Research has reliably demonstrated that decision-makers, especially expert ones, use heuristics to make decisions under uncertainty. However, whether decision-makers with little or no experience also do, and if so, how? is unknown. This research addresses this issue in the marketing context by studying how a group of young and generally inexperienced entrepreneurs decide when asked to set a price and choose a distribution channel in a scenario involving a hypothetical firm.
The authors used think-aloud protocols to elicit data and then used inductive procedures to code the data for analysis.
The inexperienced entrepreneurs in the sample used three types of heuristics in their decision-making, forming a structured process that narrows in scope. First, metacognitive heuristics, which specify a decision-making approach, were used, followed by heuristics representing the criteria they considered, and finally, heuristics detailing the execution of a selected option. The authors also found that heuristics relating to a market orientation, especially customer-centric criteria, were the most common, but these were balanced with ones representing an internal orientation or growth.
The generally inexperienced decision-makers the authors’ studied used heuristics in a structured way that helped them to select and balance several potentially conflicting decision-making criteria. As with most research using qualitative research designs, the generalizability of these findings is unclear. Further research on the mechanisms by which relatively inexperienced decision-makers learn the heuristics they use is recommended.
This research's novelty lies in its focus on heuristic use by nonexpert decision-makers under conditions of uncertainty and the findings about their scope and the order they are used. As the authors collected data from think-aloud protocols with relatively young entrepreneurs with limited experience, they also offer a description of the heuristics used by nascent entrepreneurs when making marketing decisions about pricing and channels. The most surprising conclusion is that even without relevant domain-specific knowledge, decision-makers can use heuristics in an ecologically rational way (i.e. structured to match the environment).
Gilbert-Saad, A., McNaughton, R.B. and Siedlok, F. (2021), "Inexperienced decision-makers' use of positive heuristics for marketing decisions", Management Decision, Vol. 59 No. 7, pp. 1706-1727. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-09-2019-1330
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