Diversity in decision making is good

On HBR Blogs Tom Davenport asks..Does Better Judgment Come With Age? see http://blogs.hbr.org/davenport/2010/08/does_better_judgment_come_with.html
Tuesday August 24, 2010

To quote “Building good judgment in an organization is not as simple as giving our youngest leaders silver-haired counselors. It’s the result of drawing on a much broader base of learning for all decisions — from people up, down, and sideways in the organization; from people outside the organization, including customers, competitors, rivals, and partners; and from other sources of data. And therefore, it’s a question of developing cultures and processes that enable that kind of multi-dimensional learning and allow collective wisdom to emerge.

Old paired with young is a combination that often yields better judgment because it is at least one form of diversity introduced into a leader’s deliberations. But why stop there? The executive or manager who relies too much on a single or small group of advisors ignores the wider diversity of opinion that can shape a better decision. This is particularly true considering the “echo-chamber effect” we have all seen some leaders fall prey to, where advisors are (however unconsciously) selected and endorsed because they already share the same worldview and are likely to go along with the gut reactions of the man or woman holding the power. If the advice put forward has the additional sheen of elder year experience, it may be all the more possible to believe that the “second opinion” is in fact an authoritative reinforcement of what was already decided.

Beware the wise elder. It’s not that he or she can’t offer good advice. It’s just that such experience can sometimes become a false and dangerous substitute for the breadth and diversity of opinion, combined with analytical rigor and shared problem-solving, that together make for great organizational judgment.”

Tom has written a very good book on data use in business called Competing on Analytics and offers a useful view on improving decision-making by collecting a greater diversity of input. This broader basis of consultation has been identified by others such as James Surowiecki in his wonderful book “The Wisdom of Crowds” where he shows the many ways in which a group can achieve better quality decision-making than a small group of experts.

In the business context each of these views supports the notion of a greater level of broad participation in decision-making by staff and stakeholders – a common sense approach really. Of course common sense as they say is not so common!


About Curious and Interested

Former Leader and Manager now writer and coach. Enquiring, Curious, Buys more books than can ever read but still reads a lot. A sucker for gadgets...Ipad, Kindle, Chromecast, apple watch. I aim to improve understanding and cause reflection. Not claiming to be the expert.
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