Mastering the Art of Good Decision-Making
Good decision-making skills are valuable at work and in life. Find out what goes into the process and how to make the best possible choice here.
The act of deciding can often be debilitating especially when the stakes are high. Pivotal life changes, work issues that affect multiple departments, and even shifting personal beliefs must involve good decision-making. But what does that even mean?
A white paper by defines a high-quality decision as one that is based on a methodical analysis of available information and sound reasoning. It’s not a product of luck or YOLO but of a thoughtful process. Making any big decisions soon? Make sure you do the following.
Define the Problem
Not all decisions involve addressing problems, but a good one either solves or avoids them. For example, choosing whether to have an apple or an orange as a snack seems like a win-win either way. However, if you look closely at the situation, you may find that it’s not as simple as it looks.
Do you have digestive issues? Consider which one won’t give you a stomach ache. Did you just have coffee? Maybe steer clear of the orange. Defining issues – both potential and existing – can help you make better choices.
Get Close to the Action When Gathering Data
Good decision-making always involves data gathering, whether that’s doing a simple survey or crunching a year’s worth of numbers. If you’re deciding the fate of others at work, it’s best to do your research and get feedback from the ground. Go to where the action is instead of merely conferring with fellow .
If you’re planning to launch a business, test the waters on social media. Target your market with sponsored feelers or try being the customer yourself. Whatever it is you’re deciding on, have an ear to the ground and, of course, listen.
Weigh the Consequences
You’ve probably learned to make a pros and cons list in grade school. Befriend that notepad again because it’s an essential tool for good decision-making. Identify your options and list the positive (pros) and negative (cons) outcomes of choosing each one.
For fairness, get third-party input and list those down, too. When you’re done, assess whether the pros of each choice outweigh their cons and go with the option that has more pros and has cons you (and people around you) can live with.
Consider the Timing
Even a decision that’s good on paper can turn out to be a disaster if the timing isn’t right. Ask yourself, “What’s the best option at this specific point in time?” “What is the potential impact of choosing X prematurely?” “What would happen if we delayed this decision?” Of course, nobody really knows the “perfect” time for anything, but you just have to work with what you have.
Speaking of timing, did you know that we tend to make poorer-quality decisions in the afternoon? A team of Argentinian studied databases of time-stamped online chess games and found that players decide faster and less accurately as the day progresses.
Another study notes that good decision-making may also be consistent with . For example, morning people (larks) make better decisions in the morning, while evening people (owls) do better at night.
Ask Yourself, “What If?”
Play devil’s advocate. “What if you pick the unpopular choice? Would that be so bad?”Don’t be afraid to explore your options hypothetically – that’s what this phase is for. You don’t have to limit yourself to negative “what ifs” either. Try positive ones such as, “What if I choose option Y and it goes really well?” is part of the process, too.
Be Prepared to Be Accountable
You know the drill. With great power comes great responsibility. Part of being a decision-maker is being accountable for your choices. It means owning your actions even when things go wrong and not passing the blame to someone else. It is also about having zero ambiguity. State your decision and your rationale in a clear and straightforward manner, with no room for interpretation.
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There’s no formula for good decision-making and there’s no guarantee that, after doing all the above, you’ll arrive at the best possible conclusion. Unless you can see into the future, all you can do is get as much information as possible and choose as wisely as you can.