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Managers can guard against data deceit affecting their decision making by asking questions about the quality of their data, the strength of their models, and the assumptions behind their analysis.
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What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology: Redefining the tech industry; how to make more inclusive decisions fast; four tips for looking good on video calls.
When presented with complex decisions, many executives turn to the tried-and-true decision matrix, spelling out the pros and cons of various options. One flaw in this method, however, is that executives don’t take the time to thoroughly frame the decision and explore the full scope of options. But the matrix’s real value is when it is also used as a process tool that helps executives expand their set of options and criteria.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that considering various scenarios helps strengthen decision making. To test this idea, researchers offered a scenario-based workshop to executives to see how considering scenarios affected decisions. They found that though participants’ confidence in their choices never wavered, the strategic choices they made before the exercise often changed dramatically after viewing the scenarios, with a tendency to become more flexible and focused on long-term value.
Information and communications technologies (ICT) have revolutionized the way we work. But do we really understand their organizational impact? In recent research, Raffaella Sadun, Thomas S. Murphy Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, argues that, in spite of the shared acronym, the effects of information technologies and communication technologies should not be lumped together. In fact, their influences within the enterprise not only differ but actually diverge.
The 1987 UN document Our Common Future notes that sustainability means ensuring that future generations inherit an intact planet. If sustainability is framed as a tradeoff between business and society, addressing this tradeoff for the short term may actually exacerbate long-term problems — compromising sustainability. Firms that find a win-win between profits and planet but fail to consider intertemporal tradeoffs may cost the planet in the long term.
The race for the U.S. presidential nomination is highlighting the increased fragmentation and polarization in American public life. An unprecedented number of candidates continue to stay in the race despite single-digit poll numbers. One reason may be that social media is giving candidates and their supporters an unrealistically optimistic perception of their chances of success — a situation with important implications for business.
Research in 2014 and 2015 shows that the digital workplace is about a fundamentally different way of working, with distinctive behavioral norms. Influence, networks, and dynamic decisions become much more important than power, hierarchies, static decisions, processes, and rules — features that make sense in a slow-moving, traditional environment. As a result, making the transition from a traditional to a digital workplace can be challenging.
“Our world is awash in data, and data is not the same thing as facts,” writes Boston College’s Sam Ransbotham. “While data seems to promise objectivity, instead it requires analysis — which is replete with subjective interpretation.” Ransbotham argues that while having data is a necessary step towards making objective decisions, it’s a myth that data is objective. Moreover, findings that counter current thinking provide organizations with opportunity for distinction, differentiation and advantage.
In an era of information overload, getting the right information is a challenge for time-pressed executives. How can they best distinguish usable information from distracting noise? New research argues that to remain appropriately and effectively knowledgeable, executives need a personal and organizational capability to continually “stay in the know.” And that means assembling and maintaining a “personal knowledge infrastructure” built on both technologies and conversation.
General Mills brought a data scientist into its Consumer Insights group because it wanted to use its existing data more effectively. The company thought it was making decisions based too much on outside data at the expense of what it knew. But figuring out what the company actually knew about its consumers was the challenge facing Wayde Fleener as he came on board. In an interview with MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, Fleener talks about how he got started in building a Big Data practice within his division.
When faced with information overload, it can be easier to make good decisions if you’re able to remove yourself from all the details of the decision and consider the choices more abstractly. Research shows that such distancing, which can be either temporal or physical, can help people to filter out the less-vital details and enable them to focus on the gist of the matter.
How do managers “decide how to decide”? Boards and management teams often try to gain consensus, but that’s not always the best course. Research offers insights into when consensus building is the right way to go and when it isn’t — and how leaders can determine the best form of decision making for a given situation. “By prompting a rule on how the decision will be made — by unanimity, majority or delegation — you can significantly influence what will be decided,” note the authors.
How well do people factor past performance into their expectations for the future? Not very. In one study, for instance, students playing darts who did well in the first round bet that they would beat the improvement goals of those who did worse. They generally were wrong: the better the participants’ score in the first round, the less likely they were to improve as much as other participants in the second.
It’s common for people to worry that reaching out for advice will make them appear less competent, according to research from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School. But if the task is seen as difficult, the advice-seeker is actually viewed as more competent. In addition to establishing a connection between people’s willingness to ask for advice and others’ perceptions of their competence, the authors found that whom people ask for advice makes a difference in how they are viewed.
Analytics acts as an amplifier for business processes. In business, as in music, “louder” does not always mean “better,” so companies seeking to increase their analytics capacity should keep in mind four principles that underscore its limitations for business.
For many decisions, letting your mind wander to a choice that you feel drawn to — rather than laboriously weighing all the options — is more than ample. Researchers Colleen E. Giblin (Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University), Carey K. Morewedge (Boston University School of Management) and Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School) say that while mind wandering is probably not suited for making weighty decisions, it is a less onerous way to sort through options for many decisions.
How much choice do people really want? Asking people to make their own choices requires time and focus — there’s all those options to consider. Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein writes that default rules, which establish starting points for everything from rental car agreements to health insurance plans, can save people time and keep them from being overwhelmed by too much choice.
Social media platforms provide two key capabilities in the enterprise context — managing networks and sharing digital content. The problem is, with multitudes of platforms available — and features changing daily! — it’s hard to pick among them. Blogger Gerald C. Kane outlines a simple method for making optimal decisions about which social media platforms an enterprise should use.
New research into the brain and cognitive activities looks at whether increased attentional control is linked to better decision-making performance.
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