Accepting Limits to Rationality

I try to be rational. I have decades of knowledge and experience about the ins and outs of rational decision making. I have decades of experience within complex, human, organizations and their sometimes tenuous relation with rationality (and occasionally with reality).

I recall a conversation with my thesis advisor. He wanted me to work out where I stood on the issue. Did I believe that organizations where rational or not? This is not a idle question in the realm of organizational studies. Herb Simon won a Nobel Prize in economics for pointing out that there were limits to rationality. The mythology in business was that managers were rational decision makers. We continue to make up stories about why our decisions make sense. Simon showed that our decision making was bounded. We might try to make a fully rational decision but there were always limits of time, budget, capacity, and the like that come into play. At best, at best, we can try to be intendedly rational. To address as many of the limits as we can. But decisions have to be made.

I have to continually remind myself that bounded rationality is the best we can hope for. I also need to remind myself that not all the actors in a situation aspire to even that standard.

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