Thinking Like an Expert

Georges Potworowski, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior

Public health and health care leaders face problems that are challenging to address because of incomplete information, changing conditions and conflicting values. These “wicked” problems have no straightforward or definitive solutions, Dr. Potworowski says. To address them effectively requires a shift from thinking in terms of right and wrong answers, to thinking in terms of better and worse approaches. To help students learn to think like leaders, Dr. Potworowski is developing a “dynamic case study” method in which successful professionals are invited to present a series of short vignettes about real-life problems they have confronted.

In the first vignette, the guest models her thinking by describing what she noticed, how she generated and evaluated options, made tradeoffs, decided, and learned from the decision. Students are allowed to ask clarifying questions and Dr. Potworowski weaves in course concepts when appropriate. The guest then walks through the next vignette and has students make the decision in teams. Students explain their reasoning, the guest and Dr. Potworowski debrief, and students ask more questions. The cycle of vignette, decision and debrief then repeats, but with progressively more challenging decisions for students.