The art of decision-making

Black and white thinking is rarely a practicable approach for research – even if it probably can be enticing. Making decisions about things that are happening in the here and now are far easier than casting your eyes forward to the autumn and attempting to predict how things will have developed by then. Synchrony – or being able to envisage several parallel tracks in your head can be crucial in uncertain times.

That as a researcher to dare to do something on the one hand while on the other hand patience and sometimes even courage are called for.  Making decisions about an unclear future, where not all facts are on the table, is a challenge. I have sometimes wondered about what the various options are.

  • One way is known as wrong decision fast where it can feel more important to make a decision no matter how wise the decision can seem on further contemplation. 
  • Another is to lie doggo and make a decision by not making a decision and waiting for things to pass – or as you may perhaps see it – seeing things out.
  • A third is to the one that concerns synchrony, where timing is an important component in decision-making.

At KTH we plan to open as usual this autumn, that is to say study period 1 autumn term 2020. However, making decisions in this situation is not easy and there is a big need for synchrony.

Added to which, KTH is an international university that has been impacted by the global situation in the wake of the pandemic. Will exchange studies be possible even if we do open as normal? It is extremely likely that the after effects of the strategies pursued by different countries during the pandemic will affect KTH. We will also be in a situation where the infection will remain for a long time, which means the new normal will not be the old normal.

An interesting opinion piece published in a leading Swedish daily the other day by the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics, presented eight values and principles for decision-making within an ethical framework ( ). Several of these principles can also provide decision-making guidance in general, not least in the situation we are in now.

I hope the recommendations that are due to be presented by the Swedish Public Health Agency in late May or early June, are clear and relevant for universities and colleges.