Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Approach to Teach Methods of Enhancing the Synergy of Decentralized Decisions

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Yoon, Suck-Chul
Issue Date
College of Business Administration (경영대학)
Seoul Journal of Business Volume 10(2):1~15(2004)
Teaching Method; PBL; Problem-based learning; Management Science; Ideas of Descartes and Hegel; Total Optimum versus Partial Optima
This paper demonstrates that a Problem-Based Learning(PBL)
approach can be effective in teaching management-science students the
methods of enhancing the synergy of an organization. Different from
traditional direct approaches, an alternative instructional method that
begins with an authentic problem without any prior preparation by
students is called problem-based learning(PBL). Since its conception in
North American medical schools, PBL has been adopted for the
preparation of professionals in diverse fields such as engineering, law
and business(Chun and Wong, 2000). To apply the PBL approach to
management-science education, the professor presents a typical(3
source- and 4 destination-) transportation problem and asks the
students to find a solution that can minimize the total transportation
The professor advises the students to devise a thinking model(called a
paradigm) that can make full use of the most economic route at first,
and then, the second most economic route, and so forth. When the
students have managed to arrive at a solution by this paradigm, the
professor asks them to scrutinize the solution by exercising the
Cartesian doubt(i.e., cogito ergo sum). When students become aware of
a fallacy of the paradigm, the professor advises them to reason out what
causes the fallacy to take place. Students will find out that the fallacy
comes into being due to the fact that afore-made decisions constrain
later-made decisions in the time stream.
In order to overcome the fallacy, the students are referred to the
Hegelian Dialectic processes to reason out an antithesis or a new paradigm. This process of finding a better thinking model will be
continued until the students come up with a most satisfactory or the
most economic solution from the standpoint of the organization as a
whole(called the total-optimum solution). Now, the students are asked
to calculate the optimal solutions from the standpoint of each source or
each subunit of the organization(called partial-optima). Now, the
professor leads the students to discover a fact that the total-optimum
comes into conflict with the partial-optima. The professor, then, asks
the students to discuss how each subunit of an organization should
behave in order to create the biggest synergy for their organization as a
This process of problem-based learning will lead the students to
understand the philosophical meaning of Cartesian doubt and Hegelian
dialectic processes. Finally, the professor can ask the students to
discuss and figure out how to work out the conflict between the partialoptima
and the total optimum of the organization.
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College of Business Administration/Business School (경영대학/대학원)Dept. of Business Administration (경영학과)Seoul Journal of BusinessSeoul Journal of Business Volume 10, Number 1/2 (2004)
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