Decision Support Systems

Det binära beslutsstödssystemet Gustaf

There's a lot of research going into DSS - Bayes-based, AI, expert systems and the like. When I was studying programming, one of our teachers showed a little side project he was working on for the Swedish Road Authority (Vägverket) to try and model traffic and weather conditions so they could better plan for when to send out snow plows and/or sand the streets. They had a few old-timers who knew all this, but transferring that knowledge - acquired over a period of decades - to new employees had proven dicfficult so they wanted a computer system to incorporate all the old knowledge and help them make the decisions. Apparently it worked fine, but it was pretty expensive since it took a lot of facetime with the old-timers, trying to get their seat-of-the-pants instincts formalized into working logic.

However, in my experience and when it comes to a cost/benefit ratio, no decision support system has yet to beat the coin. Or the Binary Decision Support System Gustaf, as I call it. ;-)

The method is simple: Formulate the current problem as a single yes/no decision. Flip a coin to see the outcome. Regardless if you have an impulse to flip again (best of three) or if you are satisfied with the outcome; you have just reached a decision. Act on it.

The rationale behind this is also fairly simple: Most of the time, you have actually made the decision already, you just have to overcome an obstacle (fear, prejudice, whatever) to realize it. The coin helps you find the answer you have already given. It's also handy in situations where the decisions themselves aren't really important, but that A decision is made is, or when the decision is important, but both options are roughly equal.

Just beware of the pitfall - don't blindly accept the coins wisdom (it has none), but be prepared to override it if you feel the need. It is a tool, not your boss. Also, it requires the operator to have at least some kind of knowledge about the subject matter as the method relies on the operator actually making the decision. It makes your decision-making easier, it does not make decisions for you.

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