Chatting with a mentor from a previous life recently as I prepped for a presentation, and he pointed me to this excellent 1986 article by Herbert Simon, the late Nobel prize winning social scientist.  If you’re attending my PMI Houston presentation on Project Teams as Innovation Systems on Wednesday, then this would be a great follow up (or even pre) read.

It’s an overview of the state of decision making science – and it talks about SEU, or subjective expected utility theory – in other words, how people figure out what they want based on their estimates of subjective utility for each of the potential options.  Sound familiar?

One of the underlying threads is that all of the decision making/enabling engines in the world don’t help if we don’t identify the right problems to be solved.  Put in terms a PM would understand, project selection is worthless without good project identification.

“The very first steps in the problem-solving process are the least understood. What brings (and should bring) problems to the head of the agenda? And when a problem is identified, how can it be represented in a way that facilitates its solution?”

If you’re interested in things portfolio management related, I highly recommend it as a fascinating – and very much relevant – read.

Article link here.

For a link to all of Simon’s works: