00531 Ambiguous Decisions

Being an engineer, entrepreneur, designer and strategic planner, I have long been an advocate of integration of the rational, intuitive, creative and visionary aspects of decision making. This quartet seems to have served me well for most challenges over the decades. The one challenge that seems to be intractable to this approach is the transformation of K12 education to meet the needs and expectations of the 21st century. Many of our eSATS task team have been working on this issue for 20 years – some for 30, and at best the solution has reached the 5% level.

Last week, I had a heated discussion on this issue with my close circle of high-tech entrepreneurial buddies from the 1980’s. They recommended that I abandon this grand challenge and like an entrepreneur, refocus on something that has a reasonable probability for success. I retorted that I had done the smaller summits, and Mt. Everest is the only game worth playing.

But it got me thinking that maybe my quartet of decision making processes was not hacking it. Perhaps what was needed was a new approach that would be effective with our target audiences – Arizona’s governance and education leadership. In reality, it’s their decision process, not mine that is fundamental to this K-12 transformation.

For incumbent leadership, the solving of this education challenge has been disappointing and potential solutions ambiguous. For 30 years they have responded with reforms that have face validity but have had minor effect on the overall challenge a 30% failure rate for student

graduation. Gary Klein, a psychologist and chief scientist at Applied Research Associates, has written a book on how people make decisions in ambiguous situations.*

From an interview in Science News, Gary Klein describes how we are wired for speed and it is impossible to not jump to conclusions in ambiguous situations. Within an unending universe of rules and facts, the logical risk analysis approach leads to inaction, or worse, to inaccurate and deceptive calculations that lead to disaster – like our financial crisis. Experienced decision makers use tacit knowledge to recognize situations based on experience. They create a mental story to understand what is going on while using intuition to make their decision.

Education is the most critical factor in the success of each citizen and for the entire State of Arizona. Leadership is rightfully hesitant to risk a radial change in the status quo without being assured of the outcome. But without a radial and successful change, we will continue our slow economic decline and wastage of 30% of our children. What to do?

I say we trust our decades old intuitively reinforced concept that technology is the key to transforming K-12 education and follow Gary Klein’s advice, “Successful decision makers actively manage a situation and shape their options rather than passively awaiting the outcome of a gamble that has specific probabilities, risks and benefits.”

In other words don’t analyze, synthesize or shade your eyes. Act now knowing that once eLearning  transformation has started your intuitions will serve you well in the follow through to a successful conclusion.

*Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making, MIT Press, 2009.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: