The timing for taking Wharton’s Strategic Decision-making Mindset was ideal because I am moving from a sales leadership role with Payer & Health System customers to an enterprise role where more strategic thinking will be needed. In my new position my remit will be to support and build the commercial capabilities of the entire enterprise. I have been customer facing for most of my career and now I will be working with more of an in-building team where pulling out the best ideas and thinking from my teammates will be critical.
Wharton’s coursework and faculty’s way of thinking about decision-making and how to be a better strategic thinker will absolutely help me in my new role. Two insights really struck me — one was strategies for how to get the best ideas, feedback and insights from everyone on the team and how to fine-tune the ideas that surface, and the other was the thinking around randomness and how you have to be sure you are rewarding the process — not just the outcome — because oftentimes great or bad results can be driven by multiple factors, including bias.
The pharma industry faces many challenges, especially in the areas of transparency and addressing the issue of the cost of drug products to the patient. How do you find the right balance between having a profit so you can innovate but being able to bridge for patients who need to be able to afford your innovation? Whoever cracks that nut and builds that bridge between innovation, affordability and patient access will get the keys to the kingdom. Another issue we grapple with is around accessing physicians — as an industry we essentially have the same selling model as 50 years ago. In this digital age, we have to think about how we find the right balance of face-to-face engagement as well as building other ways to inform and educate physicians, in real time.
Wharton teaches you how to think about how best to approach problems like these — by using the tools that I learned in this course, I believe that in my new role, my team will net better results as we seek to solve complex issues like these facing our company and our industry. Also, now I have a broader network through Wharton that will be able to support me as I grow as a leader in my organization.”
What drew me to Wharton was its reputation and the deep selection of courses. A key takeaway for me in Strategic Decision-Making Mindset was understanding the bias in qualitative information. I come from more of a quantitative background dealing with data, but as you advance through your career, the qualitative aspect of decision making becomes more important — the soft skills and our ability to use qualitative information to make effective decisions.
When it comes to strategic decision making, there are no absolutes — you frequently have to make decisions without 100 percent of the information. This class really gives you pause to consider the implications of decisions, knowing that you don’t have 100 percent of the information. This has direct relevance to my role in risk management because we don’t deal with anything that is black and white.
Wharton’s insights on qualitative decision-making bias also influenced what I wrote in an article on reputation risk that will appear in the Risk Management Association Journal.”
I am the director of the John Templeton Foundation’s character development portfolio. I oversee 60 grants that include research and programmatic grants focusing on advancing the science and practice of character. My greatest challenge is identifying the proposals that will yield important information about the cultivation of good character.
In Strategic Decision-Making Mindset we heard the latest research from experts in business, psychology, and law. These scholars are also very talented at translating that research and making it relevant to organizations independent of industry. They sparked a lot of my own thinking and ideas of ways in which we could use this research to improve the outcomes at our foundation.
We like to think our decision-making processes are objective and free of bias, but bias is a part of human nature and as the workshop highlights, you will make far better, more strategic decisions if you understand what the biases are and how they influence your thinking. I came home with dozens of pages of notes for how my organization might use this latest research on strategic decision making to improve our own practices. Personally, I consider bias on a more regular basis and more intentionally, trying to build systems into my own process to mitigate the effects of these biases.
Another lecture topic was on the logic of chance, which is very relevant to philanthropy. We spend a lot of time and resources trying to identify the best proposal to yield insights into character, but there is a lot of chance involved. We can’t guarantee results, but understanding the role chance plays in achieving an outcome is powerful.
Wharton’s program was immediately applicable to my work. We are currently going through a strategic planning process and our foundation’s president asked the senior grant-making staff to brainstorm a number of ideas to pursue in the next round of our planning; during one of our off-site retreats, she used Wharton’s process for brainstorming.
It was also great to have different perspectives in the program. We had participants from Nigeria, South Korea, and Brazil, and when the law professor shared a case study about Walmart and their practices abroad in the context of ethical decision making — specifically around the issue of bribery — it was fascinating to hear from individuals who do a lot of work abroad who could provide greater context.
To conclude, this was an outstanding program, which would be valuable for any executive in any field. It’s about better thinking — becoming more cognizant of how to make better decisions.”
I decided to attend the Strategic Decision-Making Mindset program at Wharton to help me make even more effective decisions. As a result of my attending, I was able to broaden my strategic-thinking perspective based on insights from their highly impressive team of professors and colleagues who attended from a diverse range of functions, industries, and countries.
There were several key takeaways that I have been able to leverage in my day-to-day work responsibilities, including the following:
- You cannot judge the quality of individual decisions based on their outcomes; instead, the quality should be judged on the process that was used to make them
- People tend to be overly precise while they should consider a much larger range of possibilities
- Even dramatically different outcomes can be purely the product of chance
My overall experience exceeded my expectations. I plan on keeping in touch with a few of the colleagues whom I met and I certainly expect to find my way back to Wharton!”