“Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created.”
— Albert Einstein
Let facts drive your decision making, not opinions. As humans we have an incredible number of cognitive biases that drive us to make decisions in certain ways that are sometimes not helpful, correct or even close to the ball park.
When decisions can take time, use that time, consult people who may have something contribute and be careful about asking the same people or people who may agree with you. Have a hypothesis, test it, get rid of it when you can see it will not work. Loosely hold your hypothesis unless you can see it will work. And than ask for other solutions.
Fast decision making or decisivenesses is often see as an important trait, but it can lead to being judgmental.
Be OK with changing your mind when new facts or evidence show another angle.
Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has said that overconfidence is the bias he’d eliminate first if he had a magic wand. It’s ubiquitous, particularly among men, the wealthy, and even experts.
Look at your potential decisions through many lenses, the 5Ws and H are a good start for the important decisions.
Here are a list of questions you could use:
..does this affect?
..benefits from this?
..is hurt by this?
..can make the decision about this?
..be the best people to talk about this?
..deserves recognition for this?
..are the pros and cons ?
..SWOT? (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats)
..are the other perspectives?
..are the alternatives?
..would the counter arguments be?
.. is the best case scenario and worst case scenario?
..is the most important and least important parts of this?
..are the blockers or barriers to completing this?
..are the milestones?
..would you see this in the real world?
..are there similar concepts or situations?
..is there the most need for this
..in the world where this would be a problem?
..can we get more information?
..can we get help for this?
..will this idea take us?
..are there areas for improvement?
..is this acceptable and unacceptable?
..will we know when we have succeeded?
..would this cause a problem?
..is the best time to start?
..do we need to have finished?
..can we expect this to change?
..should we ask for help?
..is this a problem or challenge?
..is it important for me or others?
..are people influenced by this?
..should people know about this?
..has it been this way for so long?
..does this change things?
..do we establish the truth?
..will we approach this safely?
..is this different?
..is this the same or similar?
..does it benefit us or others?
..does it harm us or others?
..do we see this in the future?
..can we change this for our good?
We often think we are making the best decision with data we have. Unfortunately our brains are wired to do certain things that are not always helpful. There are at least 181 cognitive biases, but here are the top 18. Cognitive bias can get in the way of making good decisions.
What is your goal?
Decision making must understand what you hope to achieve, the impact and consequences for the decision.
Disagree and commit
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains, to “disagree and commit” doesn’t mean “thinking your team is wrong and missing the point,” which will prevent you from offering true support. Rather, it’s a genuine, sincere commitment to go the team’s way, even if you disagree.
Of course, before you reach that stage, you should be able to explain your position, and the team should reasonably weigh your concerns.
But if you decide to disagree and commit, you’re all in. No sabotaging the project–directly or indirectly. By trusting your team’s gut, you give them room to experiment and grow–and your people gain confidence.
Decisions often lead to change, change is hard, most humans hate change even if they agree with it.
- Are you a dictator? e.g. “I am the director and I will tell you what you are doing”
- Are you passive aggressive e.g. “Interesting perspective”
- Do you hide behind others e.g. “You will tell your reports”
How to change is even important and will differ according to the culture, but here are some suggestions.
- Involve early on, if possible get the affected to help you review the problem and solve together
- Agree a plan of change
- Agree messaging
- Have a stakeholders map
- Consider opportunities for review
- How do you evaluate changes later to see if they were successful?
If you want a list of good exercises for serious change management checkout The Change Leader’s Roadmap. I have used many of these exercises whilst as a consultant and they worked well
How you respond to conflict will show to all what kind of leader you are. Conflict is necessary. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team describes the lack of it as a dysfunction. Of course not all conflict is good, so managing conflict so it produces healthy results is part of a Leaders role. The biggest hint is to make sure all are heard and understood before moving to making a decision.
A quick and often inaccurate judgment based on limited facts and our own life experiences. These judgments can give individuals and groups both unearned advantage and unearned disadvantages in the workplace.
Biases are shortcuts our brain forms based on:
- Our own experiences
- Things other people tell us
- Media portrayals
- Institutional influences
- Other external influences
11 million bits of information per second go through our senses. We can only consciously process 40 bits. 99% of our mental process is ruled by our unconscious.
If you ever get opportunity take the training.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
— Abraham Lincoln
If you suffer from procrastination, maybe this slide deck will help you. I wrote it for a Women in Technology group:
Being able to make a decision is important, how you do it and who you involved, will create your culture. So decisive is good, but sometimes you should take your time involve others in the decision making process.
Making a Decision
- How do to evaluate alternatives?
- Move from decisive to flexible and involve others
- How is information used? Are you forcing your opinion or was the information used rationally?
- How is the information evaluated? What biases have you used
- How is communicated? How will this impact people?
Thoughts on Decision Making:
- How do you check biases?
- Are you rested well enough to make the right decision
- If need to delay a decision, if it is not urgent delay it
- Can you involve others in the decision, will this help get wider perspective or spot poor thought process
- How do you evaluate major decisions
Resources for Decision Making:
- Wiki -> List of cognitive biases
- Book -> Thinking Fast and Slow
- Book -> Predictably Irrational
- Book -> When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
- Book -> The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
- Blog -> The Seasoned Executive’s Decision-Making Style
- Blog -> 3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making
- Book -> The Head Game: High-Efficiency Analytic Decision Making and the Art of Solving Complex Problems Quickly
- Video -> 4 Things Successful; Executive Do Differently
- Book -> The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformation