Saturday, December 14, 2013

Engineering Reversed - Decision-Making Revisited

Following a lecture on social systems and the deeper forces behind it in an engineering context Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman once again came into sight.

In a world where exactness, concrete, plan, and measurable results are the essentials of the work ethics, it makes wonder how his thoughts, as it is touched on in "Abundance - The Future is Better Than You Think" in chapter three, come into play.

Decisions of engineers (not just the mechanical and electrical, but also the software and other subfields that are driven by hard facts, which also touch on doctors, architects, chemists, and physicists) tend to depend on clear facts, and the processes these generate.

Why can it then be that all too often decisions in these contexts are not as expected?

A recent example is the new Leipzig City Tunnel which has gone into operation today, December 14, 2013, should have been opened four years ago, and it overarched the projected expenses by almost two-thirds. So there is evidence for improvement on how we make decisions.

Kahneman's advice for strengthening decision-making capabilities applies in many fields, including our own personal terrain.

All too often we are bound in our learned mental models which make it impossible to even question the most obvious (that could go wrong), and in the end we suffer by "unexpected" failure. Or put the other way round, even the most promising opportunities in the future are denied, as we (individually or as a group) are bound.

The advice for everyone out of the lecture first mentioned is to reflect on our own thinking (and the inherent mental models we carry on with our mind), and whether our assumptions about the world around us are "set in stone" (or just a mental model in our heads).

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