NDM researchers are not just interested in decision making. They study other cognitive processes such as situation awareness, sensemaking, problem detection, and anticipatory thinking. They use naturalistic inquiry methods to explore a range of macrocognitive phenomena (as opposed to microcognitive phenomena studied under controlled laboratory conditions).
- We used to believe that the only way to make good decisions was to generate several options and pick the best one. NDM studies found that experienced decision makers recognize patterns and don’t compare options. They evaluate an option by imagining how it would play out.
- We used to believe that expertise depends on learning rules and procedures. NDM research demonstrated that expertise primarily depends on tacit knowledge.
- We used to believe that projects had to start with a clear description of the goal. NDM researchers saw that challenging projects involve wicked problems and ill-defined goals that cannot be specified in advance. The goals become clarified while they are being pursued.
- We used to believe that people make sense of events by building up from the data to information to knowledge and finally to understanding. NDM studies showed that experienced decision makers use their mental models to define what counts as data in the first place. And as discoveries are made about the nature of a situation, different aspects of the data are revealed.
- We used to believe that insights arise by overcoming mental sets. NDM research discovered that insights also arise by detecting contradictions and anomalies and by noticing connections.
- We used to believe that we could reduce uncertainty by gathering more information. NDM researchers found that performance seems to suffer when too much information is gathered, and that uncertainty can result from inadequate framing of data, not just the absence of data.
- We used to believe that we could improve performance by fostering critical thinking practices such as listing assumptions. NDM researchers noted that the flawed assumptions are often unconscious, and thus could never get listed.