Sunday 13 November 2016

The Theory Powering Progress: A 5 step Wise Decision Making Procedure

PROGRESS was developed to cover what its authors see as a gap in counselling and management practice. While counselling takes as its main aim helping people to live well the different schools within it have remarkably little to say about how to help people to make wise decisions. Management theorists have devoted considerable resources to producing models of decision-making but, we believe, these models have tended to focus on providing a means for people to make 'purely' business decisions rather than the personal and interpersonal decisions that are part of the fabric of our private and work lives. These models have also tended to ignore the role of the emotions and insights from the values and critical thinking literatures.

This position, and the theory behind it, is more fully explained in our series of articles "Towards Wise Decision-Making" published in Practical Philosophy.

The practical consequences of the theory are to be found by looking at
The main theoretical sources powering PROGRESS are:
  1. values: values are central to making decisions because the whole point of a wise decision is to bring about something that is valuable. Theoretical insights from ethics are used in order to help us ask the right questions to judge what matters, both prudentially and ethically. There is a vast literature on this. An inspired introduction is Weston's A Practical Companion to Ethics. James Rachels' The Elements of Moral Philosophy introduces ethical theories and John Kekes' The Examined Life prudential values. PROGRESS author Tim LeBon's book Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors provides many techniques to help think through their personal values. We have drawn heavily on Covey's, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic for the idea of win-win thinking.
  2. emotional wisdom: wise decision-making is not purely a matter for the head. Awareness of emotions and how they might both undermine and help wise decision-making is vital. In order to prevent us from misperceiving the situation, and also to inform us about what is valuable, we need to use our emotions wisely. Our emotions provide information about the situation and decision facing us, about what we value, and motivate us to carry out our decision. See for example the account of emotions in Nussbaum's Upheavals of Thoughtand Solomon's The Passions. PROGRESS author Tim LeBon's book Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors examines the various roles of emotions.
  3. creative thinking: we use creative thinking skills, in particular when thinking up options, but also to identify potential values.The ubiquitous Edward De Bono offers many tips in, for instance Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step By Step. An early influential text is Osborne's Applied Imagination.
  4. critical thinking: critical thinking is used at all stages, and especially to understand the situation we are in, to weigh up the kinds of values we wish to bring about and to assess our available options.There is a rapidly growing philosophical and psychological literature on critical thinking. Philosophical texts, among many excellent ones, include Anne Thomson's Critical Reasoning in Ethics, Johnson and Blair's Logical Self-Defense, and Robert Ennis' Critical Thinking. Social psychologists Nisbett and Ross cover the dangers of the power of vividness very well in Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of social Judgement.

  5. decision-making: wise decision-making involves being aware of the different stages involved in the process. Our favourite book on this is Smart Choices by management consultants and decision theorists Hammond, Keeney, and Raiffa. One of the few books in counselling that looks at decisions is Egan's, The Skilled Helper.

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