Conventional approaches to decision making focus on generating and evaluating alternatives. According to the author, however, alternatives are relevant only as means to achieve values. Values, not alternatives, should be the primary focus of decision making. In this article, he describes “value-focused thinking,” which involves clearly defining and structuring your fundamental values in terms of objectives and using these objectives to guide and integrate decision making. He explains techniques for creating better alternatives for your decision problems and for identifying more appealing decision opportunities than those that confront you. These ideas are relevant both to organizational and personal decisions, and they are illustrated by their application at Conflict Management, Inc.
This work was supported in part by NSF Grant SBR-9308660. I thank Paul Cramer of Conflict Management, Inc., and Howard Raiffa of the Harvard Business School for detailed suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper and Conflict Management, Inc., for its willingness to allow publication of the application.