Saturday, May 26, 2007

Satisficing to Get Things Done

In Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Gary Klein writes:

The difference between singular and comparitive evaluation is linked to the research of Herbert Simon, who won a Nobel Prize for economics. Simon (1957) identified a decision strategy he calls satisficing: Selecting the first option that works. Satisficing is different from optimizion, which means trying to come up with the best strategy. Optimizing is hard and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient. The singular evaluation strategy is based on satisficing. Simon used the concept of satisficing to describe the decision behavior of businesspeople.

The key here is that satisficing means figuring out what a satisfactory outcome would be and then finding ways to achieve it.

Gary goes on to point out that this is how experienced fireground commanders can quickly make effective decisions under extreme time pressure. Rather than explore all possible options and evaluate their trade-offs, they quickly run a mental simulation in their mind. If they find the option won't work, they move on to the next.

The key here is "experienced" fireground commanders. Novices need to evaluate options and their trade-offs to make effective decisions, which is a much more time consuming process.

Key Take Aways

  1. Experts avoid optimizing a single value -- they look for a best fit against a set of criteria, and take the first fit against that (very quickly in their head).
  2. Novices don’t have this option because they don’t know the options, don’t know the important criteria, and don’t have the benefit of experience to evaluate against.

Additional Resources