Teaching Decision Making

Gerald F. Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Decision Making

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780199290468
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

Teaching Decision Making

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  • Business and Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Business Strategy



Management educators base their efforts to teach decision making on two arguments: normative and descriptive. The normative argument holds that there are universal principles of rational choice underlying formal methods managers can learn and apply. Its descriptive counterpart contends that empirical research has identified effective and ineffective decision practices managers can learn to emulate or avoid. Though each approach has legitimacy, there are serious limitations. Normative rules are often not useful in practice since they pass the problems by, leave key challenges unaddressed. The descriptive strategy has an overabundance of material that could be taught. While there are many plausible accounts of decision making, researchers have not identified a useful, empirically validated “right way” of making choices. This article provides an account of the teaching of decision making that highlights the educational implications of alternative views of organizational choice.

Keywords: normative argument; rational choice; decision practices; legitimacy; empirical research; teaching of decision making; organizational choice

Article.  7564 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Business Strategy

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