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Inexperienced decision-makers' use of positive heuristics for marketing decisions

Antoine Gilbert-Saad (Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Rod B. McNaughton (Department of Management and International Business, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Frank Siedlok (Department of Management and International Business, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 11 May 2021

Issue publication date: 17 August 2021




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.

Research limitations/implications

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.



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