Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘decision-making

Making decisions in a group

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Groups have different processes for making decisions—some wait for consensus, others vote, and in others the leader decides. I found, long ago, a little DOS program called “Best Choice” that greatly simplified group decision-making. Using it consisted of a few simple steps:

List the possible options or choices from which you are to select.

List the criteria you will use to evaluate those.

Weight the criteria as you want—that is, assign a number to each criterion to indicate how heavily it should weigh in the final decision. (You actually can do this using the program: do a run with the criteria being the choices, using the sole criterion “Importance.” After going through the decision routine, the result will be the weights for the criteria, in the judgment of the group.)

List the people who will be evaluating the options according to the criteria.

Weight the individuals as you want—again, assign a number to each person to see how much weight to give his or her opinions. (For example, an expert in the field might be given a greater weight than someone who knows little about the matter.) One nice thing: you can change the weights of the deciders to see what effects that would have, and if you weight all but one as zero, you can see how that one person ranked the choices.

The program then presents each decider with a set of pairs of the options for each criterion. Each decider than selects which of each pair is “better” given the criterion being considered.

Note the simplification: instead of considering the whole range of choices and criteria, the decision becomes a series of small decisions between two choices using a single criterion. These decisions are easily and quickly made.

The program then uses those choices and the weights (of criteria and of decision makers) to rank the choices, showing the “value” of each option. Sometimes a group of options will have values that are close—more or less tied—and sometimes options will have values that are far apart.

It works quite well, and now there’s a Windows version available. You can view a demo of it here.

One example: I was leading a major software project, and I wanted to minimize the risks. So I brought the team together for a brainstorming session: “Assume the project has failed. What problem was the cause of failure?” We produced a list of possible problems. I then used the program and listed the problems and two criteria: How likely is the problem to happen, and how big an impact would the problem have if it did happen.

Each team member then went through the random pairings of problems, first evaluating each pair and indicating which one of each pair was more likely to happen, and then going through another set of pairs indicating which one of each pair would have a greater impact if it did happen. The program then ranked the problems based on the input of the entire team (appropriately weighted) and we had our risk factors identified in terms of their danger.

I’ve also used it to pick vacation spots, cat names, cars, and so on.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2008 at 3:20 pm

Making decisions by voting

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It can get complicated, and here’s a brief post that explains why. But it’s even worse than the authors suggest. Here’s why:

So many teams and so little room at the top. Which team becomes the national champion in U.S. college football rests on rankings, which reflect the opinions of poll participants (and, nowadays, also computer ratings).

This year, Ohio State plays for the national title in the championship bowl game. And its opponent will be Florida rather than Michigan because the “experts,” in their voting, judged that Florida would be the more worthy opponent.

This outcome hasn’t pleased everyone, and, as happens nearly every year, many have criticized the vagaries of the ranking system for allowing apparently flawed or unfair outcomes.

Similar problems in determining which team or player deserves a national or year-end championship or how they ought to be seeded for a tournament occur in other sports that also employ elaborate rating schemes to rank teams or players.

In a paper published in a recent issue of SIAM Review, Paul K. Newton and Kamran Aslam of the University of Southern California argue against the widespread belief that it is possible, with just the right tweaking, to come up with a ranking system that yields reasonable results and eliminates logical inconsistencies—and, hence, settles all arguments, leaving everyone satisfied.

“The philosophy behind these systems is that there should be a player or team that ‘deserves’ to be recognized as ‘the best,’ and if only the correct method were found, such a team could be unambiguously chosen,” Newton and Aslam write.

But it’s impossible to make such a guarantee.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life

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More Daniel Kahneman

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Via My Mind On Books, some more Daniel Kahneman goodness from UC Berkeley:

Note that these use RealPlayer. UC Berkeley has quite a list of lectures: browse for more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2007 at 11:36 am

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