PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Henåker: Decision-making style and victory in battle

Comparative Strategy has just published a piece by Lars Henåker (Swedish Defence University) entitled “Decision-making style and victory in battle—Is there a relation?” In it he reports on a series of experimental wargames which examined the relationship between general decision-making styles and tactical victory:

Can decision-making styles impact victory and defeat in armed conflicts? To answer the question of whether decision-making styles are linked to the victories and defeats of individual tacticians, this study utilizes five general decision-making styles: Rational, Intuitive, Dependent, Avoidant and Spontaneous. The aim of this study is to examine whether one or several of the general decision-making styles (GDMS) have an impact on tactical outcomes in wargames. A total of 104 officers and academics participated in the study. The study’s foremost conclusion is that the Dependent style is significantly connected to defeat in the wargame’s dueling set up.

The participants were 104 officers from the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm and in the Swedish Armed Forces (Skövde Garrison), ranging in rank from Lieutenant to Colonel. The study found little relationship between decision-making styles and wargame outcomes except in the case of the “dependent” style.

The Dependent decision-making style is typified by individuals who seek advice and guidance from others prior to making important decisions. This style adversely impacts the capacity for innovative behavior and creativity for the same reason as the Rational decision-making style. The Dependent decision style is also affiliated with a reduced ability to complete a thought process (e.g., a decision-making process) without being distracted by irrelevant thoughts. Individuals with a Dependent decision style tend to desire to solve quandaries rather than avoid them, although they also have a tendency to doubt their own ability to find a solution.10 A study by Alacreu-Crespo et al. pos- ited that the Dependent decision style is strongly associated with the need for emo- tional and instrumental support. The Dependent decision style encompasses individuals with socially open and constructive natures, as well as passive and anxious individuals.11

The author goes on to conclude:

One reasonable interpretation is that an individual with a Dependent decision-making style requires more tactics at their disposal and more time to make good decisions. If the individual’s decision-making style is regarded partly as acquired and habitual behavior, and identified when an individual is confronted with a decision situation, we can assume that practical training would reduce a tactician’s need for time and external support. Furthermore, studies should be conducted on how a group of tacticians would manage against another group of tacticians in the corresponding circumstances. It seems reasonable to suggest that decision-style tests be used as a tool for increased self-awareness among military officers, although it is probably too soon to use decision-style tests as a recruit- ment tool.

Finally, we can now pose the question: what practical benefits can we derive from the insight that the Dependent decision-making style adversely impacts the outcome of a dynamic, complex and high-pace environment? The simple answer is that tacticians with a Dependent decision-making style should not have first-call responsibility for making quick decisions during battle, or there would be a risk that decisions are made too slowly in relation to an opponent. However, the study does not indicate whether tacticians with a Dependent decision-making style will function positively or negatively as a member of the group, e.g., staff member, under extreme stress with incomplete decision data.

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