At Bridgeport Digital, we prioritize our ability to make the right decisions in the decision-making process. Our ability to assess the value of consequences is a significant ingredient for the decision-making process. Unfortunately, the ability to do so is generally poor, which is why people can make poor decisions. The ability to assess the risk involved with different choices is another important ingredient for decision-making. This is also something that people perform poorly when trying to implement decision-making. When thinking of ways to improve your decision-making and how to manage it, it is important to think about how to manage these components:
goals, assumptions, hypotheses, and activities.
The components that people are particularly bad at are assessing the value of consequences and the ability of assessing any risk involved. If we want to make our decision-making process better, we need to use elements that help us improve our ability to assess the value of consequences and any risk.
“There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognise ability.” - Robert Half
Abandoning Decision Misconceptions
Before we dive into any more detail about how we should improve the way we manage decisions, let’s take a moment to talk about and remove any decision misconceptions. The main misconception I’d like to address is that many people believe decisions are linear. In other words, when someone thinks about a decision, they make it before they implement it; but that’s not how things work. Decisions should be an interactive process. To explain further, instead, we do a little research and based on the research,we gain a level of confidence. Initially, our confidence will be low because we haven’t done a lot of research. We may do some things that will help build our confidence before we review and ensure the path we’ve chosen is right for our decision. If we aren’t then we change the decision.
Here’s an example: I cooked dinner last night. I made sloppy joe, it’s one of my daughters’ favorites. My daughter likes her food sweet, so I was trying to figure out the right spice to balance the sweetness. I figured it out by putting some spices in the sloppy joe and sampling it. Again, I had a certain confidence level because I’ve made sloppy joe before. And so, based on what I know I felt like I chose the right spice and the right balance with the sweetness. Then, after I’ve eaten it, (sampled it) I gain more confidence than I had initially. I may or may not add more spices accordingly and I keep this up until I achieve the right taste, this process gave me the confidence that I made the right decisions.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” - Ken Blanchard
For this reason, decision-making should be an iterative process. The decisions we make are actually conclusions. In the beginning, when we make our first conclusion, we don’t have enough information, and so, we gather more information. As we gather more information, that information should be able to change our decision. So, decisions should not be immutable;
“unchanging over time or unable to be changed.”
Decision Context and Its Significance
Instead, decisions should change over time as we gather new information. Decisions shouldn’t be linear or everlasting either. We shouldn’t make decisions and hold onto them forever. As we gather more information, circumstances may or may not change. If the context changes, the goals change; which means the decisions need to change. Here’s the thing, decisions shouldn’t be constrained, they should give options of innovation; but they also shouldn’t be unique. If I’m in a similar circumstance, I should make a similar decision. There are many people who believe that once you make a decision, you stick with it. But it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The more confidence I gain, the more my decisions will stick unless there’s a change in context. However, in absence of a changing context, if my confidence in decision-making is low, I should feel fine changing my decisions. I emphasize this because in our society we hold people to their decisions. As it happens, society rewards people for sticking to their decisions; the people that are steadfast, they get promoted or receive a raise. Looking into the future, if you want your company to make better decisions, they need leeway; we shouldn’t punish people if they change their mind.
Now let’s talk about decision context. We need to have a goal, assumptions used to make a decision, and a hypothesis to describe the relationship between assumptions and the actions taken will achieve the goal. If I have my hypothesis, given my assumption (if I do these activities, I’ll get closer to the goal), I can use my hypothesis to create milestones and metrics to help me stay on track. The decisions I should make should be based on the difference between my current status and the goal I desire as my future status. To further explain, the gap between your current status and your future state (goal) is the problem we try to solve. Every decision should always be focused on how to solve that problem; to get rid of the gap between your current state and your desired state. This context should be involved in every decision.
Normally, a context isn’t given when people set things up; instead they proceed right away with a decision and a weighing of options. If you avoid using a strategy, you will never settle on the right context to make the right decisions. Ordinarily, we eliminate options but we don’t think of all the options that we could.
Once you understand this, when you’re making decisions, what you want to do is make sure you have this context. As you go through and iterate a decision, we call a decision a different thing in different states. Commonly, before we gather enough research, we begin with an assumption. After we do some research, it becomes a hypothesis. Then, after we test the hypothesis, we call it a conclusion. Finally, after we feel we have enough sufficient evidence and we’ve tested it several times, it becomes a decision. What we want is the ability to challenge assumptions and update our decision-making. So what you want to do is talk about decision-making and the four components to manage decision-making tentatively. The four components, once again, are:
goals, assumptions, hypotheses, and activities.
“Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson