Thoughts on decision-making

According to new research on the Discovery Channel's website, cockroaches get together to make group decisions about things that affect them as a community. Even more astonishing, cockroaches do so without being able to make sounds. Perhaps, we can learn something about the science of decision-making from them.

Common myths about decision-making

  1. The more time I spend analyzing before making a decision, the better the decision I will make. Sometimes you can spend too much time making a decision. Your indecision could allow a competitor to seize the initiative.
  2. In retrospect, a decision that did not work out was a bad one. Because something did not work out does not mean a bad decision was made. There are many things that are beyond your control that can affect a situation and cause an undesirable outcome. This does not imply the decision was incorrect.

What's it worth?
Here are some basic questions that you should consider to understand the importance of a potential decision.

  • Does it contribute towards meeting your goals or objectives?
  • Does it contribute towards the goals and objectives of the company or greater good?
  • What is the risk associated with an inappropriate choice?
  • How much time are the key decision-makers and you willing to provide? If no one is willing to give time, then how important do they really view it? (I'm a little draconian here, I'll admit.)
  • What are the associated benefits and costs of making the decision?
  • What happens if I do nothing?

Some decision-making techniques

To help you with your decision-making needs I have listed off a few different techniques that may be useful.

  • Paired comparison analysis is very useful when there are defined alternatives. The basic premise is to use a grid to directly compare one alternative versus another. The alternative that wins out against the others the most will be chosen.
  • Use a SWOT analysis to evaluate different solutions to a problem or opportunity. This will give you an understanding of their overall appropriateness.
  • Grid analysis involves comparing alternatives against a defined set of important criteria. The winning alternative will be the one that scores the best.
  • When you have a few different issues to address and you are trying to determine which one to attack first, Pareto Analysis, can be very useful. It involves identifying the most pressing problems.
  • Decision-trees are very useful to help you visualize all of the possible outcomes. You need to be able to estimate the likelihood of a path being followed as well as the value of the path (e.g., outcome.)
  • One can use the 6 Thinking Hats methodology to examine the different aspects of a situation before settling on a solution. This methodology was developed by Edward de Bono and can be applied to innovative thinking as well as decision-making.
  • Force field analysis is extremely useful to understanding the different forces that affect an issue. The great benefit from this technique is that it will illustrate all of the areas that will be impacted and may require a change management process because of a pending decision.

Some other great resources

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. (Tom Robbins)

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