Review of Judgment Calls

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Judgment Calls book summary


9 Overall

9 Applicability

8 Innovation

8 Style


Many executives make decisions without consulting experts, weighing facts, considering options or engaging in thoughtful analysis. They trust their intuition and act accordingly. Such decisions often prove ruinous. Knowledge management experts Thomas H. Davenport and Brook Manville propose an alternative decision-making process – “organizational judgment” – that relies on the collective wisdom, expertise and reasoning of well-informed, collaborative groups. The authors cite case studies of varying strengths to illustrate how organizational judgment results in far better decisions than those based on the “golden guts” hunches of prominent individuals – all of whom are subject to the same cognitive biases as everyone else. getAbstract recommends this perceptive analysis to all decision makers and organizational leaders.

About the Authors

Thomas H. Davenport, a professor of information technology and management at Babson College, specializes in analytics and knowledge management. Consultant Brook Manville is the former director of knowledge management at McKinsey & Company.


Superior decisions depend on good judgment. In the past, grand leaders made the big decisions for their organizations. History describes such leaders as “Great Men.” Unfortunately, they often made terrible decisions. Davenport and Manville assert that many business catastrophes – such as the 2008-2009 financial crisis – aren’t the result of leaders’ lack of knowledge about the contributing circumstances. Instead, many of these debacles derive from great personages’ poor judgment and bad choices. They provide detailed case histories from which to glean lessons from the misguided convictions of so-called great men.

Davenport’s and Manville’s writing is utilitarian. They like a good story and tell many of them without overemphasizing the intended take-away. The authors quote several participants in each story. Some quotes illuminate the tales, some interrupt the momentum, and most illustrate the blindness of the decision makers in the middle of some pivotal event and the utter clarity of their hindsight in the aftermath.

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    Ian Preston 4 years ago
    "Don't put all you eggs in one basket" might be an old saying but these case studies highlight how true it remains.
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    Patrick Brigger 5 years ago
    Excellent read!
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    Gordon Seymour 6 years ago
    Having the courage and willpower to follow through with collective decisions is vital. Some leaders simply find it too difficult to go with a decision they didn't instigate. Read 'Oracles' by Donald Thompson, for further insight into the power of prediction markets.
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      Kathleen Holiday 6 years ago
      thanks for the suggestion of 'Oracles'. I will check this out.
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    Kathleen Holiday 6 years ago
    Excellent case studies to remind us that making decisions with the help of a team is much better than going it alone.
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      Guest 5 years ago
      I completely agree. I find this practice especially useful in the healthcare industry, as most people seek different opinions prior to choosing a doctor when faced with difficult decisions. This could save the patient a lot of time and money to know that the decision reached was made from a group of doctors and not just one.

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