Friday, 15 August 2008

A Visual Language for Business Decision Making

image Earlier this week I spoke to Tim Van Gelder of Austhink to understand more about business decision mapping and the bCisive tool.  Tim is a cognitive scientist, an Associate Professor (Principal Fellow) in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia and CEO of Austhink, the software developers of bCisive (You can read more about Tim on Wikipedia here).

For many years, Tim  has been developing and evaluating an approach to improving reasoning and critical thinking skills, known variously as The Reason Method, and LAMP ("Lots of Argument Mapping Practice").  Out of this has developed a specific application for business called business decision mapping.

image The philosophy of business decision mapping is based on study of the way in which people make decisions. Either as individuals or in groups we prefer to deliberate, debate and weigh arguments.

Most people will be familiar with the matrix method supporting business decisions. A list of criteria are weighted and scored, often using a spreadsheet. The totals are compared to identify a winner.  Yet this doesn't always end the process. What often follows is a discussion as people express their surprise at the result and begin to debate its pros and cons. This can lead to the options being reviewed again, outside of the matrix, and it is this conversation that benefits from direction, capture and subsequent communication. Instead of providing the basis for the decision, the spreadsheet and other data are relegated to a supporting role for specific points of argument.

As will be familiar to readers of this blog, mapping decisions using a visual language takes advantage of our ability to grasp and make sense of information faster and more easily when it is graphically presented.

bCisive BeesbCisive can be used to direct people down a formal yet flexible path. As a software tool that focuses on the specific activity of decision making, it removes the clutter encountered when using generic tools and provides direct support for decision mapping.

Business decision mapping provides a common notation or language with which to capture the considerations and the conversation that flows around a decision. bCisive presents this notation and an environment in which to use it.

For more on business decision mapping see the bCisive introduction to the topic here. Also have a look at the slide show here.

BCisive can be explored using a free download trial and can be purchased at a hugely discounted price of USD$149 (normal price USD$349) until Monday 18th August. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

1 comment:

Tim van Gelder said...

Steve, That's an important point about the matrix method - in practice the result is part of, or provokes deliberation about the options rather than being the final determinant. But I'd add that even if the matrix calculation is taken as the "last word" there is a need for deliberation about the criteria and ratings. So deliberation is an integral part of business decision making even when a matrix (MAUT, decision analysis, whatever) plays a role.