Decision-Making in an Organizational Context: Beyond by Josep Maria Rosanas (auth.)

By Josep Maria Rosanas (auth.)

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Reducing a nonoperational problem to its technical aspects is to reduce it to what we already know. Any teacher who uses the case method to provide examples of “technical” (or even “magical”) solutions to a problem, 38 Personal Decisions Where Other People Are Far Away generalizing where there is no basis for generalization, is grossly oversimplifying the problem and doing a disservice to students (and to the case method). If, after a class session conducted by the case method, students end up with a summary of “what we have learned today”, we are falling into this trap.

In the simplest cases (decisions with a single, uncertain variable) this is obvious: people do not buy lottery tickets for the pleasure of playing the lottery, but because they hope to win a prize. The “right” decision, therefore, would seem to be the one that leads to the desired outcome. As we shall see, however, this cannot be right. Suppose a person goes to a lottery seller and buys a ticket at random. Suppose, also, that the same person comes back a few minutes later and buys another ticket, again at random.

Let us hasten to add, though, that animal instincts probably include more than what we usually suppose. When an ant works during the winter, or a rat does not eat poisoned food that would kill it, or when a fox avoids certain dangers, we cannot call their behavior “rational”. Instead, we often use the expression “instinctive”; but instincts such as these perform the functions that rationality is supposed to fulfill in human beings. Let’s take an example from novels and films about shipwrecks, where the castaways have no sweet water to drink and are very thirsty.

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