07 Aug 2013  What Do YOU Think?

Is There Still a Role for Judgment in Decision-Making?

Summing Up: Human judgment should be a part of all decisions, but play a dominant role in significantly fewer of them, according to many of Jim Heskett's readers. Is good old-fashioned intuition out of date? What do YOU think?

 

Summing Up


What is the Proper Role of Judgment in Decision-Making?

There is a seemingly universal (and currently popular) quest for rational processes—what Hamilton Carvalho terms "cognitive repairs"—to counter the foibles of human judgment. Nevertheless, the predominant opinion among respondents to this month's column is that judgment has a dominant role to play in some decisions while it is an element in all decisions. That assumes, of course, that we can arrive at some agreement about what the term means.

Seena Sharp equated judgment with intuition. As she said, "Intuition is far more valuable in decisions regarding people …" However, intuition lags reality. "Use it to consider if the new idea makes sense, but don't give it more weight than it deserves." B. Graham equated judgment with a "gut check." He put it this way: "Seems to me that a 'gut check' on big decisions is always prudent. I realize that is the sort of bias these authors warn about, but the application of their methods shouldn't reduce decision-making to a formula…"

Phil Clark had a more encompassing view of the term: "The discussion you opened is not contradictory to sound judgment. It only emphasizes it…. Judgment is an encapsulation of all those elements … data, facts, processes, etc… that go into decisions from which we have learned in the past." Joe Schmid said: "Our education and work environments are analysis rich and have become synthesis poor… Synthesis is what happens when, after absorbing a subject, there is a leap in thinking that one can't quite explain."

Zuff Deo explained the semantic difficulties this way: "We do use various faculties and when we can't figure out which one we are using we call it gut feel."

There were a number of views regarding the role of judgment. Wayne Brewer commented that "judgment is needed for creating a vision, decision tools are for optimizing a decision." Mark Andrew said, "Judgment can work well in 'high validity' situations—those that are encountered frequently and provide accurate feedback…. Most situations, especially in the business world, have poor validity, in which case intuition is a poor guide. Vance Kirklin appeared to disagree with this, saying that, "Transformative decisions … (strategic decisions that transform organizations…) require a level of intuition. Organizations that preclude intuition from their decision-making will … never be, or cease to be, transformative."

Others had a more expansive view of the role of judgment. As Donald Shaw put it, "Just because we have the technology to record terabytes and terabytes of data does (not) mean we have the tools to understand what it is saying. Judgment is still crucial…." Debra Bordignon put an interesting twist on the issue, saying, "Where systems, tools, and artificial intelligence reach their limits, human judgment IS the decision support tool."

Several were quite eloquent. Aim asked: "So, I need to make a proposal to my girlfriend. What should I use to make the correct decision? Intuition or regression analysis?" Paulina Czentor added: "And going one step further, let intelligent machines make judgment-free decisions. No flawed reasoning, no more human 'interference'… replacing hordes of managers. What will one do with those?" Yan Song reminded us that, "As long as there is still mystery and new discovery to be made in life, human judgment will remain indispensable."

Are we naturally biased on the question? What is the proper role of judgment in decision-making? What do you think?

Original Article

In the last several years, a veritable tsunami of advice on how to make decisions has hit the Internet and what few shelves remain in our local bookstores. The advice is a distant relative of early ideas about decision theory in which we were advised to construct decision trees, mapping outcomes, attaching values to each one, and estimating probabilities that various combinations of outcomes might occur. Judgment entered into the construction of the resulting "decision trees," but the process itself was a way of injecting a certain amount of objectivity and analysis into the decision to be made.

In recent years, we have been advised to make certain decisions in a "blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, to "think twice" by Michael Mauboussin, and to think "fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman. The replacement of customs and biases with data, "big" or "small," has been intended, at least in part, to drive out such things as tradition, habit, and even superstition in endeavors ranging from child rearing to professional sports. After all, wasn't the book and film, Moneyball, at least in part a glorification of the triumph of statistics and probabilities over intuition and managerial judgment in professional baseball?

Two recent books add to the genre of advice on decision-making. One advises us how to make better decisions. The other helps us ensure that we don't allow our decisions to get sidetracked (or sidetrack them ourselves).

In their book Decisive, the Heath brothers cite four major reasons—all linked to common human traits—why we make poor choices and how to avoid doing it. They are: (1) the "narrow framing" of problems that makes us miss options; (2) the "confirmation bias" that leads us to give undue credence to information confirming a decision while ignoring other information; (3) the injection of "short-term emotion" into the decision process; and (4) overconfidence that we naturally display about the future (something that may be peculiar to only certain of the world's cultures, by the way).

They advise us to do such things as: (1) widen our options by emphasizing the "and" over the "or" in formulating them; (2) reality-test assumptions by reviewing them with more objective associates or making small tests; (3) seek ways of attaining distance by looking at a decision through someone else's eyes or focusing on the long-term impact of the decision; and (4) prepare to be wrong by setting limits on outcomes (similar to a "stop loss" order in stock trading).

Harvard Business School's Francesca Gino cites findings from her own research studies and those of her colleagues in her book Sidetracked, to warn us of three types of forces that derail our decisions: forces coming from within, from our relationships, and from the outside. Among those that emanate from within are an inaccurate and often inflated view of ourselves that leads us to treat advice inappropriately at the wrong times, "infectious emotion," and a tendency to adopt an overly narrow focus. To cope with these she suggests ways of achieving greater self-awareness (mitigating our biases by soliciting expensive advice, which we are more likely to take seriously, for example), taking our emotional temperature (determining when our feelings regarding a decision "were triggered by an event unrelated to the decision at hand"), and "zooming out" for broader perspective (for example, by asking "What information am I missing?").

I didn't Google the texts of these books, but there is no mention of the word "judgment" in their tables of contents or indexes, and I don't recall the use of the word in the texts. In fact, if there is a sense that one gets from all of this work, it is that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to making and implementing good decisions. We need tools to correct the errors and biases of our own judgment. This is puzzling, because we are frequently reminded that the ability to exercise judgment is what sets humans apart from other forms of life. (Perhaps judgment is what leads us to adopt recommendations such as those of these authors.) Is there still a role for judgment in decision-making? What do you think?

To read more:

Francesca Gino, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005)

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices In Life and Work (New York: Crown Business, 2013)

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011)

Michael Lewis, Moneyball (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003)

Michael J. Mauboussin, Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009)

Comments

    • Govind S

    Nice article!!

     
     
     
    • Hamilton Carvalho
    • consultant, Brazilian government

    I think they (the authors) are right. Organizations desperetely need the so-called "cognitive repairs". You are not contradicting them when you miss judgment and intuition in the process. Your question was properly addressed, in my opinion, by Kahneman and Klein?s "failure to disagree" article (http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/64/6/515/). There is a role for intuition in everyday decisions, but only when specific prerequisites are met. Even so, we need the cognitive repairs.

     
     
     
    • Seena Sharp
    • Managing Director, Sharp Market Intelligence

    The value of intuition in business depends on the type of decision. Intuition is far more valuable in decisions regarding people as the way we assess people really hasn't changed. Those components (body language, voice, phrasing, content) continue to be good indicators.

    However, intuition for other business decisions (regarding customers, features, distribution channels, new products or services, marketing approaches and much more) is less and less reliable in a changing marketplace - and in fact, may be misleading.

    Far too often, decision-makers are shocked when the results are disappointing. And they rationalize their great decision with "The customer doesn't get it." Or "We were ahead of our time."

    Intuition is an aggregation of the past: experience, data, facts, beliefs. All of these reflect yesterday and may no longer be true. More importantly, they don't capture what's changing and emerging - the signs of today and tomorrow - and the only time a company sells.

    Intuition lags reality. Use it to consider if the new idea makes sense, but don't give it more weight than it deserves.

     
     
     
    • Yan Song

    The question confuses the source with tools. As long as there is still mystery and new discovery to be made in life, human judgement will remain indispensable. All the tools and criterias we invent to guide us through life are just htat, tools or aids so that we may exercise better judgements in situations that are relatively routine in order for us to preserve our finite energy for situations that genuine require creativity.

     
     
     
    • B. Graham
    • impreMedia

    This is an interesting topic. Seems to me that a "gut check" on big decisions is always prudent. I realize that is the sort of bias these authors warn about, but the application of their methods shouldn't reduce decision-making to a formula.

     
     
     
    • Michael Lever
    • http://www.michaellever.co.uk

    Decision is a device for psychologically getting back on track. Symptomatic of being metaphorically 'lost'.

    People who are not lost, in other words, psychologically balanced, know that they're here and progress by simply getting on with it.

     
     
     
    • Mark O'Connor

    Error and bias will always limit the ability of individuals in decision making. So intuition and judgment harnesses individual decision making processes that are inherently prone to that error and bias. As we increase the number of inputs to the process, however, the effect of that error and bias is reduced. So the answer is not for individuals to choose between their gut, or data, or decision trees, etc. It's to come up with novel new ways to combine the collective judgment of large numbers of people that have their own sources of information to make more informed decisions.

    That is very different than most "old-school" decision-making techniques that were based on personal judgment, limiting the number of people involved in decisions, and relying on limited information. Even if each of the participants is competent, and the information is of high quality, how could it possibly match the collective wisdom of a much larger group of experts across the spectrum of associated domains with higher quality information at their disposal? But in today's business environment we have an important complication. We're living in a world of specialists where the norm is for someone to spend their entire careers in one or two functional areas. So the error and bias factors are even greater today than a generation ago when managers making key decisions were trained as generalists, and circulated from one functional area to another in the years following business school, in preparation for the day one would rise to the challenge of running that company.

    So, to answer the question, "Is there a role for judgment in decision making?" - Yes, of course. But we must harness the collective intuition, judgment and wisdom of many people today as a baseline to get where we once were with the general management decision quality of yesterday. The good news is we have better information at our disposal and the better tools to tie more relevant perspectives together to make higher quality decisions than ever before. But I would argue that far too many executives in positions of power today think they can apply old-school judgment to complex decisions in areas where they have no education or experience. They are truly dangerous - as Howard Gardner points out in his "5-year-old mind" analogy - and we see the consequences far too often.

     
     
     
    • Dean Turner
    • COO, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

    Let's hope there is always room for judgment in decision making. Who said "good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment"?

     
     
     
    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates

    The discussion you opened is not contridictory to sound judgement. It only emphasizes it. I have always looked at judgement as the widening of experiences and knowledge to make better decisions. Over time those experiences, when applied in a sound manner, help clarify and support better decisions. I do not see judgement as a separtate element of data, facts, processes etc. Judgement is an ecapsulation of all those elements that go into decisions from which we have learned in the past.

    You may have been burned in the past using sound "investment advice" from an "expert". A person building sound judgment likely will not fall into that trap again. The next time you may ask better questions, do better research, or even check your emotional committments to a decision based on the past experience. I view judgement not as an independent element of decision-making but a dependent element needed to force you to widen your decision base.

    A person making the same poor decisions over and over or a person who narrows their thinking would not fit my definition of judgement.

     
     
     
    • Wayne Brewer

    I submit decision making tools have the intent of increasing the performance of something over and above what judgment normally provides (maybe really smart people use the tools so quickly it occurs to them as their judgment). Our cognitive biases serve us well in everyday decisions where getting the last little bit of performance is not the primary consideration, but speed of the decision is. So judgment (or our "automatic" answer using the information we remember from our past and any gathered for the exercise) usually serves us in accomplishing a given task. But I don't think the performance is maximized/optimized without the conversations all the decision making tools guide us to have with ourselves and others.

    Another way to think of it is that judgment is needed for creating a vision, decision tools are for optimizing a decision..a much more analytical exercise that would be a lower level in the hierarchy since decisions are in support of visions.

     
     
     
    • Etienne Douaze
    • Professor, Montreux School of Business

    As you rightly point out, the word 'judgment' is a term that is seldom used nowadays. It is the ability to make a decision objectively, authoritatively and wisely. Exercising judgment involves discrimination, discernment, perspicacity, sagacity, prudence and wisdom. Judgment is decision making anchored in shared moral values. No wonder it is not found in recent tomes on decision making. We do not live in times that honor values like perspicacity, prudence and wisdom. We even have trouble agreeing on what they actually mean. We live in an era of opportunity, complexity and confusion. To me, the absence of this word in our vocabulary reflects evolving values in our society. And to answer your question, I believe the word 'judgment' has no role to play in a society that cannot agree on its fundamental values.

     
     
     
    • Zufi Deo
    • Founder, www.bizstuff.co

    I think Decision Making is a complex notion - we do use various faculties and when we can't figure our which one we are using we call it gut feel There is room for all these faculties but they need to be nurtured to generate informed judgement.

     
     
     
    • Donald Shaw
    • President, Donald E. Shaw, P.E.

    Big data is built on hopes of linear statistics in a linear world which according to number of researchers including Ilya Prigogine in his book The "End of Certainty" is NOT the world we live in. The nonlinearity grows with interactions, and interactions increase exponentially due to increased interdependence arising from increased regulations, increased global trade, and even increased interactions of people in organizations. The issue of dependence on data instead of judgment is also noted in Holland's book, "Signals and Boundaries" where he quotes: "Anatol Rapoport, one of the founders of mathematical biology, long ago pointed out that you cannot learn the rules of chess by keeping only the statistics of observed moves (Rapoport 1960). We confront the same difficulty when using statistics to study signal/boundary interactions. The interactions are just too complex (nonlinear) to allow theory to be built with the linear techniques of statistics." Human beings are not machines. They seek meaning. Interacting with each other is one of the ways they do that. And those interactions may be planned or unplanned, objective or subjective. In any event they can change the way things get done without leaving a record in any data base. Data may be helpful if analyzed properly, but how to do that is a big question concerning big data. Just because we have the technology to record terabytes and terabytes of data, does mean we have the tools to understand what it is saying. Judgment is still crucial.

     
     
     
    • Hans Kennedy
    • Senior Financial Analyst, US Army Financial management Command

    While there are many pundits who would opine that judgment is no longer needed in making decisions I disagree. If decision-making can be condensed to a science there would be no need for human interaction in making choices. During research for my dissertation I asked participants if they felt decision-making is art or science, without fail the 35 respondents indicated it is an art which includes judgment, training and experience. I would suggest the wonderful 2007 tome by Tichy and Bennis "Judgment" subtitled "How winning leaders make great calls".

     
     
     
    • Hugh Quick
    • home, None

    I think it is easy to get confused by semantics on this subject. Choice, Decision, Judgement? I think that I am able to choose one course of action rather than another, but I would recognise that as Judgement, or Decision too. I like the other comments, to me they illustrate the diversity of human thought

     
     
     
    • Aim
    • Drilling Engineer, N/A

    So, I need to make a proposal to my girlfriend. What should I use to make the correct decision? Intuition or Regression Analysis?

     
     
     
    • Paulina Czentor

    What a wonderful thought! And going one step further, let intelligent machines make judgment-free decisions. No flawed reasoning, no more human "interference," intelligent machines replacing hordes of managers. What will one do with those? Kurt Vonnegut, Piano Player, New York (Rosetta Books) 1952 provides the answer.

     
     
     
    • Debra Bordignon
    • Chief Technologist, Innovation Lead, Hewlett Packard APJ

    Where systems, tools, and artificial intelligence reach their limits, human judgement IS the decision support tool - this is where innovation is spawned and performance is differentiated from others, therefore you could say where the value of our human capital lies. In additional to decision aids, we should turn our attention to the environments and contexts in which we exercise judgement - are we in an open plan, distracted by mounting emails, unable to locate key information, stressed by ever shrinking task windows and decision cycles? This is not a mindful and effective way to work, let's look to address this and our judgement calls, our human performance, will improve

     
     
     
    • Miray Pereira
    • Professor & Program Manager, Drexel University & DuPont

    As I tell my students, you can't abandon Judgement. No tool, process or technique will give you an answer. But, you need all of these to overcome biases and develop and "informed" judgement based on getting insights from multiple sources and people. The value of all of these processes is to engage in an honest dialog about uncertainty and the level of risk appetite. Then you can make an informed decision with sound judgement.

     
     
     
    • Steve Watson
    • consultant

    Not all aspects of a decision can be quantified. Some intangibles can be analyzed as carefully as a balance sheet. Other require judgment or gut feel. Two which come quickly to mind are ethical issues and judgment of the character/integrity of people.

    On the former, analysis can often lead to rationalization. On the latter, a contract is only as good as the volition of the parties involved. A sensitive gut is an important warning device.

     
     
     
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • Principal Consultant, Planninga From Nanninga

    Big Data analysis can show relationships between numbers, but it tends to be weak in determining:

    1) Directional Causality (Does A cause B or does B cause A); 2) Reason behind the Relationship; 3) Whether the relationship is bound by a third factor or if it is just a spurious relationship; 4) Is the relationship temporary or will it continue into the future; or 5) How to exploit the relationship.

    This is where judgment needs to come into play--to bring the numbers to life in a story that provides meaning that can be acted upon.

    Also, keep in mind that:

    1) If your sample size is large enough, all relationships become "statistically significant" even if they are not "meaningfully significant" in a business sense. This can cause a focus on "ghosts" rather than on the true, critical issues.

    2) You cannot measure the future since it has not yet occurred, yet the future is where decisions make their impact.

    Hence, numbers alone have serious shortcomings. And if that's all you look at, then you are like a driver of a car who only looks at the dashboard numbers and never looks out the window. You miss the panorama of insight that keeps you safely on the road to the future.

     
     
     
    • Hugh Quick
    • home, none

    I wonder what evidence exists that shows that humans are the only living beings that can make judgments.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) private Limited

    Ultimately decision making is a judgment in the sense that the decision maker judges all facts and figures and then records his decision (judgment). However, the success of decisions based on gut alone is less than those taken objectively and patiently without getting influenced by extraneous factors. We cannot rule out entirely the role of judgment in decision making. People are bound to add their " common sense" to other factors while reaching the conclusive stage.

     
     
     
    • Mark Andrew
    • Consultant

    The accuracy of judgment/intuition depends on the situation. Judgment can work well in "high validity" situations - those that are encountered frequently and provide accurate feedback. For example, medicine and firefighting. Most situations, especially in the business world, have poor validity, in which case intuition is a poor guide. Unfortunately, we are very good at pattern recognition and quickly apply "insights" from previous experience but fail to see that the situations are very different.

    For much more on this, read Conditions for Intuitive Expertise: A Failure to Disagree by two experts who thought they would be on different sides of the question you ask (Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein). FYI, the word "judgment" appears 105 times :-)

    http://www.chrissnijders.com/eth2012/CaseFiles2012/Kahneman,%20Klein%20-%202009%20-%20Conditions%20for%20intuitive%20expertise%20a%20failure%20to%20disagree.pdf

     
     
     
    • Tom Asacker
    • Author, The Business of Belief

    "Judgment" is an opinion based on an individual's expertise and knowledge of a situation. But a "decision" is motivated by desire. It is this combination of desire and knowledge that creates human beliefs and choices, and sets us apart from other life forms.

     
     
     
    • Yadeed Lobo

    It depends on what the definition of a good decision is and to whom.

    Has anyone ever made a perfect decision? Good and bad decisions can only be evaluated in hindsight.

    Statistical or mathematical analysis is useful but the assumptions in the modelling are something to be aware of.

    At the "decision moment" of making a decision all the analysis comes to naught. You could subject yourself to all the analysis you want. It could inform you but you have to use your discernment or judgement to choose otherwise.

    The development experience from going through a bad decision (or something which we think in hindsight is one) is also useful if we choose to learn from it.

    It's the freedom to choose that makes us unique to all other species.

     
     
     
    • Jim Quanci
    • Director, Autodesk Developer Network, Autodesk

    If its operational and nature - not your competitive advantage, an area you are happy with "average" or just above average capabilities - sure be data driven and avoid judgement/intuition.

    But if its your key competitive differentiator, beware of making data your primary basis for decisions. Data is too often looking back - and not forward. Data didn't see the internet coming, didn't see the impact on social technologies coming, didn't see the risks in CDOs - and so many more big changes that got so many data driven companies in trouble. Its judgement and intuition that spots "something has changed and the old rules don't apply" that keeps you leading and in business over a long period of time.

     
     
     
    • Paul Lepley

    If "judgment" is only a synonym for "intuition," humans are well documented as being flawed (overly optimistic, etc.). But I, for one, would want "judgment" to include more, such as a wariness to distrust the quick decision or first reaction and instead to consider what might go wrong.

    It strikes me that the books cited (above) attempt to provide that sort of "judgment": to be aware of human predispositions and to seek a more thorough consideration. Just because they may not use the word, that doesn't mean that judgment is not included in the ultimate decision.

     
     
     
    • Tom Dolembo
    • Founder, New North Institute

    Baseball is a public sport swimming in data, managed by stats, and with every available number including shirt size, a Moneyball approach to decisions makes sense. Most companies operate in the relative dark, even with mega data pouring in, because that data is often simply leveling the field with other data heavy competitors and rarely does it include key player inside information similar to baseball. I have used computer models since 1972 with quite a lot of success, but never have these formed the decision itself because even the best models should give options, not decisions, for managers to choose. Baseball is a game of known people making real runs, business has become a process of dark lords gaming runs. Big difference.

     
     
     
    • Joe Schmid
    • Managing Principal, Oak Leaf Consulting, Llc

    Our education and work environments are analysis rich and have become synthesis poor. The technological advances in the tools of analysis have moved light years away from slide rules and number collecting and crunching. Synthesis is what happens when, after absorbing a subject, there is a leap in thinking that one can't quite explain just how they got there. These leaps are better known as innovation. The tools of analysis discourage development of synthesis. Yes, the role of judgment, a.k.a. synthesis, is there and needed more than ever.

     
     
     
    • Lenann McGookey Gardner
    • President, Lenann McGookey Gardner Management Consulting, Inc.

    Excellent question! As a consultant and Executive Coach who gets to see decisionmaking in many different organizations, my experience is that there IS a role for judgment, but in too many organizations -- in the name of "We're in a rush!" -- quickly-made judgments are too heavily relied upon when more data could have been gathered and more numbers crunched.

    On the other hand, some leaders seem more enthusiastic about implementing decisions they've made that relied upon their own judgment to a significant degree.

    Another interesting dimension of this: some leaders who agree that the data available argues for a decision different from the one their "gut" advises may then almost be hoping for that decision to fail -- thus allowing them to revert to decisions heavily based (or even entirely based) on their own judgment!

     
     
     
    • Ashwin Hurribunce
    • Executive Facilitator, Coach & Mentor, IQ Business (Pty) Ltd

    I submit that judgment is integral to decision-making. Like in problem solving there's a constant quest to avoid solving the wrong problem precisely (E3 error), we must pick the right stakeholders, expand your options, phrase the problem correctly, expand the problem boundaries and be prepared to manage paradox. Similarly, in decision-making devoid of meticulous judgment, we might arrive at the wrong decision precisely, and thus must face the consequences that follow.

     
     
     
    • Dr. Bazela
    • Consultant, Applied Ethics Solutions

    Yes, I think there always is room for judgment in (business) decision-making. We - human beings- make judgments all the time. Even when we follow our gut feeling or act intuitively, we use a certain evaluation/assessment strategy.

    I am not surprised that the word 'judgment' is hard to come across in today's publications. Why? Because the word 'judgment' sounds very judgmental in our post-modern, all-inclusive, preference-driven, value-free world.

    How did we get to this point? You can find a very good answer to this question in Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue.

    What can we do about this allergy to the world 'judgment'? Well, instead of judgment, I prefer to use 'prudential discernment', 'prudential decision' making or 'prudential evaluation'. It sounds less scary, and yet it allows to teach the 'obscure and almost clerical sounding' art of judgment, which is nothing else than the exercise of practical reasoning.

     
     
     
    • Andrew Campbell
    • Director, Ashridge Business School

    Jim, I am surprised you did not mention "Think Again" by Sydney Finkelstein. The word judgment appears on almost every page in this book!

    Judgment is unavoidable whenever uncertainty is involved. Of course there are ways to reduce the judgment content, but it cannot be completely eliminated. This is why intuition - the judgment forming part of our unconscious - plays a part in difficult decisions whether we like it or not.

    For experts, like tennis players or negotiators or marketing specialists, judgment is everything. They do not have time to think things through from first principles or the uncertainties are too complex to reduce to a formula. Without judgment they would be unable to act.

     
     
     
    • Hugh Quick
    • home, none

    In my understanding decision making is judgment. Making a decision, even if it is only what to order from the menu, is an exercise of judgment. Of course I understand that Americans and Brits use the language differently and perhaps that is causing confusion in this discussion.

     
     
     
    • shadreck saili
    • Phd Candidate, Atlantic International University

    Interesting perspective Prof. We should first and foremost establish the elements that constitute human judgment. In my view, Opinion, verdict, ruling or wisdom of a human being is developed to a large extent through their experiences. The experiences are obtained from various aspects including the written decision making techniques. The instinct, insight, sixth sense, feeling, you name it, is derived from a human being's encounters to the extent that human judgment and decision making techniques become one. I would therefore conclude that it is practically impossible to exclude human judgment from decision making as they are inexplicably intertwined.

     
     
     
    • KHIN AYE THAN
    • ADVISOR AND LECTURER, SR-INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION, YANGON, MYANMAR

    I am an Asian business lecturer having studied Management at a very prominent business school on the east coast in America......I have never been able to accept the pure " objectivity" in decision making since life itself is fraught with uncertainties and we have to make judgements based on experiences and also hope for the best....many times our gut feelings may prove to be correct and also many times they might prove us wrong..Sure, we have to use numbers and statistics, past and projected , but judgements, intuition cannot be discarded completely......Look at what is happening to the world in the 21st century...many people might not have been able to make objective decisions or choices regarding the present situation....there are too many uncertainties out there so it would be useful to include judgements based on experiences and intuition.

     
     
     
    • Stuart Blaz Domijan
    • Unemployed

    It is human a tendency to try and model and rationalize everything we do. By doing so we try to avoid all the biases and pitfalls that spur us off the normal path. If we all follow the same models there should be some correlation between our decisions and the paths dictated to us by society. Judgment is what will help oneself achieve his/her personal goals even if those goals go against all common beliefs , logic or set norms. Hopefully people will continue using their judgments to question common beliefs.

     
     
     
    • Deon Binneman
    • Independent Reputation Adviser, Deon Binneman

    Many years ago I worked with a CEO that said that gut feel works but sometimes it can create indigestion.

    I think that having various ways to solve problems and make decisions is crucial as it expands your thinking abilities. Uncosncious Competence has a inherent danger in that unconscious habits might be formed.

    I wrote about this in blog post asking - What model are you using? http://goo.gl/24goRO

     
     
     
    • WALTER BLASS
    • President, Strategic Plans UnLtd

    Jim, you are so right in raising the question about "Judgment." I am just reading Jeremy Adelman's biography of A.O.Hirschman, the economist who spent many years at the Institude for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Hirschman was that "in-between" guy who was not a theorist, the founder of a school of thought, or a big fan of mathematical economics. In particular he made a distinction between uncertainty ( which he called not knowing what the future would bring) and doubt ( which he called keeping in mind that you don't know what you know.) As a retired executive from AT&T, I am very much in thrall to him because the leadership in the years I was there (Kappel, Romnes, deButts, Brown) was all too sure of their philosophy that telecommunications was an end-to-end affair that had to be controlled by a single manager, read AT&T. However accurate this judgment was in the 1950's it became clear by 1959 (MCI case) that it was no longer the whole truth. After 1968 (Carterphone) and 1974 onwards as the anti-trust case proceeded to the break up of AT&T, no one believed any longer in that myth. The cell phone revolution, not to mention the Internet were additional nails in that coffin. Still, to the end the self-assurance of top management brooked no doubt. It is fascinating to me how big disruptive innovations ( Christensen) are based on a hunch, an insight, a dream, anything but following a rational decision-making model. We make major life ( and death) decisions by "judgment"; as Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis write in their book JUDGMENT, it is a learned skill, often propelled by errors made. As the divorce rate, and failed M&A's show, many people lack the judgment ex ante. Slogging through a few hundred case studies of Harvard and ECCH is not foolproof, but a good start on developing such a capability.

     
     
     
    • Vance Kirklin, MBA
    • Sr. Project Manager, St. Luke's Health System

    Let's categorize decisions as either transformative (strategic changes that transform organizations and/or markets) or operational (day-to-day operational policies, procedures and processes). Applying the "and" approach mentioned above, it may be that the categories are best served by a combination of data-driven and intuitive methods.

    Transformative decisions require a level of intuition, in my opinion, since there is no way to identify and measure every internal and external variable, much less build them into a decision-matrix that covers every possible vector and intersection point. Attempting to collect and analyze "everything" often leads to analysis paralysis, and/or mundane, non-transformative decisions.

    Operational decision-making often has the advantage of foundational standardized policies, procedures and processes, which remove many variables and generate baseline and benchmark data to be analyzed. Incremental changes are easier to identify, apply and measure.

    As Dr. Heskett mentioned, it is the human ability to make judgement calls that sets us apart. More often than not, transformative decisions require leaps of intuition, otherwise, they are probably not transformative, but simply extensions of existing ideas.

    It seems it might be valuable to look at the decision-making processses utilized by successful individuals and organizations. How did Gates and Allen arrive at the conclusion that operating systems were the key to building Microsoft? How did Page and Brin conclude revenue could be generated from "free" access to information from across the world-wide web? Or Zuckerberg and company with Facebook, etc, etc, etc?

    Organizations that preclude intuition from their decision-making will, in my opinion, never be, or cease to be, transformative in nature. Is data important? Absolutely - but it is also limiting when we feel a need to know everything before we make a decision.

    The power of the human brain to make leaps of logic should not be minimized. In fact, it should be recognized for its miraculous nature and leveraged in every instance.

     
     
     
    • Philippe Gouamba
    • Vice President of Human Resources, Skyline Windows, LLC

    Decision makers have a very difficult task. They are expected to be right all the time. If they make a wrong decision, the bottom line suffers, jobs may be lost, market share may erode; too many wrong calls and they may find themselves out of a job. If we had perfect and infinite information, decision makers would have an easier job and they would be perfectly correct all the time. Alas, that is not the world I (we) live in. Luck, judgment, gut-feeling, (women's) intuition, co-incidence, timing, faith, courage of conviction, confidence, contra-intuition ("observe the masses and do the opposite"), best practices, follow the trend-buck the trend, experience ALL have a role to play in decision making. If we take judgment out of decision making we may as well take THINKING out of decision making. Taking judgment out of decision making is similar to tying both hands behind our backs and trying to get things done.

     
     
     
    • Subrata Chakraborty
    • Professor (Retired), Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, India

    To me, judgement remains an integral part in decision making, the key one. I feel this way because at the end of the day all decisions are taken at the calling of the heart, not head. While the right brain may develop some options intuitively, and the left brain may examine those using relevant data and appropriate analytical tools to work out the so called best solution, the last step, i.e. what action to take, actually comes from inner calling, which is judgement. Therefore, the last mile connectivity between analysis and action is provided by JUDGEMENT.

     
     
     
    • Michel Hogan

    Judgement is a missing link. We prioritize rules above wisdom - something discussed to great effect in Barry Schwartz's book Practical Wisdom. Highly recommend it to get a better understanding of where judgement has gone. We appear to be systematically removing the ability of people to have good judgement and to know when and how to apply it...

     
     
     
    • Barbara Nyland
    • Retired

    I appreciate the many tools for effective decision making but don't see how human judgement can be separated from the choice of which tools to use. Judgement for me is also part of selecting initial potential decisions to test with those tools. Human judgement is essential in moving to a decision and in identifying responsibility (accountability) for the result. A world where human judgement is not involved is a rather scary thought even if it is potentially (from a technocratic perspective) safer from mistakes.

     
     
     
    • John Consalvo

    Yes, I think there most certainly is a roll for human judgement or intuition in decision making. Particularly if the intent and desired outcome is expansive and pro human. Human Intuition is an inner knowing, ones innate wisdom. For those whom can connect with this wisdom, creativity, vision, truth and love are present. Much of the qualities required by a great leader and decision maker. Unfortunately this human judgement may be of little use where intention is to satisfy shareholders or increase previous years profits, particularly if undertaken with disregard for subsequent outcomes. This requires a skill that can only be learnt. Old fashioned intuition is by no means out of date, however the opportunities and outcomes of applying intuition may be.

     
     
     
    • Lopez
    • industrial manager, sanofi

    Of course, there will be always a role for human judgment but not at the CENTER of the universe. A copernician revolution is expected.

    The provocative title of this article points out a real problem of modern societies, this highly inter-connected and reflexive world of ours.

    Most organizations have very poor decision making processes (if any) because they assume that good decision making is the natural duty of a decision maker based on (supposed) robust analysis, advices from peers and/or collaborators and, ultimately, personal knowledge or expertise. Most companies do not use lucid scientific approaches in risk analysis and have forgotten the proper role of statistics for multi-criteria decisions in uncertain or human-biased contexts. This weakness is obvious in many areas of strategic decisions : R&D, capex investments, recruitments/assigments, finance...

    One symptom of this situation is the loss of credibility of quantified risk analysis in Finance because its usage was flawed by over confidence (let alone greed), lack of competency, moral hazard and political interests. It allowed the systemic crisis of 2008-2009 (among others)...all in all, a result of poor human judgments.