Six Strategies For Making Smarter Decisions

On average, you make 700 decisions daily, most of them of little importance. But some decisions are worth examining because they are of great importance. These choices determine the course of your future. They become who you are.


Should you accept that promotion and transfer to Denver yet risk making your family unhappy? Should you invest in that real estate deal with your brother-in-law or park your money in an index fund instead? Should you retire and move to a lower-cost state more aligned with your political leanings? Perhaps you’re weighing such an important decision right now. If so, it’s time to ask yourself: what’s been my process in making this decision? Have I been methodical, or am I approaching the decision the way I approach the many less consequential decisions I make daily?


In ten years or less, we’ll likely have a personal A.I. avatar to help us make big decisions. For now, the task falls on our shoulders. Most of the decisions we make – even the important ones – are made on the fly, while multitasking, made because there’s a deadline, made because that’s the way we’ve always done it in the past. In short, the need for a sound decision-making strategy has never been greater.


Below are six strategies for making sounder, smarter decisions.


1. Define the decision to be made. Take the time to think through the issue underneath the decision. For example, whether to accept the promotion or turn it down may not be the only option so clarify whether the decision is binary or multiple- option, or open to further negotiation. Should you buy this house or keep looking? Spell out the steps you need to take to make the very best decision possible.


2. Develop a process. Ben Franklin used to make decisions by running a line down the page and listing the pros and cons. Former treasury secretary and CEO Robert Rubin relies on his yellow pad to map out probabilities.


3. Broaden your options. Instead of Options A and B, what about C or even D? A technique I use in working with client organizations is to set up a “challenge statement” that inevitably reveals multiple possibilities to be decided upon. I’ll have small groups of four or five people take 10 minutes to list all the options without discussing or critiquing them during the exercise. Frame challenge statements thusly: “In what ways might we accomplish X?” “In what ways might I invest this money instead of putting it into this risky option” opens the decision to innovation and creativity.


4. Gather information on various options. The effective decision-makers I have studied all seem to have a common trait: an intense appetite for information. They are consummate researchers and voracious readers. They are curious, they track trends, constantly looking for patterns. Before you’re ready to make a big decision ask yourself: have you done enough research?


5. “Futurize” the decision and project out ahead. To “futurize” is to look ahead three, five, and 10 years and ask: what will the environment be like at that point? If you’re in your early ‘60s, do you want to purchase a three-story townhouse and climb all those stairs? Futurize also before purchasing that beachfront home on the Gulf of Mexico by projecting out ahead. How might climate change affect property values should you need to sell? To futurize is to project out ahead and think through the implications, ramifications, consequences (and unintended consequences), and threats that might need to be factored into today’s decision.


6. Listen to your gut. Intuition is knowing something without knowing quite how we know it. All of us have it, but in a data-driven world, listening to it becomes harder. Before making an important choice, one executive I interviewed gathers information, weighs all the facts – then takes time to stop and listen to what his gut is telling him. “When a decision doesn’t feel good,” one executive commented, “It feels like a stomachache. And when a decision feels right, it’s like I’ve eaten a great meal. If I don’t feel good in my gut about a decision, I don’t care if the numbers say we’re going to make a billion dollars, I won’t go ahead with it. That’s how important intuition is to me.”


Source: Forbes – Robert B. Tucker

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