Dietrich Dörner is an authority on cognitive behavior and a psychology professor at the University of Bamberg, Germany. His research shows that our habits as problem solvers are typically counterproductive.
I this book he presents the work of computer simulation models that allowed participants to play the role of a decision maker in various complex settings and shows how they can be applied to real life situations, such as Chernobyl.
Dorner notes: “... real-world decision-making processes are rarely well documented, and it is hard, if not impossible, to reconstruct them. Reports on real processes ... are often unintentionally distorted or even intentionally falsified.” (p. 9)
Some of the ways in which we do so include:
- acting without prior analysis of situations,
- failing to anticipate side effects and long-term repercussions,
- assuming the absence of immediately obvious negative effects means that correct measures have been taken,
- being blinded to emerging needs and situational changes by over-involvement in ongoing projects, and
- being prone to cynical reactions.
Dörner suggests the following ideas to help dealing with complex situations in a better way:
1. Accepting the slowness of human thinking and thus taking more time (especially when it comes to understanding temporal configurations!)
2. Formulating goals in concrete terms: clarifying complex interrelationships carefully
3. Resisting our tendency to economize which promts us to omit certain steps in the thought process or to cimplify them as much as possible
4. Being aware of the human way of wanting to preserve a positive view of one's competence in a form of self-protection
5. Also think about problems we don't have, but might emerge as side effects of our actions.