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Thinking about Thinking: Insights for Junior Officers in the New Zealand Defence Force

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  • Margetts, Roger

Abstract

As military thinkers our thinking is influenced by cognitive shortcuts or heuristics, and flawed by the associated predictable errors or biases. We are largely unaware of these effects and how they influence our decision outcomes. The current research seeks to create an approach that develops an awareness of heuristics and biases, and their effects on decision making. The aim is to answer two questions: (1) Have heuristics and biases important to the Military Appreciation Process (MAP) been identified? If so, have steps been formally taken to include heuristics and biases in the training and use of the MAP?; (2) Do instructors of junior officers believe that a heuristics and biases checklist could be developed to improve the use of the MAP by junior officers? A review of the heuristics and biases literature revealed two relevant outcomes. One was that the body of original and updated academic research on heuristics and biases and the effects on decision making remain valid. The second is that other military organisations acknowledge these effects and discuss measures to address them. However they have not taken the next step and formally enacted these measures. Exploratory qualitative research was undertaken to establish perspectives and understandings of the MAP by instructors and a key informant. Semi-structured interviews that incorporated a card sort exercise were conducted to identify which biases matched each step in the MAP. Participants strongly believe there is benefit and usefulness in developing a checklist that addresses the heuristics and biases associated with using the MAP. The results of the card sort exercise were analysed against criteria in three reference models – consensus, theoretical (based on a synthesis of the literature), and best fit. Parameters of fit were analysed at four levels. The analysis is summarised in a deceptively simple model that forms the basis of a usable checklist. The current research contributes to the heuristics and biases literature as it relates to military decision making processes. The mutual understanding of key heuristics and biases, and their match to individual steps of the MAP is seen as an important resource in the development of a checklist. Both instructors and a key informant believe that the checklist will assist them in improving the use of the MAP by junior officers.

Suggested Citation

  • Margetts, Roger, 2016. "Thinking about Thinking: Insights for Junior Officers in the New Zealand Defence Force," MBA Research Papers 6142, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwmba:6142
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    File URL: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/6142
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Military; Decision; Bias;
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