Before the Analytic Hierarchy Process: The Volatility of Group Decisions

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Offline iftekhar.swe

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Dr. Thomas Saaty developed the AHP at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, while working on nuclear non-proliferation negotiation strategies for the State Department. In aligning the perspectives of some of the world’s brightest economists, utility theorists, game theorists, scientists and lawyers, Dr. Saaty came to a realization: Although this group of brilliant people had tremendous intellectual gifts and knowledge, their challenge finding a coherent and aligned point of view was a social one.

The fear of not being heard or understanding how our contribution influences a choice can bring out the worst sides of our nature when interacting collaboratively to choose a course of action. Battling it out in decision-making often reduces collective discourse in organizations and societies from a fair, rational, respectful and transparent debate about what is best for “us” to an advocacy based, power driven, contemptuous and in the worst cases dishonest grab for what is best for “me.”

Whether we are buying a home or a car with our spouse and family, attempting to understand the most probable risks to national security, or choosing the next blockbuster drug to improve the health and well being of society, subtle and potentially corrosive threads can infect any decision. Our inability to see what others see and why, or that others’ perspectives may be valid, tends to more deeply entrench our own biases, and forces us to vehemently defend our position. Along the way, this approach destroys value and compromises our ability to achieve our goals.

How can any group, with its disparate and diverse views of the world, express what was important to each member in addressing the challenge at hand, and be able to see their collective and desired course of action?

AHP is a collaborative decision-making methodology that is used to structure and analyze complex and potentially volatile decisions. Based in fundamental principles of mathematics and psychology, it was developed for the purpose of synthesizing the judgments of a group of decision-makers and providing them a rational, transparent and collaborative way to express themselves and understand the totality of their interests, preferences and
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