The Light and Dark Sides of Decision Making

By Holloman, Russ | Supervisory Management, December 1989 | Go to article overview

The Light and Dark Sides of Decision Making


Holloman, Russ, Supervisory Management


The Light and Dark Sides of Decision Making

TOO OFTEN MANAGERS CLING EXCLUSIVELY TO ONE method of decision making--either the analytical or intuitive approach. Yet doing so makes a manager one-dimensional, unable to deliver the risky but potentially rich decisions that come from integrating both approaches. Like the moon, decision making has both a light and a dark side. On the light side, which is clearly visible, everything is neat, orderly, and structured. The hallmark of this approach is systematic analysis of all alternatives, supported by rationality and objectivity.

There is, however, a great amount of managerial decision making that's not neat, orderly, or visible--it's like the dark side of the moon. Intuition, judgment, and sometimes emotion characterize this side more than do analysis. Here, the manager's subjective judgments, past experience, and personal preferences are a mainstay.

Domains of decision making

The terms rational, nonrational, and irrational distinguish the three domains of managerial decision making or behavior. The first of these, rational, is the focus of the light side, referring to decision making that is purposefully analytical. The other two, of course, apply to decision-making approaches from the dark side. The term nonrational refers to those decisions that are the result of intuition and judgments. And the last term, irrational, describes an aspect of managerial behavior, although such behavior is itself a result of decision making. For example, irrational decision making occurs when managers don't do what they know they should do; whether this knowing is the result of analyses or intuition, by definition they are behaving irrationally.

The differences between each approach, like the boundary between the two sides of the moon, are differences of degree. …

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