The Art of Critical Decision Making
Dr. Michael A. Roberto teaches leadership, managerial decision making, and business strategy as the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He joined the faculty at Bryant University after teaching at Harvard Business School for six years. Previously, Professor Roberto was a Visiting Associate Professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. Professor Roberto earned an M.B.A. with High Distinction and a D.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He brings real-world business skills to the classroom from his years of consulting at and teaching in the leadership development programs of a number of firms, including Apple, Walmart, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, Federal Express, and Johnson & Johnson. Recognized for his research, writing, and teaching, Professor Roberto has earned several coveted teaching awards, including the Outstanding M.B.A. Teaching Award from Bryant University and Harvard University's Allyn A. Young Prize for Teaching in Economics. Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer, his book about cultivating constructive debate to help leaders make better decisions, was named one of the top 10 business books of 2005 by The Globe and Mail. His most recent book is Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen.
Professor Roberto participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about business strategy, decision-making, and leadership.
01: Making High-Stakes Decisions
Examine the myth that bad decisions are most often made by bad leaders. Professor Roberto uses the examples of the Challenger disaster, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and Daimler's acquisition of Chrysler to uncover why good leaders can make bad decisions if the decision-making process they use is flawed.
02: Cognitive Biases
Using the story of the tragedies on Mount Everest in 1996, Professor Roberto introduces you to three cognitive biases that play a role in bad decision making: sunk-cost effect, overconfidence bias, and recency effect.
03: Avoiding Decision-Making Traps
Explore more decision-making traps you can fall into if you're not aware of them, such as confirmatory bias, anchoring bias, attribution error, illusory correlation, hindsight bias, and egocentrism. Darwin avoided confirmatory bias by keeping a separate record of observations that contradicted his theory of evolution.
04: Framing-Risk or Opportunity?
The way you or others frame a problem or decision can have a significant impact on the choices you make. Understand why framing a decision in terms of what you have to lose causes you to take more risks.
05: Intuition-Recognizing Patterns
Discover how to use intuition as a powerful tool in decision making when combined with rational analysis and acknowledge the cognitive processes that are part of our intuition. Professor Roberto recounts case studies from firefighting, health care, and the video game industry to explain the potential and pitfalls of intuition.
06: Reasoning by Analogy
Learn how the Korean War differed from the threat of Adolf Hitler. Professor Roberto explains reasoning by analogy and how you can use analogies to make sense of a complex problem. At the same time, we must avoid the common tendency to overstate the similarities of one situation to another and overlook key differences.
07: Making Sense of Ambiguous Situations
We might like to think that we carefully examine our choices before we make a decision. However, we often do the reverse-make a decision and then figure out why, and base future decisions on how we made sense of other decisions. This process, called sense-making by Karl Weick, constantly influences our behavior.
08: The Wisdom of Crowds?
This lecture includes examples from game shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and from the business world that demonstrate the usefulness of decision making by groups and the potential problems if group members are not fully engaged....
09: Groupthink-Thinking or Conforming?
Discover why even diverse groups can make bad decisions if members are not able to express divergent opinions. This lecture focuses on how groupthink led to the Bay of Pigs invasion.
10: Deciding How to Decide
After the Bay of Pigs failure, President Kennedy and his advisors reflected on their mistakes and created a new process for group discussion and decision making to prevent future groupthink and promote diverse perspectives. Here, Professor Roberto introduces the concept of developing a decision-making process.
11: Stimulating Conflict and Debate
Learn how constructive conflict can lead to new insights and stronger decisions. Discover four methods to stimulate useful debate: role plays, mental simulation techniques, creating a point-counterpoint dynamic, and applying diverse conceptual models and frameworks.
12: Keeping Conflict Constructive
Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for conflict to become unproductive. Understand how to look for and eliminate dysfunctional conflict to cultivate effective teams. This lecture includes cases on Sid Caesar's comedy writing team, health care, and the nonprofit sector.
13: Creativity and Brainstorming
IDEO is one of the world's leading product design firms, expert in developing creative and innovative products for many industries. What makes their process so effective? To help you understand their formula at work, Professor Roberto describes an experiment in which IDEO staff worked to design a new product in just one week.
14: The Curious Inability to Decide
Often as individuals or in groups we become paralyzed by indecision-unable to commit to one path or another. This lecture examines three modes of indecision in groups: "the culture of yes, the culture of no, and the culture of maybe."
15: Procedural Justice
Using case studies about Daimler Chrysler and an aerospace and defense firm, Professor Roberto explains the challenge of building consensus among team members once a decision has been made so everyone will work together to implement it.
16: Achieving Closure through Small Wins
To move forward through the brainstorming and decision-making processes, groups must find intermediate moments of agreement that Karl Weick calls "small wins." This lecture looks at how teams achieve closure through small wins, using cases about D-Day, Social Security, and the CEO of Corning.
17: Normal Accident Theory
Discover how organizational culture and structure affect decision making by individuals and groups. Learn about the Three Mile Island accident to understand what went wrong in that system, and understand how catastrophes more often stem from a domino chain of bad decisions rather than one wrong choice.
18: Normalizing Deviance
The tragic explosion of the Challenger space shuttle was likely the result of a flawed culture at NASA. The repeated and increased tolerance of questionable data and decisions ultimately led to a large-scale failure. How can leaders reform such cultures?
19: Allison's Model-Three Lenses
Learn Graham Allison's approach to examine decision making through three lenses. Use Allison's model to explore the Cuban Missile Crisis from the individual and cognitive perspective, the group dynamics view, and the vantage point of organizational politics and bargaining.
20: Practical Drift
Uncover why organizations make decisions that contradict their own rules and regulations. The concept of practical drift explains this phenomenon, as you see by studying a military friendly-fire case from 1994.
21: Ambiguous Threats and the Recovery Window
When a threat is ambiguous, organizations are likely to minimize the possible risks. Look again at NASA but this time at the Columbia space shuttle accident, 17 years after the Challenger explosion, to understand how conditions changed or stayed the same in that culture.
22: Connecting the Dots
Often in large organizations, no one individual can see or understand all the elements at the same time. Great organizations integrate various pieces to see the big picture. Discover how failure to connect the dots led to an inability to recognize the extent of the threat of a terrorist attack on American soil and therefore a lack of appropriate action before September 11.
23: Seeking Out Problems
Explore how complex, high-risk organizations succeed by focusing on the possibility of failure. Leaders at these organizations proactively look for problems rather than ignore red flags. Also, learn how Toyota's application of these principles has contributed to its success.
24: Asking the Right Questions
Examine the trend of leaders moving from making decisions themselves to focusing on how decisions are made by everyone in their organizations. Smart leaders, as you discover, ask the right questions to glean the collective wisdom of their colleagues and staffs.