There is a common saying “follow your heart, trust your brain and be true to yourself”. This alludes to the fact that what you feel, and think is all the data needed to make a good decision. However, we know this is not always the case. The human brain naturally jumps to conclusions, thereby distorting incoming information. This introduces bias, assumptions and beliefs in decision making. Therefore, caution must be exercised when making complex and high-stake decisions with serious consequences. The same holds for Analysing Business Problems (ABP).
Thinking to Support Business Decisions
Business problems can be complex and difficult to deal with. By default, our minds solve problems and accept the obvious solution. It ignores the fact that there may be alternative answers and possibilities. Most business problems have more than one solution. At the introductory ABP class, I learnt that this is called System 1 thinking model. This type of thinking is effortless and usually an automatic response. The reverse is System 2 thinking which is a more deliberate and controlled response that tends to be logical, as well as coherent. Dr Yetunde Anibaba (Faculty, ABP) explained how critical thinking enhances System 2.
Critical thinking is a process of reasonable and reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do in any situation. It requires one to think about your thinking, while you are thinking, to make your thinking better (Richard Paul). In practice, three principal steps can help build critical thinking skills. They are question assumptions, reason through logic and embrace the diversity of thought.
Thinking in an orderly fashion
It is important to solve problems or make decisions in an orderly fashion. Often, a framework is employed to aid decisions in solving business problems. The framework is used to gather and manage information, collect subjective and objective data, and minimise the cognitive bias that often impacts our decisions.
Structured Decision-Making framework
The steps in the decision-making framework are enumerated below.
- Understand the situation- what is happening?
- Identify and Define the Problem
- Define your objectives- what does success look like?
- Generate Alternatives
- Identify the Criteria- what are the important things to consider?
- Analyse the Alternatives using the criteria
- Make a choice
- Develop an action plan
We follow these structured steps while analysing business cases in the ABP class. It has helped guide our thinking, eliminate noise, and support informed decision making. So far, we have analysed cases such as ECSA, Micoderm and the Future of BioPasteur cases. They have been interesting to read, analyse and report. We have done both individual and group assignments using the cases above. Feedback from Dr Anibaba continues to throw us off balance but challenges us to think System 2.
In conclusion, to get the full benefits from the ABP class, one must prepare ahead. Read the cases and attempt the analysis before class. One word of caution, never attend an ABP class unprepared. You won’t be able to rely on your brain to analyse the cases. In other words, trusting your brain would not quite cut the chase.
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