The Grey Chronicles


Decision Making’s Three Secrets

The Three Secrets of Wise Decision MakingBarry F. Anderson (2002) reveals The Three Secrets of Wise Decision Making:

“The three secrets of wise decision making are courage, creativity, and balance in the management of complexity. The courage to be rational faces up to complexity in order to get the problem solved; creativity adds to complexity in order to achieve a more complete understanding of the problem; and balanced judgment evaluates complexity in an even-handed manner in order to reduce it to a choice of the single best alternative.”

In Chapter 1: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, Anderson states, “All decisions involve alternatives and values, and all decision processes involve problem structuring and evaluation.”

Problem structuring involves the identification of alternatives, values that distinguish the alternatives from one another, and uncertain events that can affect the values associated with a particular alternative. . . Evaluation is a matter of weighing the relative desirability of various outcomes and the likely impacts of various uncertain events in deciding which alternative is, on balance, preferable.”

A discussion on choice and alternatives follows:

“No two decisions are quite alike, yet all have certain features in common. Since all decisions involve choice, all decisions have alternatives. Since we choose alternatives we believe to be good and reject ones we believe to be bad, all decisions involve values. Since our knowledge of the world is uncertain, all decisions involve some uncertainty regarding the consequences that will follow implementation of any alternative. In all decisions, it’s important to distinguish between facts and values, that is, beliefs about what is or will be true and preferences as to what we would or wouldn’t like to be true.”

Difficult decisions involve multiple factors. Difficult decisions are of two kinds: multiattribute decisions and risky decisions.

Multiattribute decisions involve tradeoffs. Difficulties arise when one alternative is best in terms of some values, while another alternative is best in terms of others. Risky decisions involve uncertainty. Difficulties arise when one alternative would be best in one future, while another alternative would be best in another.”

After introducing the three secrets, Anderson unveils the answers to five questions when dealing with decision-making, such as: values, alternatives, decision table, and uncertainty.

“The criteria for a well-structured value set are completeness, relevance, meaningfulness, testability/ measurability, nonredundancy, and value independence. . . The criteria for a well-structured set of alternatives are that there be a sufficient number of alternatives, that they be mutually exclusive, and that they differ significantly from one another. . . A decision table compares a number of alternatives with one another on the basis of a set of analytic values taken into account simultaneously. . . Regret is an expression of poor judgment in thinking about uncertainty and should be resisted as a basis for evaluating decisions.”

In the last chapter, Chapter 7. What Now?, Anderson recommends ten activities one must do to become more skilled in making decisions, such as:

“First, making use of our old friend external memory . . . so that its presence can remind you of your commitment to improved decision making. . . Second, commit yourself to being a “decision watcher”. . . Third, when you encounter an important decision problem, or even just an interesting one, think about how you’d handle it. . . Fourth, begin with what’s easy, and look for small improvements. . . Fifth, save the analyses of your important decisions, both your fact and value tables and any notes. . . Sixth, remember to place your emphasis on process and to feel good about what you’re doing. . . Seventh, extend your experience in making decisions by taking an interest in the decision problems of others or of your community. . . Eighth, find someone whose judgment you respect and whom you enjoy being with to talk over your decisions with. . . Ninth, look over the appendixes on Thinking More Deeply About Values, Thinking More Deeply About Alternatives, and Thinking More Deeply About Uncertainty now, and read them when you feel ready for them. . . Tenth, read some of the following excellent books on decision and decision-making.”

Maybe I should have read this book before posting The Middle Word in Life.


Anderson, Barry F. (2002). The Three Secrets of Wise Decision Making. Portland, Oregon: Single Reef Press, 2002. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.


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