- choice that you make after thinking about several possibilities
- A position, opinion or judgment made after consideration
I recently had the great pleasure to speak before a group of businesswomen here on Cape Cod. Part of the discussion revolved around the challenge of making decisions with imperfect information, so I wanted to share a little about this in our newsletter this month.
We all make decisions every day on large and small scales, from whether to change careers to what to have for lunch. Some are clearer than others and some are more consequential than others, and the more unclear and consequential, the more difficult the decision.
So, allow me to share some guidance on making tough decisions that I have cobbled together over years of watching astute decision-makers in action.
The character of decisions fit nicely into a matrix like this:
|Inconsequential||All systems go||Pick one and move on|
|Consequential||Think twice||You have work to do|
For inconsequential decisions, there isn’t much involved. What’s the worst that can happen if you choose ham and cheese instead of tuna for lunch? Even if the decision is unclear – like pick a card, any card – just pick one. Life is short.
But when there are real consequences to the decision, you’ll need to spend some time on it. Let’s start with the lower right-hand corner, decisions that are consequential and unclear.
Do Your Homework
Even though it may feel like you are lost, and the decision is impossible, there are still some things that you know. Your goal is to get to the point where you know enough to feel comfortable making the decision, so start with what you know and start building on that. We live in the information age, so we can turn to Google and YouTube for a lot. After that, the next step is your contact list. Who do you know who has expertise in this area, or might know someone who has it? Lastly you can seek out people you don’t know – vendors, consultants, those who are in business of being a solution for us lost souls. How do you know when you have enough information? Only you can determine that, but you will know it when you get there. Remember studying for tests in school? You know when you’re prepared.
Probably a subject for a future Word article, metamessages are those messages that you read between the lines. In this context, they most often come up when you are dealing with technical people. If you ask a question and the answer comes back in a barrage of technical terms, you may be hearing a metamessage designed not to help you understand the issue but to instead show you how smart the technical person is. You don’t have time for this, so either call them out on it and try to force a clear discussion or find another technical person.
Have an Exit Strategy
There is a quote that I have heard attributed to Henry Kissinger that the best decision is the one that is most easily reversed. That may not always be the case, but you do need to consider what happens if your decision is a disaster. Example: You are making an important, pricey purchase. All your homework says Product A is the best choice, but the vendor doesn’t have a return policy. That may steer you to Product B that allows returns, but if not, you’ll need to think about what to do if Product A doesn’t work as advertised.
Once you have educated yourself, then hopefully the lower-right decision starts to look like the lower-left decision – consequential but now clear. But wait, the lower-left quadrant doesn’t say “Proceed!” – it says, “Think Twice.”
This is where we need to be aware of a thing called “confirmation bias.” Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s preexisting beliefs. In other words, we hear the new evidence as supportive of what we already think we want to do.
So, thinking twice here really means getting another opinion. This is where I like to bring in someone who is not an expert but is a trusted friend or advisor who will give you objective feedback about the decision toward which you are now leaning.
Noticing that a number of the advice tidbits above involve the need for a network of contacts and at least one trusted advisor, I can’t resist throwing out here that joining a coworking center is an excellent way to grow your network and build relationships. And if you need help with that decision, you can try CapeSpace for free and we promise an informative experience, metamessage-free and easily reversible!
Have decision making tips? Please share them with us! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.