Decision Making: It’s not what you think (Part 2) – A Guest Blog by Henry Mintzberg

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Following is the second excerpt of the themed discussion on Decision Making: It’s not what you think.  This new format for developing leaders and managers by Henry Mintzberg and Phil Le Nir is based on the 70;20;10 framework.

There are no lectures, no disconnect from the workplace, just groups of managers developing together during 90 minute sessions, guided by a CoachingOurselves topic such as this one below.  Make sure to read the first blog in this series for an introduction to the approach.

Doing First

But what if you can’t see it, or think it, very clearly? Then you have to just do it – try something.  Maybe thinking, even seeing, will follow.

The thinking first approach may be tidy, but for many decisions, tidy doesn’t work.  You have to probe, grope, and learn your way into what works: discover your solution.

Karl Weick of the University of Michigan has proposed the following model, which he calls “sense making”. (Weick’s terms are in parentheses)


In other words, we don’t just think in order to act, we also act in order to think. Let’s say you find yourself marooned on a strange island.  You can’t think yourself out of this situation, so you try things – walk here, taste that, discover things, and you learn your way.

Can you think of examples of doing first as an approach to decision making in your own experiences? Did it work?

Finding a Mate

So let’s go back to that quest for a mate:

How did you do it? Anyone for thinking first?! Arranged marriages in India are kind of like that.  They probably fare no worse than other kinds of marriages.

Who’s for seeing first – “love at first sight”?

And what about doing first? We’ll let you discuss the nature and consequences of that!

Characteristics of the Three Approaches

Now we can put all three approaches together to compare them.

Thinking first features Seeing first features Doing first features
Science Art Craft
Planning, programming Visioning, imagining Venturing, learning
The verbal The visual The visceral
Facts Ideas Experiences


Thinking first works best when Seeing first works best when Doing first works best when
The issue is clear (as in established production process) Many elements have to be combined into creative solutions (as in new product development) The situation is novel and confusing (as in facing a new, disruptive technology)

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