In both work and life in general, there is often no “right” decision. We’re often faced with an abundance of options, which doesn’t make the act of decision making any easier. Whether you’re someone who experiences decision paralysis, someone who makes rash decisions you come to regret, or fall anywhere in between, you will likely benefit from simplifying decision making with a balanced combination of intuition and critical thinking.
Types of Decision Making
Decisions should, ideally, come from a clear understanding of your needs, values and goals. When you’re in a familiar situation, do you find your decisions are fast and automatic? This is likely based on your established experience with what works and what doesn’t. However, when you encounter a new situation, you may find you need more time to weigh potential benefits and risks. Knowing various approaches to decision making can help you determine what’s best for your unique circumstances.
Informed Decision Making
The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions free from common errors or bias. Informed decision making means not just listening to your intuition or “going with your gut,” but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on both facts and intuition.
Satisficing vs. Maximizing Decision Making
A satisficing approach to making decisions involves settling for a “good enough” outcome, even if it’s flawed. Alternatively, a maximizing approach waits for conditions to be as perfect as possible to minimize potential risks. People who make good decisions know when it’s important to act immediately, and when there’s time to wait and gather more facts before making a choice.
If you find you’re feeling stuck when faced with the need to make a decision, consider the decision-making styles below. Examine these factors and think about how they relate to your potential decision.
|Style||Behavior||When to use||Do not use when|
|Authoritative||You make a decision and announce it to relevant parties.||Time is short.|
As decision maker, you have all the knowledge needed.
|You need buy-in from others.|
|Consultative (group or individual)||You gather input from individuals or a group, and then decide.||As decision maker, you do not have all the knowledge or insight needed.|
The issue is important to a group/team.
|Others really don’t have a say in the decision (as decision maker, you may have privileged information).|
|Majority||You reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and the majority of people are willing to implement.||It is a relatively trivial matter or low-stakes decision.||The decision affects everyone in a meaningful way.|
|Consensus||You reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and everyone is willing to implement.||The decision will impact everyone, and all need to fully buy in.|
There is potential value in the team discussing or working together on the decision.
|Time is short.|
|Delegate||You delegate the decision to an individual or a team, with constraints you have set.||The delegate has all the necessary skills, or there is a coach or mentor available to assist.||It is a high-risk or high-profile decision.|
Decision Making Myths
Making decisions can be stressful, and it’s easy to fall into falsehoods about decision making to avoid putting in the sometimes difficult effort to make the best choice. Consider some common myths related to decision making and think of ways to avoid these traps.
Myth #1: I just need to solve this problem at this moment; I don’t have time to dedicate to this decision.
Putting off a decision is a decision in and of itself. However, intentionally slowing down a bit to be clear about what you’re solving will speed up your efficacy. Put in the quality time now to avoid having to revisit a decision later that you may come to regret. Our problems sit in a context. If your focus is too narrow, or your process is too rushed, you may solve the wrong problem, or only partially solve the problem.
Myth #2: This is my decision alone; I don’t need to involve others.
Most important decisions involve other stakeholders. Avoiding this bigger picture of who else is affected by a decision can, at best, only partially solve the problem, and may unintentionally exacerbate it. Be mindful that, when many people are involved in making a decision, the process can become stalled by groupthink, when well-intentioned individuals make poor or irrational choices out of a desire to conform or avoid dissent. Ensure any involved individuals feel safe and confident expressing doubts and concerns.
Myth #3: Decision making is a linear process.
Good decision making is circular, requiring a feedback loop as information is gathered and analyzed over time. Don’t be surprised if you need to go back to find additional information or adjust your decisions.
When faced with difficult decisions, take the time to ensure your choices are based on what’s actually happening and not simply reflective of learned patterns of behavior that may no longer be useful. Carefully weigh any potential issues, commit to a decision, and then follow through. Interested in further advancing your decision-making skills and knowledge? Check out the elevateU resources below to get started.
Collected Resources: Decision Making and Problem Solving (Courses, Short Videos, Audiobooks, eBooks)
Choosing and Using the Best Solution (25-minute course)
Defining Alternative Solutions to a Problem (24-minute course)
Leading Through Problem Solving and Decision Making (48-minute course)
Psychology Today. Decision-Making. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/decision-making.
Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Choosing and Using the Best Solution. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/COURSES/apd_15_a03_bs_enus.
Strauss Einhorn, Cheryl, 2021, April 20. 11 Myths About Decision-Making. Harvard Business Review blog post. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2021/04/11-myths-about-decision-making.