Chester Business School celebrates its first PhD graduate

Posted on 14th March 2014

Chester Business School’s first PhD student will graduate from the University of Chester this week after conducting a five-year research project into cognitive psychology.

Mark Crowder, 47, from Wavertree in Liverpool, completed his thesis on the role of the unconscious in management decision making, conducting his intensive research within a large local authority in the North of England and using senior managers as his research respondents. Dr Mark Cowder

His particular focus was on cognitive heuristics, which are shortcuts, or simplifying strategies, that are used to make decisions.

Typical examples include ‘common sense’, ‘intuition’, ‘stereotyping’, and even ‘this is just the right thing to do’. Data was gathered over the course of four years and involved detailed observation of 156 senior managers making a total of 513 decisions.

The context of Mark’s research offered a rich insight into management decision-making processes in diverse contexts such as social work and highways, and with varying degrees of urgency ranging from procurement decisions lasting several months to instant decisions concerning child protection.

His findings suggest that there is considerable interplay between heuristics - a theory which previously has not been explored - and that there is a relationship between the heuristics that are used and the environment in which they are used.

Mark said: “UK local government has been subject to drastic change in recent years, such as the introduction of private sector management practices and increased competition. This has been exacerbated by an austerity programme which means that local authorities, in common with much of the world, have to do a lot more with a lot less, and hence the issues raised in my doctoral study resonate far beyond the scope of the thesis.

“A PhD is a very lonely experience in many ways; by definition, nobody else was doing what I was doing and that felt very different from my previous studies. My supervisory team was brilliant and whenever I was in difficulty or whenever I wanted to run something past them, they gave me encouragement and guidance and kept me on the right path.”

Mark is currently about six months into a new career in lecturing.

He added: “I am now doing what I really want to do. My PhD has opened up a lot of doors that will enable me to further my career and although it wasn’t easy completing it whilst holding down a full-time job, being a husband and a dad, it was well worth it.”

Dr Russell Warhurst, Senior Research Fellow from Chester Business School, added: “Mark’s achievement is a significant event in the institution’s 175 year history, as it marks its transition from a local teacher training college, to a University at the leading edge of global knowledge creation. I wish Mark all best wishes in his future career.”