I was recently pointed to this great NY Times article – Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? The article reports on a series of experiments to evaluate the effect of making many decisions in a row. It turns out that people don’t do well with this and that “decision fatigue” sets in, reducing not only our ability to make decisions but our overall willpower and energy levels. This is one of those classic bits of science that seems to prove something “everyone knows” – after all who hasn’t experienced decision fatigue after making all the choices involved in fitting out a new home, building a computer on dell.com or ordering a coffee at Starbucks?
Of course this does bring up an interesting situation. I am often told by clients that they are concerned about building Decision Management Systems – they are concerned the systems won’t make decisions as well as the people who make them today. Of course some decisions can’t be made as well by systems as by people, but many can.
- Decision Management Systems can be given the regulations and policies to follow (using a business rules management system) and will then faithfully follow every rule, every time – something people sometimes have a hard time with.
- Decision Management Systems can use much more fine-grained segmentation than people can (most people have a hard time with more than 7 or so choices), improving the precision of risk assessment or opportunity targeting.
- Decision Management Systems can use predictive analytic models to infer trends and likely outcomes from a mass of historical data that is too great for a person to wade through in a timely fashion.
- Decision Management Systems can mathematically manage tradeoffs even when those tradeoffs get really involved
And now we can add one more advantage. Decision Management Systems don’t suffer from Decision Fatigue. They will make each decision without being worn down by the previous decisions (“I’m going to approve this guy because I am fed up being yelled at by people I turn down”) and how many decisions they have already made today will make no difference to their decision-making (“I am almost done with my shift, what’s the fastest way to get these last few decisions out of my queue”).
So the question is not can a Decision Management System make better decisions than my best person at the top of her game but can it do better than my people when they are suffering from decision fatigue.