Decision Theater

The Decision Theater at the McCain Institute is a powerful tool for helping experts and policy-makers prototype better decisions. By creating interactive, collaborative models in an immersive, visually stimulating environment, the Decision Theater brings clarity to understanding complex data and analysis. The goal is to display the dynamics of a problem, and the effects of various policy options, in a clear and compelling manner – thus helping experts develop and demonstrate the best approaches to tackling a problem.Located just two blocks from the White House, the Decision Theater is a unique physical environment. To our knowledge, there is no comparable, unclassified visualization space for convening experts and policymakers around problems and solutions in downtown Washington DC. Other such spaces tend to be in classified environments, far from the city center, and restricted in their use to government officials and cleared contractors.

Powered by Cisco, Dell and the ASU Technology Office, the Decision Theater is a round room with seven large, flat-screen monitors covering a panorama of 260 degrees of vision. The monitors are in turn connected to local computer servers and through them to even more powerful computing at Arizona State University. The Theater holds up to 25 experts and policy-makers enabling a focused discussion around a problem.

How It Works

  • Research, often in collaboration with a subject matter partner, aimed at gathering the best available data aimed at illustrating a problem;
  • Creation of models and visualizations that help show the data in ways that facilitate quick understanding, and allow for exploring options for action;
  • Convening experts and policy officials to interact with the data and each other in developing optimal approaches to tackling the problem.

At its essence, the Decision Theater is a simple but extremely powerful tool. Critical to the effective use of the Decision Theater is the development of partnerships – with substance-driven organizations that possess databases and knowledge, and with subject matter experts who themselves possess the experience and perspective needed to understand and bring potential solutions to a problem. The collaboration between the subject matter partners, outside experts and stakeholders, and the McCain Institute through the Decision Theater is the key to bringing better decision-making to life. To learn more about the work done by the Decision Theater Network at ASU, visit their website.