest to the group and to ourselves.

Often when we add a significant stimulus we provoke a process of generating ideas and offer the opportunity to look at issues differently, causing our idea to be shared, discussed and eventually considered valid and relevant, without necessarily being resulting from our anchors.

The problem is that many times we get help from mental shortcuts to simplify problems and to give us a quick help in its resolution but this is not the fear that the idea is not shared.

When we use these shortcuts based on an anchor and we want to expose our idea by adjusting it successively to that starting point, we run the risk of being unable to exhibit in its entirety and with the meaning we want.

People start with an implicitly suggested reference point and make incremental adjustments based on additional information to arrive at the desired point.

We don’t stop our fear that the idea is not shared by others, only creating the environment of “understanding” and checking the possibility, it also passes through find a power source that would allow us to develop this idea.

According to Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky we have two different mental operations:

“System 1 (fast thinking) is the mental state in which you probably drive a car or buy groceries. It relies heavily on intuition and is amazingly capable of misleading and also of being misled. The slow-thinking

System 2 is the mental state that understands how System 1 might be misled and steps in to try to prevent it from happening. The most important quality of System 2 is that it is lazy; the most important quality of System 1 is that it can’t be turned off.

Even being lazy our slow thinking can help us to share and collaborate. Think of it!

Happy holidays!

When planning the year 2012 don’t forget that we have the tendency to super estimate benefits and underestimate the costs!


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What to do and why to do it!

How many times we already feel an impulse to immediately seek to satisfy a desire?

And how many times people follow arguments, based on these desires rather than relying on facts or rationality?

How many people, by virtue of a wish, were slow to realize that his brilliant idea, after all was not so bright?

When we believe in something because we want it to be true we face one of two paths:

-The path of imagination and creativity that makes us to go through the world of connectivity until we find the solution to a problem.

-The path of the consented ignorance of the facts, that is, without appeal to critical thinking, and that can lead to meaningless experimentation, to the limit of our capacity for perseverance.

Through critical thinking, as I understand it, we have a means to evaluate and improve our ability to judge and the options we are placed, or we have built, for deciding (evaluating alternatives, weighing against each other, so as to make it possible to choose between them) about a particular subject.

Critical thinking is the thought that involves the application of principles, standards and criteria in assessing options, practical and theoretical, with the aim of reaching conclusions on the possible options.

So what are the values, considered appropriate at the time, which are reflected in these standards and criteria?

Is not that critical thinking that can give a direction to our beliefs and our actions, unless that in a consistently way, we do the assessment not only of our cognitive abilities, but also of our feelings or emotional states. This would not be eventually the form more natural relaxed of living.

Even so, despite a choice or decision to be a way of thinking, it is not the most relevant part of critical thinking. It is the process of critical thinking that helps to structure and prepare the way for a choice.

This path provides information about relevant aspects, which will give rise to a new option created by us or on the relevant options available to make a choice.

A path where we will have to check, if needs are identified to build a strong enough argument, according to our point of view, to make a choice.

And in the construction of these arguments, what is the role of our emotions?

Emotions or states of consciousness that have to do with the excitement of feelings, i.e. the subjective reactions, pleasant or unpleasant that any of us can experience in a given situation, can easily lead us to “Wishful thinking”.

In the search for dive into pleasant feelings we are often faced with almost invisible, alerts, questioning whether the path we chose is a smart attitude.

If our thinking is reflective and worried about what to do or what to believe this may mean that we are looking for something that can justify our emotions and this something is closely linked to our beliefs and past experiences.

For example:

Watch this video and think how you would respond:

What consequences will have this accident in future decisions of these people?

“I shall argue, in other words, that critical thinking provides the crucial link between intelligence and emotions in the “emotionally intelligent” person. Critical thinking, I believe, is the only plausible vehicle by means of which we could bring intelligence to bear upon our emotional life. It is critical thinking I shall argue, and critical thinking alone, which enables us to take active command of not only our thoughts, but our feelings, emotions, and desires as well. It is critical thinking which provides us with the mental tools needed to explicitly understand how reasoning works, and how those tools can be used to take command of what we think, feel, desire, and do.” – Linda Elder

Some of these comments may have application in organizations, don’t you think?