Making by Max Bazerman
Book Critique: Judgment in managerial decision making by Max Bazerman
Judgment in Managerial Decision Making by Max Bazerman discusses an aspect of management that most college or university textbooks tend to ignore, or at least downplay. Bazerman details how personal judgement influences the decisions of even the most seasoned managers, albeit a little lesser than those with lesser practical experience. It is this aspect of the topic that interested me the most. Books on decision making are generally based on undeniable logic and predefined mental and evaluative processes. However, one has to consider that decisions are made by human beings who are typically emotional. Bazerman’s work on how personal biases, past experiences and heuristics influence the decision making ability of a manager. The second point that I liked about the topic is that Bazerman’s treatment of it. He does not paint emotional influence in an entirely good or bad light but rather speaks of the difference ways that this trait impacts the effectiveness of managers so far as taking the right decision is concerned. I appreciate this unbiased and practical take on a topic that is almost a taboo in the management field that follows a more clinical approach towards decision making. Finally, the depth that Bazerman delves into in order to cover the topic comprehensively is remarkable. He takes a scientific approach towards a human issue, taking time to explain the functioning of the human mind, memory and experiences. This gave me a fresh perspective of how the background of a person will inevitably impact his or her decision making. Overall, covering the emotional and cognitive aspect of decision making in such detail should be applauded.
On the negative side, I felt that the author weaves his way around certain loopholes that his recommended processes leave. For example, he mentions that sometimes, sharing or giving up power can be mutually beneficial and can hence, the decision to do so can be free from bias. However, knowing the corporate world and the pivotal role that power plays, I feel that, even the most fair seeming decision will eventually lead to an uneven and biased outcome. Although Bazerman does touch on the subject of the inevitability of bias, he does so briefly. This, ironically, highlights the bias that the author holds towards his proposed processes in comparison to plain reason and basic fact. I feel that the book would have seemed more believable if the author had given these loopholes more footage and had factored them into his propositions. An honest and truthful deduction, even if it is not fool proof, would have left a better impression on the reader than a proposition that claims to work but leaves doubts.
Key lessons learned from the book are: a) decision making is not all about logic and practicality, b) a person’s background, emotional state and experiences gives rise to biases that influence decision making ability, c) this influence can be good as well as bad based on how a manager channels cognitive ability, d) information, data and statistics should still form the basis of sound judgment, e) steps can be taken to understand and harness biases and cognition towards mutually beneficial ends.
In all, Judgement in Managerial Decision Making provides several insights that have been left out of the general instructions in management.