Integrating narratives into decision making for complex systems engineering design issues

MacKenzie, Cameron
Bryden, Kris
Prisacari, Anna
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Engineering decision making and design requires collaboration between groups from different disciplines, each with different tools, vocabulary, and concerns. Traditional engineering decision-making tools are generally based on understanding the decision makers’ values, modeling uncertainty with probability, and selecting the alternative that maximizes utility. This rational approach to decision making may not be well understood or used by many stakeholders involved in the engineering design process. Constructing narratives, a basic means of human communication, may aid in engineering communication and comprehension and help with decision making. Narratives represent events by means of a story and usually include characters or agents who cause events and to whom events happen. This paper recommends three methods for how the use of narrative can be applied to the area of engineering decision making. These methods include connecting the decision maker to the analysis, creating narrative simulations for training decision makers, and fostering consensus in problems with multiple stakeholders. An illustrative example of designing a better cookstove for the developing world demonstrates the role that understanding narratives of various stakeholders can play for accomplishing complex systems engineering.


This is the peer-reviewed version of the following article: MacKenzie, Cameron A., Kristy A. Bryden, and Anna A. Prisacari. "Integrating narratives into decision making for complex systems engineering design issues." Systems Engineering (2019), which has been published in final form at 10.1002/sys.21507. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions

complex systems, decision science, narrative theory