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SDP Fellows weigh in on their favorite books
12/16/2016 10:26 AM Posted by: SDP Poster Avatar

SDP Fellows weigh in on favorite books

Survey responses on favorite books

In 2014, we surveyed the SDP membership for their favorite books; those responses form the basis for the publications listing in the SDP Library.  We decided it was time for another book survey - this time a questionnaire to SDP Fellows with the following three questions:

1) favorite book to give to someone just learning about DA

2) favorite book to give a prospective "client" or decision-maker

3) best book for your own use

We will summarize the responses in three blog posts, starting here with an overview of all responses and some detail from responses to the first question.

First, the Fellows don’t always answer the question you ask of them! Many responded that the questions were a bit vague (agreed) and "it depends”, so they offered more nuance.  


Twenty-six different books got at least one mention, with the following books showing up the most across all of the questions.

    • Smart Choices - Hammond, Keeney, Raiffa
    • Why Can’t You Just Give Me the Number – Leach
    • Handbook of Decision Analysis – Parnell, Bresnick, Tani, Johnson
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Kahneman
    • Foundations of Decision Analysis – Howard, Abbas
    • Decision Quality – Spetzler, Winter, Meyer
    • Making Hard Decisions – Clemen, Reilly
    • Decision Analysis for the Professional – Celona, McNamee

Approximately ten of the books mentioned were books not even suggested in our 2014 survey, and highly deserving of inclusion in a list of best DA books – so we’ll add all of those to the list on the site.

Favorite book to give to someone just learning DA:

There was no clear consensus here, with many books receiving votes. The two with the most were Smart Choices (Hammond et al) and Decision Analysis for the Professional (Celona and McNamee)Several of the Fellows provided more nuanced responses depending on the audience.  Some examples:

Pat Leach – "Usually Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.  If they’re more advanced, then Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, but it can be a bit much if you’re not already into it. Ariely’s book is better for newbies in my opinion.”

Karen Jenni – "Some version of MUA -- depending on the person, it would be Smart Choices (Hammond, Keeney, and Raiffa), or Value Focused Thinking (Keeney)”

And our favorite and nicely detailed advice from Bob Clemen...

"To answer the first two questions, well, I don’t think I can give a single book. Multiple reasons:

  • Do I think he/she would be interested in the deeper stuff, in which case I might suggest books like Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow vs Russo & Schoemaker, Decision Traps. Or Howard & Abbas, Foundations vs Hammond, Keeney, & Raiffa, Smart Choices.
  • How comfortable is he/she with quantitative material? More comfortable: Clemen, Making Hard Decisions or Kirkwood, Strategic Decision Making. Less so: maybe Smart Choices to get them off the ground.
  • Interested more in:
      • Descriptive decision making versus DA? Maybe Scott Plous, Psychology of Judgment & DM, Russo & Schoemaker, Decision Traps, or for a more entertaining read (and more up to date in some ways) Ariely, Predictably Irrational.
      • Negotiations? Definitely Raiffa, Art and Science. If less comfortable with quant, then Fisher & Ury, Getting to Yes.
      • Soft versus hard skills? Parnell et al, Handbook or Skinner, Introduction to DA.
      • High-level/strategic view rather than nitty-gritty tools? Maybe Matheson & Matheson, Smart Organization
      • Understanding multiple objectives? Keeney, Value-Focused Thinking.”

Now that’s an answer!

We’ll cover favorite book to give a prospective "client" or decision-maker in our next posting.

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