South-Western - Management  
Are We Multitasking Ourselves into Chaos?
Topic Decision Making
Key Words Bounded rationality, multi-tasking
News Story 

The author of this article uses Wi-Fi technology at the airport to download e-mails before she boards a plane and enjoys using the time more productively. Yet, she has resisted getting a BlackBerry device, even though her colleagues tell her she will love the ability to be in constant communication. The question is, where do we draw the line between being in touch and information overload?

Behaviorist Herbert A. Simon revolutionized the behaviorism field when he developed the concept of bounded rationality. The theory of bounded rationality states that the world is so large and complex, that human beings don't have the capacity to understand everything. Simon theorized that the nature of the human mind actually works to limit our ability to make rational decisions. In other words, our decisions will always be imperfect, because they are bounded by our own inability to consider an infinite number of factors.

As an example of bounded rationality in action, the author notes that it has become more acceptable to send instant messages to colleagues during meetings. So, in addition to listening to speakers, participants in meetings are juggling messages from colleagues, and answering these messages. Isn't some information getting lost?

The author has also noticed the same thing happening at conferences, where IT professionals have spent thousands of dollars of their company's money to travel to attend the conference and listen to speakers. But, how are many of them spending their time? They are sitting in the room with their laptops running, answering e-mails, working on projects, or even playing solitaire. Have people become so good at multitasking that they can do all these things at once? Or has bounded rationality set in and some things are not being done well at all? .


Research bounded rationality in your textbook and define it here.


List at least three ways that the problems associated with bounded rationality can affect decision making


Do you agree with the author that too much multi-tasking is affecting our ability to focus and accomplish things? Or do you feel that we have adjusted to this way of assimilating information and are coping well? Be prepared to discuss your answer in class.

Source Are We Multitasking Ourselves into Chaos? Computerworld, May 22, 2006, page 59(1).
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