What is a Decision Tree?
A decision tree is a visual tool that is designed to aid in decision making, especially when the correct course of action is unclear, or it is difficult to decide between multiple competing possibilities. It takes the decision maker through a series of questions, and depending on the answer to each question, leads them down a different path to find the best possible decision at the end.
The very simple decision tree in Example 1 below is designed to help the decision maker decide whether to bring an umbrella.
Question: Should I bring an umbrella today?
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Here are the elements of this whether or not to bring an umbrella decision tree that I want you to notice:
- There is a clearly worded question that can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No” answer: “Should I bring an umbrella today?”
- It identifies the critical determining factor that the decision should be based on that can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No” answer: “Does the weather forecast say it will rain?”
- If the decision maker answers each yes or no question, they will end up with a clearly defined course of action.
Here is a slightly more in-depth decision tree from the Harvard Business Review article I’ve assigned you to read. You will notice that it contains the same elements as the previous example, and it has three different levels of yes/no questions with three different possible outcomes:
Your Decision Tree Assignment:
This is an individual assignment! Create your own decision tree that you can use in your future career as a businessperson to help you make difficult decisions in an ethical manner. Your decision tree will start with the same question as the HBR example: “What is the right thing to do?” and that question should be in bold at the top of your diagram. You can use the HBR example for ideas, but your diagram should look different and it should incorporate as much of the content you have learned in this class as is possible and practical to include.
- You do not need to have “Yes” or “No” as your only possible answers, but each answer must be mutually exclusive—there should only be one possible right answer for each question. For example, you may have a question such as: “Are all stakeholders in favor of the proposed action?” and you could list the following 3 options: “Yes, all are in favor” or “Some are in favor, and some are not” or “There are no stakeholders in favor.” There is only one possible answer of those 3 that is true. You may have more than 2 possible answer paths (Yes/No) for each question, but not more than 4 answer paths.
- You must incorporate stakeholders into your diagram
- You must incorporate at least 2 ethical frameworks into your diagram
- You must include a question about whether the proposed action agrees with your personal values
- Your diagram should have at least 5 levels of questions, and actionable decisions for each possible outcome. Here is a sample of what that might* look like:
*Note: your decision tree might look very different from this one and that is fine, the main thing I want you to notice about this diagram is that there are 5 levels of questions. A diagram of this depth would meet the basic requirements.
- Your diagram can take up multiple pages if you like, but it must be clear enough for me to easily follow each possible path onto the next page.
- You may turn in your decision tree in any of the following formats:
- A handwritten drawing that you attach as a JPEG file (Please make sure everything is neat and all text is legible!)
- A PowerPoint file
- A PDF
- A Word Document
- A format that I haven’t listed, BUT that you have obtained my approval via email to use it.
- Please turn in your Decision Tree assignment by emailing it to me (not via iLearn) directly.
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