The ACE Decision-making Model

When choosing between options, do you rely on cool analysis or lively intuition? Both have their place, yet both have shortcomings. Here’s a framework that helps you make smart decisions with rigour

If analysis is the science of decision making, then intuition is the art of decision making. Should we give more weight to one or the other? In most cases, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Analysis of options is a necessary step but it is often not sufficient. Some issues simply cannot be quantified or we may be bombarded with conflicting information and not have the time to absorb it all. If you have ever worked on a SWOT analysis, you probably have had to make an intuitive leap beyond the hard data. 

But there are problems in relying on intuition. Intuition, or sound judgment, rests on the foundation of experience. The world, however, is changing quickly and we are seeing situations we have not seen before. Past experience may not be relevant. There are other pitfalls to relying on intuition to make decisions: we tend to fixate on the first piece of information; we tend to be wedded to the status quo; sunk costs lead to justifications; and we look for data that support the decision we want to make. When it comes to intuitive decision making, we are clinically delusional. 

There is a third way, a formalized hybrid approach to making decisions that incorporates both analysis and intuition. Salman Mufti, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at Queen's School of Business, calls it the ACE framework (for Alternatives Criteria Evaluation). He developed it after closely following a cohort of 20 business managers who were acknowledged by supervisors and clients alike as ninja decision makers. 

In this white paper, Mufti offers an overview of the ACE decision-making framework.

Smith School of Business

Goodes Hall, Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 3N6

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