The Decision Book - Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschaeppeler

Subtitled 'Fifty models for strategic thinking', it's a short handbook-shaped thing describing fifty models, with a little text and plenty of diagrams. Why was I drawn to this book? I've been doing an online course from Coursera on 'Model Thinking'. It's effectively 'formalising things for social scientists' - a rag bag of simple quantitative models that can be used to understand bits of the real world. Unlike hard sciences, where you'd prefer one model that explains everything, the social sciences view is to have as many models as possible, each simple but explaining relevant aspects, allowing understanding of systems too complex to fully comprehend otherwise - by having many models, you can check them against each other to see if a coherent picture emerges.

That course has given me a newfound respect for 'models', as although each model has been mathematically simple, the ensemble toolkit starts to add up to something rather more. I tend to think quantitatively anyway, so this has helped give a vocabulary to things I might otherwise reinvent myself (for better or worse).

So, I see a book on decision theory, with a selection of well-illustrated models, presented very neatly, and buy it.

It's really not very good. Many of the models are woolly made-up ones like you might get on a cut-price management course. It's (unsurprisingly) a management book, and 'model' has lost its rigour. There are a few (well-known) models that have some kick, some cute joke models, and a lot of flim-flam. The pretty diagrams are often vacuous, and the whole thing has the air of a particularly vacuous self-improvement book.

Posted 2012-04-25.