Decision making

Essay by eliska8 April 2004

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Decision Making

Making decisions is one of the most important function of managers.

The work of managers, of scientists, of engineers or lawyers is largely work of making decisions and solving problems. It is work of choosing issues that require attention, setting goals, finding or designing suitable courses of action, and evaluating and choosing among alternative actions. Nothing is more important for the well-being of society than that this work be performed effectively, that we address successfully the many problems requiring attention at the national level (e.g. the budget and trade deficits, national security..), at the level of business organizations (product improvement, choice of investments..) and at the level of our individual lives (choosing a career of a school, buying a house).

The abilities and skills that determine the quality of our decisions and problem solutions are stored not only in more than 200 million human heads, but also in tools and machines, and especially today in those machines we call computers.

Decision making would be easy if we could predict reliably what outcome would follow from the selection of which alternative. To this end decision makers use forecasts, or predictions of the future, to guide their choice of alternatives. We consider decisions carefully because we care about the outcomes, whose goodness we measure against our values.

There is one game that has been studied extensively, both theoretically and empirically and it's called the Prisoner's Dilemma. In this game between two players, each has a choice between two actions, one trustful of the other player, the other mistrustful of exploitative. If both players choose the trustful alternative, both receive small rewards. If both choose the exploitative alternative, both are punished. If one chooses the trustful alternative and the other the exploitative alternative, the former is punished much more severely...