Updated 11/18

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Robust Decisions

A Robust Decision is the best possible choice; one found by eliminating all the uncertainty possible within available resources, and then choosing with known and acceptable levels of satisfaction and risk.

Robust Decision-Making techniques are designed to address:

  • The information we have is uncertain

  • We each have different interpretations of the available information

  • We each think different things are important

  • We don’t have a good decision-making strategy

  • It is not clear what to do next to reach a decision

  • We don’t understand the risks with each option

  • We must manage alternative and criteria evolution

  • We must get buy-in on any decision we make

 

The Robust Decision approach is based on a wide variety of sources ranging from the writings of Benjamin Franklin to those of Genichi Taguchi; on mathematical methods such as Multi-Attribute Utility Theory, Bayesian Probabilities, and simple Pro-Con lists; and on research from psychology, engineering, artificial intelligence, and sociology. 

 

To read more about this approach see David Ullman's book Making Robust Decisions.

Decisions of the 3rd Kind

 

Where Making Robust Decisions was written in 2006, a more recent look at decision-making was published in a special issue of the journal Insight titled "Systems of the 3rd Kind".  This essay develops four “Kinds” of decisions. Decisions of the 0th Kind are informal, based on intuition or single point analysis. Decisions of the 1st Kind use a structure to help explore the decision-space and then test the results to investigate uncertainty. Those of the 2nd Kind are built on the assumption that uncertainty is a variable that permeates all information, not an after-thought. Finally, Decisions of the 3rd Kind are adaptive, fusing man and machine, understanding the current situation and past decisions in context, and tracking the inherent risks faced in the current situation. All four types are developed, but in practice most decisions are made using 0th Kind logic; mature organizations utilize the 1st Kind for major decisions; few use the 2nd, and the 3rd is glimpse into the future.