Of Fishbones and College Enrollments
You probably guessed: this is not a piece about divining the future, using fishbones or anything else. It's a case where borrowing a tool from manufacturing may help us identify the factors that drive key outcomes such as students' enrollment decisions. We use this tool to brainstorm, to identify candidate factors, in a semi-structured way. Add your own major and minor fishbones; start with pencil and paper, or better yet, a whiteboard.
Eventually, you will want to test the most promising factors empirically in your next foray into research. To paraphrase Alfred W. Crosby, "To ensure that we are not shadow-boxing with mere reifications, we may have to resort to examining actual evidence."
Even then, remember that abundant evidence shows that people are terrible informants about the reasons why they do what they do, or choose what they choose. Thus it's important to avail yourself of approaches such as those derived from behavioral economics to determine the reasons that are truly most important.
I welcome any comments you might like to add, publicly or privately.
copyright 2008 - 2018 by roland b. stark.