Business Decision Making, Managerial Learning and Information Technology
University of Vilnius, Lithuania
Significant recent research in the decision support area has been concentrating on the human side of the person-technology relation. Knowledge, perceptions, beliefs and experiences have been researched in a number of works. The author has used individual interviews with business decision makers to find out their attitudes towards factors influencing the quality of business decisions. The issues discussed included features of actual right and wrong decisions, role of information sources and analytical tools, factors influencing creativity, and the role of information technology. The findings have shown that in the decision making process, available knowledge is used and new knowledge is created, and these processes are preferred to be supported by simple yet efficient support tools.
The information environment surrounding business activities is getting increasingly complex. The important reasons for this complexity are: growing volumes of information of potential relevance to certain business activities; increasing number of sources of such information; and multiplying technologies for handling data and information. This is particularly true for decision making which has to encompass all relevant data, information and decision maker’s knowledge to make quality decisions.
Alongside with technologies for handling data and information, lately much attention has been given to knowledge management (KM) models and relations between data, information and knowledge. In knowledge-intensive activities, such as decision support, these relationships are important in terms of efficient utilisation of information resources, and especially those supported and facilitated by IT with its present capabilities. The aim of this paper is to take a look at the relations between data, information and knowledge in the context of managerial decision making, and professional learning and experience. These issues are discussed on the basis of surveys and interviews, conducted among small and medium enterprise (SME) decision makers in Lithuania in 1997-1999.
The key questions of the survey have been: how important IT has become for management activities, regarding in the first place decision support, and how does it affect creativity and knowledge development. The synergy between technology and the user has been recognized to work in the areas such as using existing experiences and creating new ones on a problem and decision; working out the decision schema; stimulating creativity; capturing the details and specifics of the decision process for further uses. While IT is and can be efficiently used to manage data and information, the actual use of what is in decision support environment sometimes called stored knowledge – preprogrammed procedures for certain types of situations, sets of models, reusable queries – is rather limited. Instead, the survey has shown that decision makers prefer relatively simple tools and techniques that allow them to perform iterative buildup of decision support points towards a sufficient set to make a decision. Under a problem situation, existing practices are repeatedly tested. In the process, new associations and mental models may appear, expanding existing knowledge as well as creating new knowledge.
The responses have shown that the presence of simple yet efficient decision support tools is welcome by the decision makers as having a potential to gain more with less – to provide more confidence and insurance from fatal decision mistakes, at the same time reducing the need to do extensive training, radically change existing beliefs or invest heavily into sophisticated technologies. In addition, such tools serve as support for managerial learning process and knowledge exchange, especially in the process of creativity stimulation where analogies, real-life and hypothetical situations, brainstorming and bias elimination techniques are used.