Mapping Out the Options: How Technology Helps with Decision-Making - Page 3

Advantages of BDM

Compared with standard, informal deliberation (for example, arguing around the board room table), BDM takes some extra effort but offers many advantages. Let's take a look at three of the advantages of BDM:

First, BDM improves the clarity and rigour of thinking behind the decision. With the thinking laid out in front of us, we can more easily survey the considerations and take proper account of them.

Second, BDM improves collaboration. A decision map is an easier way to communicate a complex structure of options, arguments and evidence. With better sharing, team time is spent more productively.

Third, the BDM process automatically results in a concrete record of the thinking behind the decision. This is useful if-as often happens-the decision needs to be revisited at some later point in time. It also helps the decision makers to be accountable. Once a decision is made, things might still turn out badly for other reasons. But at least the decision maker can easily show that the decision was well-grounded at the time.

BDM can be done on paper, whiteboard or computer screen, using markers or generic software packages. However, similar to most things, it can be done better and faster with dedicated tools. In recent years, dedicated decision mapping software has emerged, making creating, modifying and sharing of decision maps relatively simple and fast. Decision mapping, supported by such software, deserves a place as a standard part of the toolkit of IT analysts and executives.

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/VanGelder_tim70x70.jpg Tim van Gelder, PhD, is Founder, Director and Chief Visionary Officer of Austhink Software. Tim is a cognitive scientist, consultant and software entrepreneur specializing in improving human thinking. Educated at the University of Melbourne (BA, 1984) and University of Pittsburgh (PhD, 1989), Tim held academic positions at Indiana University and the Australian National University before returning to Melbourne as an Australian Research Council QEII Research Fellow.

Tim has conducted decades of research on how to improve thinking, particularly reasoning and critical thinking skills. In 1998, Tim set up The Reason Project at the University of Melbourne, which developed a software-supported method for improving critical thinking. Extensive empirical studies showed that this method reliably produces substantial gains in reasoning skills.

Tim is recognized as a pioneer in argument visualization and critical thinking training. He has over 60 publications in cognitive science, and was winner of the 2001 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Critical Thinking. Tim's company, Austhink, has clients that include major organizations in the United States intelligence community, which have adopted Austhink techniques in their analytical training. He can be reached at