How to Make the Best Decisions

How do you make the toughest decisions? Write a pros / cons list? Go with intuition? Do you have your own system that you have perfected over the years?

If you don’t have a system that works for you, this article by Stephen Johnson in the New York Times has some quality guidelines for improving your decision-making process. Here are some of the main findings:

Consider all the alternatives

Often, when making a decision, for example, whether to start a new job or not, we think of it as a decision either / or: we will take on this job or stay with the one that we have. It is at the heart of the standard pros / cons list. But Johnson’s article highlights the importance of working through more than just these two options.

Business school professor Paul Nutt has done research on decision making over the years, Johnson said. Professor Nutt found that there was “a strong correlation between the number of alternatives considered and the ultimate success of the solution itself.”

In one of his studies, Professor Nutt found that participants who considered only one alternative ultimately rated their decision as failure more than 50% of the time, while decisions that required at least two alternatives were considered successful in two thirds of cases. …

Johnson writes that one of the best ways to diversify your pool of options is to ask a wide variety of people for their opinion. Uniformity stimulates groupthink; This is why research has shown that companies with different boards and / or employee groups often perform better than companies with the same “type” of people. They can see things that you cannot see because they have different experiences and skills that will help you make decisions. On the other hand, peer groups “don’t question their assumptions.”

Try scenario planning

For your most important decisions, instead of making that simple pros / cons above, try something a little more complex. Tell yourself three different stories: “Come up with one story where things get better, one where things get worse, and another where things get weird,” Johnson suggests.

So, for example, if you are thinking of a new job, work through three different stories: how the new job will make your life better, how it will make it worse, and what happens if, for example, it makes your life better. life is better and your partner is worse?

Write “Pre-mortem”

“As the name suggests, this approach represents a twist on the medical procedure for postmortem analysis,” Johnson writes. Rather than asking the coroner why you “died” after death, you think about it ahead of time. From the point of view of your decision, this means that you must think beforehand about the different ways that you failed to do. So, to return to the new job example, explain why you think it will fail in a few months or years. This can be an instructive way to ponder potential negative consequences.

Johnson writes,

It is not enough to simply ask yourself: “Are there any disadvantages in this regard that I am missing?” By forcing yourself to imagine scenarios in which the decision is disastrous, you can ponder these blind spots and false confidences.

Create the best pros / cons list

If you’re still stumped, try making a more detailed list of pros / cons. Here’s what he offers:

  • Write down the most important values ​​(for a new job example, this could include freedom, doing work that inspires you, working with smart people, making money, etc.).
  • Weigh each value. Give them a “numerical measure of its importance to you.” For example, 1 to 10 or 0 to 1.
  • Rate each of the scenarios you develop “in terms of how it fits with each of your core values, on a scale of 1 to 100.” For example, your new job might be a remote position that is well judged for your value of “freedom” but poorly judged for your value for “collaboration.”
  • Then “multiply each score by the weight of each value and add the numbers for each scenario,” Johnson writes. “The scenario with the most points wins.”

Ideally, these exercises will help you see and consider new angles for each of your options. Then you can make a truly informed decision that you won’t regret.

How to make an important decision | New York Times


Leave a Reply