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You want better results? Make smarter decisions.
on August 19, 2007
This is one in a series of several dozen volumes that comprise the Harvard Business Review Paperback Series. Each offers direct, convenient, and inexpensive access to the best thinking ("ideas with impact") about the given subject in articles originally published by the Harvard Business School Review. I strongly recommend all of the volumes in the series. The individual titles are listed at this Web site: [...] The authors of various articles are among the world's most highly regarded experts on the given subject. Each volume has been carefully edited. Supplementary commentaries are also provided in most of the volumes, as is an "About the Contributors" section that usually includes suggestions of other sources that some readers may wish to explore. In this volume, the reader is provided with eight articles whose authors provide a variety of perspectives on how to maker smarter decisions. All but one of the articles first appeared in the HBR in 2006. Here are brief excerpts from four of the articles:
"Related to the desire for `new' is the desire for `big' - the big idea, the big study, the big innovation. Unfortunately, `big' rarely happens. Close examination of so-called breakthroughs nearly always reveals that they're preceded by the painstaking, incremental work of others...the tiny, excruciating steps they took over the years to develop their ideas and hesitate to declare breakthroughs, while - like snake oil salesmen - one business guru after another claims to have developed a brand-new cure all." Evidence-Based Management, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
Note: Pfeffer and Sutton later published a book developed from this article, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management.
"Companies questing for killer apps generally focus all of their firepower on the one area that promises to create the greatest competitive advantage. But a new breed of company is upping the stakes. Organizations such as Amazon, Harrah's, Capital One, and the Boston Red Sox have dominated their friends by deploring industrial-strength analytics across a wide variety of activities. In essence, they are transforming their organizations into armies of killer apps and crunching their way to victory." Competing on Analytics, Thomas H. Davenport
Note: With Jeanne Harris, Davenport later developed a book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, based on this article.
"Ultimately, changing a culture of indecision is a matter of leadership. It's a matter of asking hard questions: How effective and robust are our social operating mechanisms? How well are they linked? Do they have the right people and the right frequency? Do they have a rhythm and operate consistently? Is follow-through built in? Are rewards and sanctions linked to the outcomes of the decisive dialogue? Most important, how productive is the dialogue within these mechanisms? Is our dialogue marked by openness, candor, informality, and closure?" Conquering a Culture of Indecision, Ram Charan
"So where do bad decisions come from? In many cases, they can be traced back to the way the decisions were made - the alternatives were not clearly defined, the right information was not collected, the costs and benefits were not accurately weighed. But sometimes the fault lies not in the decision-making process but rather in the mind of the decision maker. The way the human brain works can sabotage our decisions." The Hidden Traps in Decision Making, John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa.
These brief excerpts are representative of the thrust and flavor of all of the material provided in this volume. Once proper decisions have been made, it will probably be necessary to persuade others to support them. For cutting-edge thinking on that, I highly recommend HBR on Business Communication as well as Power, Influence, and Persuasion: Sell Your Ideas and Make Things Happen (Harvard Business Essentials). Also Stephen Denning's The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative, Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future, and Robert B. Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.