The literature on decision making is like a disaster movie highlights reel. Barely has one calamity registered before another serious misstep takes its place. Case study after case study flashes past, each with its own lessons and warnings.
Taking a narrow perspective is a common explanation for failure. The worst decision making is done head down, blinkers on, cheered on by the overconfident and likeminded.
Conversely, the best decision makers are alive to their limitations. They know that complex problems don’t have simple solutions. They know that diversity and debate are essential. And they know how to take different perspectives.
But genuinely different perspectives are hard to come by. It is rare to have your thinking challenged, to have your taken for granted assumptions tested. And there aren’t many places where you are exposed to genuinely diverse, multi-disciplinary thinking. Intellectual stimulation can be hard to come by.
That’s why I'm delighted to have been appointed as a Senior Research Associate at the Intellectual Forum. This role will give me an extra source of perspectives to add to the Strategy Unit’s work on decision making.
Based at Jesus College, Cambridge, the Forum exists to bring together people from public services, academic life, industry and civil society to exchange ideas and learn from each other’s perspectives. Recent events have heard from speakers as diverse as Jimmy Choo, Helen Clark and Helena Kennedy. Topics have included health technology, space, educational inequalities, Artificial Intelligence, sleep, neurodiversity, and methods for longer-term thinking.
I will support the work of the Forum – contributing to events, engaging with academics and supporting students – while harvesting ideas to add to our work. And I will be seeking insights to further develop the Midlands Decision Support Network's training offer on decision quality for leaders.
The ultimate aim is for decision making in health and care to supply fewer ‘lessons from the wreckage’ case studies and more happy endings. Gaining fresh perspectives from Intellectual Forum should be a very useful step in this direction.