Saturday, February 10, 2007


Author: Hari Singh
Publisher: HRD Press
ISBN: 0-87425-873-1

People make hundreds of decisions every day. Most decisions are either so trivial or so routine that we don’t even think about the processes we follow to make them. In fact, we probably don’t even realize we are applying any processes to our decision-making. Our dilemmas arise when we must make significant decisions: who to marry, what career to pursue, where to live . . .. Are there any useful models we can apply to decisions like these? Dr. Hari Singh would answer that question with a resounding, “yes!”

If you think a business professor’s account of decision-making is likely to be dry as dust, think again. Dr. Singh uses a remarkably creative “frame” to present an abundance of scholarly material. Rather than explaining concepts deductively or formulaically, Dr. Singh enfolds those concepts in the frame of a novel. Moreover, Dr. Singh’s uses the classic framing technique of enclosing a story-within-a-story. Thus, the story, the concepts and the models are literally “framed” in multiple layers.

The outer frame of the story is a conversation between two brothers. Chris, who must soon make some critical decisions, has come to his elder brother, Larry, for advice. Larry could dryly explicate Benjamin Franklin’s Balance Sheet method, or the Weighing Attributes and Ranking Scores method, or the Scenario Strategies method of decision-making and then tell Chris to select a model from that menu. He doesn’t do that. Instead, Larry tells Chris how he first learned, through two life-changing experiences, to apply all of those decision-making models at appropriate times.

The first life-changing experience, which provides the inner frame of the story, is Larry’s account of a decision-making course he took in business school. This is the primary context in which academic concepts and models are introduced. Dr. Singh uses the dialogue between the students and their professor to explain and clarify the subject matter. The students’ learning experiences, however, are not confined to the classroom. The students, by means of a case study, demonstrate how the ideas discussed in class can be applied to real-world situations. To this point, the concepts, models and case study have been set primarily in a business school context. But Dr. Singh does not stop there.

The second life-changing experience, which provides the fascinating (dare I say “fun?”) core of Larry’s story, is his application of the knowledge acquired in his business course to solve a murder mystery. Thus, Dr. Singh cleverly transfers concepts derived from a wide range of academic disciplines to an entirely new context and demonstrates that they can be used, literally, to resolve all manner of dilemmas. One could even say that it would be appropriate to view these ideas as life skills rather than mere business or decision-making tools.

Not only does Dr. Singh present his material in a novel (pun intended) context, he uses a variety of mnemonic tools and acronyms to assist the reader’s retention of the material. I have not had the privilege of attending any of Dr. Singh’s classes but I suspect that he is an outstanding teacher as well as a scholar. He has published numerous journal articles and served as a consultant for a variety of organizations and government agencies. This book is merely the latest addition to his substantial list of accomplishments.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in management, decision-making, group dynamics and the like. In addition to acquiring decision-making skills, readers of this book will gain a keen understanding of human nature and interaction. For that reason, in addition to being fruitfully used as a textbook in collegiate courses across a range of disciplines, this book should be required reading for executives and management professionals in all business (including non-profit organizations) and government agency contexts.

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