Decision Making

by Ian Moore

Introduction

Decision making is a logical, intuitive and emotional exercise. All these components are necessary for humans to make decisions, but it is often desirable to reduce the emotional and intuitive components. Here, we concentrate very much on logical decision making rather than the other elements. I do not claim that this is the correct approach, only that improving our logical decision-making skills will make a significant difference to our personal and business lives.

Deciding not to make a decision is a decision! We may often take this path because of lack of information, too many options, unclear or dangerous outcomes and so on. All these, and more, if logically assessed, can be valid reasons for not making a decision.

However, prevaricating without any reason is not making a decision!

The techniques described here will help you make a decision, even if it is to not make a decision.

Strengths and weaknesses

A favourite concept that I use regularly is that ‘all strengths are weaknesses and all weaknesses are strengths’. For instance, if you are good at talking, that is a strength, but you may have a corresponding weakness: perhaps you are not as good as you could be at listening. On the other hand, if you have a weakness, such as a tendency to get lost a lot, then you will develop techniques to help you find your way, which people who do not often get lost would never develop. People who know me might know who I am talking about here :-)

I think this is a very useful concept to consider when you are using the logical decision-making techniques discussed here and I will refer to this concept in a number of situations.

What is not covered here

The focus in this topic is on logical decision making. We do not look at ‘futures thinking’, ‘idea generation techniques’, ‘problem solving approaches’ or ‘risk management’.

All of these can contribute to the making of better decisions, but they are covered elsewhere. Neither does this topic cover any of the aspects of how our brains work that bias us towards making bad decisions (although this is extremely interesting). The aim here is to explain how to make better logical decisions, after which you can then consider why this is not always enough.

How much do bad decisions cost?

It is worth reflecting for a moment on how much bad decisions actually cost.

In business environments, just one major bad decision can cost huge amounts of money. Less noticeable are the many less major bad decisions that are made in an organisation on a daily basis, though these probably amount to much more.

The effects of bad decisions can be difficult to quantify, but in your organisation

  • How many bad decisions are made?
  • How much do they cost the organisation
  • on a daily basis?
  • annually?
  • If you could make a small improvement in decision making, how much would you save or make?

Hopefully, this will give you some idea why you should focus on good decision making. In many organisations, decisions and their effects may be seriously considered, but the actual process of making decisions is often ignored.

The importance of good decision making

But it is about more than just the cost!

If people are unconfident about their decision making they will either not make a decision (lost opportunity) or make the decision and then worry about it (increased stress). Even worse is when we don’t make a decision and worry about it. Knowing that you have made the best possible decision helps to dramatically improve either situation. People who are confident that their decision making is based on sound principles will not only make fewer bad decisions (they will still make some), but will feel comfortable that they have made the best decision possible at that time.