30 Jul How To Make Faster, Better Decisions
Decision making is a core skill irrespective of where you are on the career ladder
When it comes to making decisions the recipe for perfection rarely exists.
We face an almost endless pursuit to make the perfect decisions at all times (or at least nine out of ten times); putting a psychological and emotional strain on ourselves.
This pursuit has over time birthed copious research by behavioural specialists, economists and psychologists in a bid to understand human cognitive processes and biases, mental shortcuts or exercises like the “pros and cons” list, the quick-step approach or group-think approach to collaborative decision making.
However, decision making is more of an art than a science and this is because only a few people had access to accurate information until recently.
So, what if there was a way to make faster, better decisions?
Mentor Africa Foundation has done the research, so you don’t have to and here is our 7-point guide to help you unclench and make faster, better decisions.
7 Ways To Make Faster, Better Decisions
1. Understand That Decision Making is an Art
Every day we make decisions; from deciding to have coffee or tea in the morning, our outfit choice, how early we leave to beat traffic, what to have for lunch, etc.
Most of these will be snap decisions based on premises established from years of trial and error, but at that moment seem to happen naturally.
For more novel problems, however, decision making can be a daunting task and we are faced with the question of whether we are making the right or wrong decision.
It is not that simple.
Understand that decision making is not so black and white. We are not infallible, you are allowed to make a few mistakes and they will ultimately help you make better decisions in future. Remember to accept the lessons and leave the failures.
2. Identify the Problem
To decide on a solution you need to first figure out what exactly the problem is.
The problem might seem clear and straight to the point but oftentimes we find ourselves focusing on symptoms of the problem rather than its root cause.
A good way to do this is through introspection or brainstorming with someone else you trust. You can examine the situation by raising questions like:
- What have I observed?
- What were the major pain points expressed by my mentee?
- What steps have been taken to counter this problem in the past?
- What new information do I need?
3. Set a Deadline
Entrepreneur, Murray Newlands of Due.com advises that you should give yourself a time limit for reaching a decision.
He explains that putting yourself on a timer helps you focus on the problem at hand instead of leaving your mind open to pointless wandering.
With a deadline, you are poised to reach a decision faster.We know deadlines are not loved by many people and the pressure of meeting deadlines can be strenuous but they are important for the completion of any task.
They ensure we complete taxes in favourable time, keep complex projects on track, and simplify expectations.
To get the best out of a deadline, try:
- Evaluating the requirements
- Finding the right resources
- Giving room for unforeseen circumstances
- Adequately planning
4. Develop Potential Responses and Alternatives
In structured decision making, you should aim to develop a range of realistic alternatives.
Harvard Business Review recommends at least three or four, ideally.
These alternatives should mirror significantly different approaches to the problem and should provide real options or choices.
Alternatives are valuable because truly good decisions involve exploring several recommendations and these recommendations encompass value.
As a good decision maker you will require good information about a small, carefully examined set of alternatives, their consequences and key differences.
Good alternatives are:
- Value focused
- Clearly defined
- Few in number
- Present real choices
- Technically sound
5. Examine the Benefits of Your Options and Implementation
Value-based alternatives have inherent benefits for problem-solving but careful implementation is where the true reward lies.
An exercise you can implement is making a note of the information you might have missed when creating your alternatives.
We sometimes get so consumed in what we know we forget to make room for the unknown.
Also, consider the long term impact of the alternative you decide to go with.
A good practice is to tell a story of how this decision will play out in the future. This will help you consider previously unknown scenarios.
For example, to make the best decision on how many mentees a mentor can take on at at time, you should create a scenario of your schedule and the impact you can make to those mentees in comparison to having less or even more.
6. Consider if Your Decision is Reversible
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, once opined that there are only two types of decisions; those that can be reversed and those that are irreversible.
This is a great point to keep in mind when considering the swift implementation of decisions.
Reversible decisions should consume less time in the deliberation and implementation stage.
Don’t waste valuable time here, implement swiftly, measure and revert.
Irreversible decisions, on the other hand, have longer and further-reaching effect, hence, careful consideration should be applied while deciding.
7. Abandon Overthinking
Have you ever been in a situation where you are in the middle of taking a stroll, or watching a movie or even settling down for a nap but suddenly you get a brilliant idea to solve a problem you’ve been battling with?
Sometimes your best insights will hit you when you least expected.
In ‘A Technique for Getting Ideas’ by James Wood Young he explained the stages of the idea creation process and called the fourth stage the ‘Eureka! I have it!’ stage.
He said; “out of nowhere the idea will appear.”
It will come to you when you least expected”, and this is why instead of having mental and emotional strain when you can’t make a decision as swiftly as we’d like, we can take a break and allow our brain some quiet time for an alternative thought process.
Decision making can be a nerve-wracking process, and sometimes we can be stuck in a mental rot while trying to pick the seemingly right course of action.
If you needed to decide on one takeaway from this piece let it be an understanding that there are no definitive good or bad decisions, only uncertain and you need to embrace uncertainty.
If your decisions steer you in the wrong direction, accept them and find your folly, work hard at correcting the error and move on. Every new decision will be a learning opportunity.
Do not fret.