Saturday, June 18, 2011

Knowledge in Judgment: Making Good Decisions

Larry Prusak gave a talk on Knowledge in Judgment at the 2011 SLA Conference.

This session is based on a book that Dr. Prusak is writing with Tom Davenport, Working Knowledge -

Tweets about the talk.

Does an organization have/exercise good judgment?

Are they open to other forms of knowledge?

Cognitive Diversity:

Mentioned The Difference by Scott E. Page.

People with different mental toolkits – a different worldview – they have a different way of thinking.

Example: Dr. Prusak worked on a marketing team in Norway with an Indian musicologist who was an expert in the structure of the music of J.S. Bach. He was able to see the big picture and how the whole structure worked together.

It is good to have people of diverse backgrounds tackle a problem. A different set of people from a homogenous background and training are not likely to solve a problem that a similar set of people couldn’t solve.

Ground truth:

What is it like for troops on the ground? The Army trains generals and commanders in a classroom – but until a leader put mini-cams on the soldiers when they landed in Grenada back in the 1980’s – they didn’t know (remember?) what it was like on the front line.

The exercise showed they needed to teach/train for what was really happening on the ground – not x’s and o’s showing battle formations.

All knowledge is local. (viz. Pascal)

What you know is dependent upon where you are standing.

Looking to the future is one of the planks of good judgment. Norway spends its windfall of oil revenues on infrastructure and investments for the future. Abu Dhabi spends much of its oil revenues – building a ski slope in the desert!

Decision architecture can be the culprit. There needs to be accountability in decision making!

NASA changed its decision architecture following a review after the Challenger Shuttle blew up. Now they solicit input from all levels. An engineer runs a meeting with folks from all levels and departments and asks if there are any concerns about the current project. The engineer walks the room to read body language and ask people. If there is a concern they can address it and solve it. There may be a delay – but lives are at stake.

Democracy is an excellent way to ensure good judgment.

Wisdom of crowds:

At county fairs there are contests to guess the weight of a bull. Not everyone guesses correctly – but the bulk of guesses by the experts (cattle owners and handlers) is always clumped around the correct weight.

Democritization of knowledge is marked by the global search and appropriation of new ideas.

If you think that only you know something you will fail.

We can force an organization to make good decisions. But what can we do?

  • Change the structure in the area that you can.
  • Don’t wait for management to change.
  • Make improvements and others will notice. They will see the changes in your area.
  • That will cause them to make changes in their areas.

MBA curriculum is a technical subject. It doesn’t encompass the social and political. It needs to do that in order to teach people that their business decisions have consequences beyond just the company’s bottom line.

Ideas have consequences! (Representative Gabrielle Giffords (AZ) would likely agree with this comment.)

Generally companies that are mission-driven do a better job at decision making – because they are thinking of their mission – not their profit.

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