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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings SCIENTIFIC THINKING OF DECISION MAKERS
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings How to Promote Scientific Thinking Amongst Decision Makers ALIMOHAMMAD KARDAN Academy of Sciences of Iran People are always faced with contradictory situations whether in their private or social life. They are forced to choose from among different alternatives and make decisions on this basis. Such choices and decision making range from trivial affairs like drinking tea or coffee to choosing a spouse, a field of study, or a job. People decide on the basis of their familiarity, interest, motive, mental and physical preparations, and general attitude. For instance, someone who sees a beverage for the first time may wish to try it; and if he already knows that beverage but does not like its taste, he will not choose it unless he does not want to disappoint someone else, such as a host. The same applies to economic, political, and social decision making by managers within organizations and institutions. If, for instance, a manager of an economic or administrative organization is obliged to make a decision on increasing or decreasing the number of staff members, or if he decides to make changes in some of the units of his organization, the decisions he makes depend on his familiarity with the problem and its solution. Obviously, such decision making, as compared with those regarding private matters, have their own consequences, which may be of prime significance and prominence. If decision making is wrong or hasty, it may endanger the prestige of the management and the efficiency and status of the organization, or it may deprive the organization of beneficial situations. In the face of present competition, such a state is an obstacle for desirable development and expansion of the organization and may even threaten its very existence.
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings DEFINITION OF DECISION MAKING As stated by management scholars, decision making can be defined as the identification and choice of a route, as taking measures toward the solution of a problem, or as benefiting from the existing opportunities. The term problem refers to anything that militates against the ability of managers to achieve the stated goals of the organization. The term opportunity implies anything that provides an occasion for decision makers to achieve something more than those included in the stated goals. Decision making may be preplanned. In this case, current affairs may be addressed through ordinary methods based on intuitive thinking. Yet, regarding the other kind of decision making, unplanned affairs, which are mostly related to future development, decision making is more important and more complicated. It cannot be achieved by the use of intuitive or conventional models. In fact, it necessitates the application of the scientific or rational model. INTUITIVE AND RATIONAL MODELS Usually, managers who are not familiar with the rational model and scientific thinking use methods and paradigms derived from a type of intuition, which is founded on personal experience and may have improper or incorrect information. In intuitive thinking, the mind relies on schemata, stereotypes, and generalizations, which for the most part do not conform to existing realities. For example, a manner of decision making that heavily relies on a particular option for all practical purposes sets aside other options. As a consequence, the use of methods based on rational models or scientific thinking is recommended rather than the use of the intuitive model. The method mentioned above uses the following steps as the best method to obtain the desired opportunity: the identification of the problem or the new opportunity, the identification of solutions to the problem or opportunity, and the choice of the best solution to the problem. Decision making through the rational model necessitates the major steps of scientific research listed below: identifying or recognizing the problem (or opportunity) and specifying the factors causing the problem, compiling and analyzing of the information related to the problem, making hypotheses for the solution to the problem, testing hypotheses and choosing the most appropriate solution, and taking sensible measures for the implementation of the solution. In addition to the identification of the problems, there may be a series of ethical issues that would make it impossible for the decision maker to put his
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings solution into practice. These moral issues take different forms. The most important is a sense of irresponsibility and the fear of taking action. GROUP DECISION MAKING AND ITS PROBLEM To have a better understanding of the problem or the attainment of a desirable opportunity and to find the best solution, most managers or directors take advantage of work committees. In this way they try to clarify the problem and to find the right solution by seeking advice from experienced people. They take such measures because they generally believe that group decision making is better, more sensible, and more precise; however, research conducted by social psychologists during the 1970s shows that this is not always the case. In group discussions, a type of dominant thinking exists that is referred to as group thinking. Group thinking is more evident when there is more cohesiveness among the group members, the members have less information about external reality, and influential and dynamic personalities are present in the group.1 Polarization is another phenomenon in decision making that results from group thinking. That is, if the group members are in favor of or against the subject of discussion to some extent, they may go to extremes after interacting with each other and group thinking, and they may make difficult and dangerous decisions. Hence, the rational model of decision making suggests that managers should not rely too heavily on group decision making, particularly for finding a solution to a problem. If they do choose to use group decision making, they should carefully scrutinize the conclusions of the discussion or group thinking with scientific measures. THE PROMOTION OF SCIENTIFIC THINKING OF DECISION MAKERS Considering the points already mentioned, one method for correct decision making when dealing with critical social, economic, and political problems is to enhance scientific thinking of mangers and decision makers. As far as the author knows, little research has been conducted in this area. Based on his knowledge and experience, the author proposes the following measures that appear to be beneficial: Create the belief among decision makers that one cannot solve problems by means of conventional or intuitional methods. For appropriate decision mak- 1 In this regard, Baron (1989:230) states: “When group attraction and commitment are coupled with several other factors—isolation of the group from outside information or influences, the presence of a dynamic, influential leader and high stress from external threats, an unsettling process as group-thinking may set into operation.”
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings ing, one should identify the true nature of the problem, analyze the situation, and conduct quantitative and qualitative research before taking any further steps. In most cases, the problems are the result of a variety of factors that are beyond the specialization of management or a particular technical field. Therefore, encourage decision makers to gather general information, to have a broad view, and to avoid narrow-mindedness resulting from extreme specialization. Familiarize decision makers with the methods and skills of scientific research, especially in management and in the handling of probable crises. To avoid the drawbacks of personal experience, prejudice about that experience, and the use of only easily accessible information, accustom managers to others’ criticism of their manner of thinking or actions. Here, critical thinking refers to realistic recognition of the strengths and shortcomings of any thought. Decision makers should habitually ask managers’ and experts’ views about the relevant problem, draw decision makers’ attention to the point that they should seek the advice of others while avoiding heavy reliance on group thinking alone, and emphasize the importance of scrutinizing the views of the group and of avoiding extremes resulting from thought or decision polarization. Encourage the participation of decision makers in conferences in which the findings of scientific research about different problems and opportunities are set forth and critically discussed. Reward those who apply scientific thinking in the process of decision making to reach the right decisions and those who are endowed with a research ethic, as described in this paper. REFERENCE Baron, R. A. 1989. Exploring Social Psychology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, p. 230.