Taking the stress out of decision making

University of Otago Magazine, Feb 2004

Do you have trouble making decisions? If so, Dr Paul Hansen might have an answer for you.
Hansen, a senior lecturer in Economics at the School of Business, and software developer Franz Ombler have invented Point*Wizard, a revolutionary new program that could take some of the stress out of decision making.

Point*Wizard simplifies the ranking of alternatives or individuals when there are multiple criteria to consider. Points systems are generally used for this purpose in a wide variety of applications, such as prioritizing patients for treatment, or selecting immigrants.

Current approaches to working out the points for such systems struggle to cope with the enormous number of possible rankings of alternatives that arise. "They tend not to recognise the subtleties of most decision- making processes," says Hansen. "Point*Wizard is much more accurate and user-friendly, resulting in more consistent and transparent decision making?"

Hansen has been fascinated with the problem for ten years, but it was only when he met up with Ombler, an ex-Otago student, that he really started to make progress. "We combined our skills and chipped away at it and between us we came up with some major break-throughs. We can't find anything else in the world that comes even close," says Hansen. "The beauty of our approach is that it breaks decision making down to the easiest of choices, choosing between just two alternatives at a time. And it can be used in thousands of applications. It's a dream come true."

Initial trials of Point* Wizard have been very successful and the inventors are patenting the software.