Problem Solving and Decision-Making

 

Select a popular general news website and research it for a news story related to problem solving and decision-making. Here’s a list of the most popular news websites on the Internet today. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Questions:
1. Write a summary of the news story; what were the key learning points you took away from the article?
2. Why is this article relevant to today’s managers?
3. How might what you learned from the article help a manager to make decisions or run their department?
You can refer to the Syllabus to review the expected file naming criteria. Make connections to course lectures and outside resources, answer the reflection questions, and cite all sources properly. In order to receive top marks please incorporate specific lecture or discussion information into your paper. This assignment should be 3 pages in length, double-spaced (not counting reference page). APA formatting is required in all writing.
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Your Topic: Problem Solving and Decision-Making
Your Assignment
Select a popular general news website and research it for a news story related to problem solving and decision-making. Here’s a list of the most popular news websites on the Internet today. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Questions:
1. Write a summary of the news story; what were the key learning points you took away from the article?
2. Why is this article relevant to today’s managers?
3. How might what you learned from the article help a manager to make decisions or run their department?
You can refer to the Syllabus to review the expected file naming criteria. Make connections to course lectures and outside resources, answer the reflection questions, and cite all sources properly. In order to receive top marks please incorporate specific lecture or discussion information into your paper. This assignment should be 3 pages in length, double-spaced (not counting reference page). APA formatting is required in all writing.
Lectures Notes: Motivation
Before entering into this week’s lecture, reading, and videos, please take the SCARF assessment (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by David Rock. There are no right or wrong answers. You will be asked to consider what you think your preferences will be, followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. Simply choose the statement that best describes how you would react in each of the given scenarios. Simply focus on what you would most likely do in that situation. Once you click the submit button at the end of the survey, your results will appear on screen. Save your results for discussion.

Dilbert, Scott Adams, 1/13/14 : http://dilbert.com/strip/2014-01-13 Links to an external site.
Motivation
What motivates you? Usually students are asked this question they laugh and automatically say, “Money of course.” If you ask them again, “Yes, but what really motivates you? Think about a time when you were very excited about a project you were working on and you worked really hard putting in effort above and beyond the call of duty. What caused you to do that?” Then they pause and usually say, “Well, maybe it wasn’t just the money. I liked the subject matter and I wanted to do a great job.” Or perhaps, “When I work on something I always want to do my best” or “I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Believe it or not, the topic of motivation is fraught with controversy. There are a multitude of theories, past and present, about motivation. In 1960 Douglas McGregor, MIT Sloan School of Management professor, published a book about the X and Y theory of motivation which identified employees as either motivated by lower order needs (Theory X people) or motivated by higher order needs (Theory Y people). Theory X employees were assumed to be lazy, lacking in ambition, resistant to change, and unintelligent. Conversely, Theory Y employees were assumed to be intrinsically motivated by nature, anxious to assume additional responsibility and to develop their own strengths and capabilities, and as such, management should help them to do so. This theory led to additional steps being taken to empower employees.
David McClelland, Harvard professor, theorized that people were motivated by three needs: the need for achievement, the need for power, and the need for affiliation. Those with a high need for achievement set goals, like to receive feedback and want to progress towards their goal without a lot of interference by people or external factors. Those with a high need for power have a desire to influence others. As you will learn in a later lecture, power can be used in a positive way, social power, for the good of all, or a negative way, personalized power, which is used for the good of oneself. Those with a high need for affiliation seek close, warm relationships with their fellow employees.
Then there are theories about the use of punishment or rewards to “motivate” people. In addition, there are the notions of intrinsic motivation, that comes from within and extrinsic motivation, that comes from external sources.
Teresa M. Amabile, Steven J. Kramer, Harry Levinson, Frederick Herzberg, and John P. Kotter, wrote (Harvard Business Review, 5/1/07, “Build a Motivated Workforce”):

“Are you using pay, promotions, and perks to motivate your employees? If so, you may actually be eroding their drive to perform. Though necessary, these extrinsic incentives don’t necessarily excite people to work smarter or harder. Instead, they prompt employees to do only the minimum required to get that next raise or job title. What generates enduring motivation? Intrinsic rewards: The elation that comes when you enable people to achieve a goal, complete a task, or solve a problem. The clarity people gain when you explain what you want them to achieve and why their work matters to the organization. The satisfaction subordinates feel when you give them challenging assignments and responsibility for an entire process or unit of work. Without motivation, your people can’t deliver the creativity, productivity, and commitment your company needs to succeed.”

Another theorist, Frederick Herzberg, has his theories summarized in the article “Herzberg Motivators and Hygene Factors (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” where it suggests that hygiene factors (money, status, interpersonal relations, supervision, work conditions, etc.) are on a continuum from job dissatisfaction to not dissatisfied. In this scenario when money, status, and supervision are poor, individuals are dissatisfied with their jobs. When these factors are excellent, individuals will only be not dissatisfied. To move employees to job satisfaction, Herzberg’s describes motivators (achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, growth) which are on a continuum of lack of job satisfaction to job satisfaction. When achievement, recognition, responsibility, and advancement are present, individuals are satisfied with their jobs; conversely when they are absent, there is a lack of job satisfaction.
How can we get people to accomplish the tasks the organization is paying them to do? How do we get them to align their goals with those of the organization? Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer suggest in their article “HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2015 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” that the ability to progress towards a goal is an essential part of motivation. Teresa M. Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Steven J. Kramer is an independent researcher and writer based in Wayland, Massachusetts.
So is it really that simple? Let people feel like they are making progress in task completion and they are happy? Most managers and Human Resources people would love this notion. Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, provides additional information.
Another version of Pink’s ideas:
An additional interesting article on motivation by John Baldoni “Harvard Business Review – Motivation Disconnect How Organizations Fail to Motivate Managers (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” provides more information and views on the subject.
Jody Kantor and David Streitfeld New York Times authors of, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.”, blew the lid off of the dirty little secret at Amazon in an 8/15/15 article that detailed long work days, employees crying at their desks, a lack of sensitivity towards those with medical issues. Yet these people stay. Kantor and Streitfeld state, “Employees often say their co-workers are the sharpest, most committed colleagues they have ever met, taking to heart instructions in the leadership principles like “never settle” and “no task is beneath them.” It’s not the high pay, free food, reimbursed travel expenses, amazing work conditions or free phones. They don’t receive any of that at Amazon. Instead, Kantor says, “The focus is on relentless striving to please customers, or “customer obsession” (No. 1), with words like “mission”, used to describe lightning-quick delivery of Cocoa Krispies or selfie sticks.” Amazonians focus on being the best and brightest at what they do.
Listen to the 3:56 minute PBS NewsHour interview between host Hari Sreenavasan and article author Streitfeld. (Video with transcript here.) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
So I go back to my original question, what motivates you? Have your ideas changed on further reflection?
Review this short video by David Rock to explain the SCARF theory and assessment you took at the start of this lecture.
David Rock developed a theory called SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness). His neuroscience model describes the brains reactions to threats or rewards. You should have already taken the assessment. You are probably wondering what the results mean. The SCARF model is founded on the “approach (reward) – avoid (threat)” survival response, which means: When a person encounters a stimulus their brain will either tag the stimulus as ‘good’ and engage in the stimulus (approach), or their brain will tag the stimulus as ‘bad’ and they will disengage from the stimulus (avoid). This response is particularly strong when the stimulus is associated with survival, a mechanism designed to help people stay alive by quickly and easily remembering what is good and bad in the environment. Your brain processes threat and reward cues within a fifth of a second, which means you are constantly, unconsciously and automatically deciding what is meaningful to you in every situation of your daily life.
What is engagement? a state of being willing to do difficult things, to take risks, to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions. Studies show that people experiencing positive emotions perceive more options when trying to solve problems, collaborate better, and generally perform better overall. The SCARF model is an easy way to remember and act upon the social triggers that can generate both the approach and avoid responses. Understanding which of these five domains are key drivers for you increases self-awareness as to why you (and others) behave as they do in certain social interactions. Knowing more about your own reactions leads to better self-regulation and gives you more options when dealing with other people. All of these preferences are a part of you, they happen subconsciously, and deep down every person is trying to minimize danger and maximize reward in virtually every situation.
• Status: promotion, giving attention/praise to someone’s improvement, providing positive feedback
o increase in status stimulates more of a reward response than a monetary reward!
• Certainty: making agreements clear and explicit, stating objectives, providing concrete details (dates, etc)
• Autonomy: self-directed learning, organizing yourself the way YOU want, setting up your desk the way YOU want, policies of when a person can make their own decisions
• Relatedness: find ways to increase safe connections between people: small group learning, even just one trusting relationship “work friend” can help
• Fairness: increasing transparency, increasing the level of communication and involvement about business issues, establishing clear expectations, allowing teams to identify their own rules
Look for ways you can organize your environment to experience more rewards and less threats in your highest domains. For example, if autonomy is high, find ways to increase your ability to make your own choices, in your job or at home. What motivates you? Do you find that an increase in status, i.e. being given more responsibility, motivates more effectively than an increase in money? Have you noticed the “approach (reward) – avoid (threat)” response in your work relationships and daily processes? How can we use this information that we have learned about ourselves and our colleagues to better work together?
Lecture Notes: Decision Making Theories
Decision-Making Theories
I wanted to take some time to also discuss some aspects of decision-making theory. This is a fascinating topic that has implications in economic theory as well. Note the popularity of the books Freakonomincs and SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. They have turned the study of economics on its head by studying many topics that aren’t typically analyzed by economists like, “Is it OK for Restaurants to Racially Profile their Employees?” and “What You Don’t Know about Online Dating”. If you are interested in some additional listening, Levitt and Dubner have a series of podcasts (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. on various interesting topics.
Rational Choice Decision making theory states that when making a decision we should go through the following steps:
1. Identify the problem or opportunity
2. Choose the best decision process
3. Develop the possible choices
4. Select the choice with the highest value
5. Implement the selected choice
6. Evaluate the selected choice
These sound like logical, sensible steps to take when making decisions. Right? Yet it is not always possible to use this methodology. We live in a complex world and are bombarded by so much information that it is hard to process it all. Yet in our everyday lives, we must make decisions about a host of things from which college to attend to which job to take. When we are confronted with so much information and have so many decisions to make, it can almost become paralyzing. Newsweek had a 03/07/11 cover story, “I Can’t Think!” by science writer Sharon Begley about how the deluge of information paralyzes our ability to make good decisions. Her Newsweek 2/27/11 article, titled “The Science of Making Decisions (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” details just how hard it is to make good decisions when you have too much information. Often when we have too much information we instead choose to make no decision at all because we are experiencing information overload. We are, after all, just human.
Begley postulates, “The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret. It has shown that an unconscious system guides many of our decisions, and that it can be sidelined by too much information. And it has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving….In a world of limitless information, regret over the decisions we make becomes more common. We chafe at the fact that identifying the best feels impossible.”
What a position to be in, feeling that you have access to all of the information in the world and yet still cannot make the best decision possible. This bombardment by so much information causes us over time to just make a decision, any decision because the situation requires it and a quick decision is increasingly becoming viewed as better than the right decision. This methodology, unfortunately, does not allow the brain to do the very thing that it needs to do, take some quiet time to process the information that we have and let our creative juices flow. In these situations, our unconscious, creative brain can be our savior. Just taking some time to pause and let the information ruminate for a while will allow our brains to quietly process some of the information that we have received, not just the most recent information, and determine the best decision for us. So turn off that computer or smart phone. Go for a walk or take a nap. That might just be exactly when the “right” solution pops into your head.
Professor Herbert Simon, Carnegie Mellon, in “Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.”, developed the Bounded Rationality theory of decision making. This theory assumes that people do not always follow the rational decision-making process because there are limitations to their ability to process all of the information needed, they are unable to select the right pieces of information needed, and they do not have enough time and resources to make the “best” decision. As a result, they tend to “satisfice” rather than “optimize” when making decisions. Satisfice means to select a “good enough” solution to a problem whereas optimize means selecting the “best” solution to a problem. Bounded rationality is the decision-making methodology used most often in the business world.
In her article, Begley references Sheena Iyengar, Professor, Columbia University, her book and TED Talk “The Art of Choosing (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.”. This book and TED Talk discusses how the country and culture one was raised in impacts decision making.