We’ve all kicked ourselves for having the decision making skills of a 5-year old. . . you know, eeny-meeny, flip a coin, and the good ol’ pros and cons list, and we’ve all struggled with tough decisions.
Luckily, there are more sophisticated decision making skills out there.
Decision making skills are handy in every facet of life. We struggle, whether it’s with making a big purchase, taking a job, quitting, moving, which college to send your kid to, and more. Whether your decision is big or small, having a way to make it that you feel confident in is a skill you’ll be glad to have.
Recently, I read Dan Heath’s book Decisive, which helps us understand what happens when we try to make decisions and how to make better ones. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Making Decisions Is Tough
When we make decisions we fall into several traps, and sometimes we don’t even see that they’re happening.
Here they are.
The Traps of Decision Making
Trap #1 Narrow Framing
When you think about your options, you see choice A and choice B, but you miss choices C, D, E, and F. You just don’t see those creative solutions. They might be “outside” the box or outside your comfort zone – things you’d never dream of asking for. So, you fall into the trap of Narrow Framing and you think you have a binary, yes or no, this or that, decision to make when in fact the answer could be much more dynamic.
Trap#2 The Confirmation Bias
The confirmation bias is gathering information that supports your theory and dismissing information that doesn’t. When you attempt to make a decision about whether to move into a new neighborhood, you might ring the doorbells of the houses with the nicely manicured lawns and talk to those neighbors and conclude that the neighborhood is friendly, while ignoring the fact that you skipped over the house that had the blinds drawn and the keep out sign posted.
Trap #3 Short-Term Emotion
Your boss just yelled at you. Again! The nerve. You’re tempted to quit, right now. But letting your short term emotion make your decisions for you might not be the best course of action. There are other factors to consider, so don’t fall into trap #3.
Trap #4 Overconfidence About The Future
We all have too much confidence in our own predictions and don’t keep an open mind about how things are going to turn out. You don’t know what you don’t know. Think agile, people.
New Decision Making Skills: What To Do Instead
When you get stuck in any of these traps, it’s tough to make decisions. But in the book, Decisive, there is a new framework to follow. They call it the WRAP framework. Here it is:
Widen Your Options:
Avoid a “narrow frame.” Think: what else could you do? What other choices do you have? Don’t just think of more options that are like the options you’ve been thinking about, but think of outside the box solutions too. For example, don’t just think, “Should I take the job or not?” Think, “Should I take the job, not take the job, or offer myself as a contractor to this employer?”
They call this “multi-tracking, or considering multiple options at the same time. Only a few extra options can make all the difference.
Remember, don’t always try to reinvent the wheel – find someone else who has solved your problem.
Reality Test Your Assumptions:
Get out there and gather real, unbiased information.
Consider the opposite of what you have been assuming is true.
Zoom in and zoom out by gathering people’s opinions, ratings, averages or reviews. These tell you a lot about what your experience will be, whether it’s a restaurant, your experience as an employee of a company, or how long it might take you to write a book.
“Ooch” or conduct small experiments to reality test your assumptions before making a bigger bet on what you think is right.
Step Away From Your Emotions:
When you can step away from your emotions, making decisions can be much clearer. Learning how to look at your decisions more objectively can help you, even when emotions do impact a decision.
Ask yourself what you’d advise your best friend to do, look at the bigger picture, and let go of the “status quo bias.”
Honor your core priorities. Figure out what they are, spend time dedicated to them, and stop doing things that aren’t related to them.
Prepare To Be Wrong
Anticipate the problems and needs you’ll face if your decisions fail or succeed in the future.
Set “trip wires” to signal yourself into action and prevent auto-pilot. An example might be, “I’m going to look for a new job if I’m not promoted within 1 year.” They signal that it’s time for you to whip out your decision making skills and start making some decisions about what happens next.
When making a decision with a group, the decision must be seen as fair.
Time to Practice Your Decision Making Skills
We all have decisions, big and small that we need to make from whether to continue down our current career path to which restaurant to go to this weekend to which car to buy.
Knowing that you have a process and decision making skills that are tested and sophisticated may give you some peace of mind. Otherwise, trying to make a decision can feel agonizing.
You can pick up the book, Decisive on Amazon here.
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