Subject understanding of ill-structured problems: an information systems perspective
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Many of the problems faced by managers generally fall in the ill-defined, ill-structured category. This is especially true of problems handled by strategic decision makers. Decision makers perform various activities that help them understand such ill-structured problems. These activities are tightly coupled to an individual manager's cognitive orientation. This research explores, from a cognitive perspective, the nature of information systems (IS) support that might facilitate a decision maker's understanding of ISPs. Four research questions are investigated: (1) Can a conceptual model be developed that incorporates a cognitive perspective of IS support for ISPs? (2) What cognitive activities could help a decision maker's understanding of ISPs? (3) What type of IS support might promote understanding? (4) Can a prototype be built to provide this IS support? The answers to these questions are based, in part, on the argument that IS support for promoting understanding of ISPs should be provided "through" the cognitive orientations of decision makers. This research has developed a new notion called the "cognitive lens," and has designed, constructed and tested a prototype "cognitive lens support system" (CLSS) to support various types of inquiry modes in understanding problems—especially ill-structured problems (ISPs). A cognitive lens captures a decision maker's encapsulation of information in the form of constructs and relationships that are in reality an unabridged representation of the decision maker's viewpoint (i.e., all a priori perceptions, values, knowledge, experience, and beliefs) of a problem domain.