Individual differences in decision making styles


Put Chad and Sean into the same decision situation and Chad almost always seems to take longer to come to a solution. Chad’s final choices aren’t necessarily always better than Sean’s ,he’s just slower in processing information .Additionally, if there’s an obvious risk dimension in the decision ,Sean seems to consistently prefer a riskier option than does Chad .What this illustrates is that all of us bring our individual style to the decisions we make.

Research on decision styles has identified four different individual approaches to making decisions. This model was designed to be used by managers and aspiring managers ,but its general framework can be used by any individual decision maker.

The basic foundation of the model is the recognition that people differ along two dimensions. The first is their way of thinking .Some people are logical and rational .They process information serially .In contrast ,some people are intuitive and creative .They perceive things as a whole .Note that these differences are above and beyond general human limitations such as we described regarding bounded rationality. The other dimension addresses a person’s tolerance for ambiguity. Some people have a high need to structure information in ways that minimize ambiguity, while others are able to process many thoughts at the same time .When these two dimensions are diagrammed , they form four styles of decision making .These directive ,analytic, conceptual, and behavioral.

People using the directive style have low tolerance for ambiguity and seek rationality .They are efficient and logical, but their efficiency concerns result in decisions made with minimal information and with few alternatives assessed .Directive types make decisions fast and they focus on the short run.

The analytic type has a much greater tolerance for ambiguity than do directive decision makers. This leads to the desire for more information and consideration of more alternatives than is true for directives .Analytic managers would be best characterized as careful decision makers with the ability to adapt to or cope with new situations.

Individuals with a conceptual style tend to be very broad in their outlook and consider many alternatives .Their focus is long range and they are very good at finding creative solutions to problems.

The final category—the behavioral style—characterizes decision maker who work well with others. They’re concerned with the achievement of peers and those working for them and are receptive to suggestions from others, relying heavily on meetings for communicating .This type of manager tries to avoid conflict and seeks acceptance.

Although these four categories are distinct , most managers have characteristics that fall into more than one. It’s probably best to think in terms of a manager’s dominant style and his or her backup styles .Some managers rely almost exclusively on their dominant style; however, more flexible managers can make shifts depending on the situation.

Business students ,lower-level managers, and top executives tend to score highest in the analytic style .That’s not surprising given the emphasis that formal education, particularly business education gives to developing rational thinking .For instance, courses in accounting , statistics, and finance all stress rational analysis.