The colours and complexities of decision-making
The words of our title will prompt many to suddenly start singing in Spanish or reminiscing about epic British rock bands. Outside of music however, those of us with the luxury of choice may find that decision-making can cause all sorts of anxiety, so we started to discuss why this might be.
“Decisions are the choices we make to overcome existing problems, avoid future problems, or seize opportunities. Good decisions make life easier not harder” – Shane Parrish from The Knowledge Project has lots to say about decisions, including this helpful definition.
Decision-making comes in different colours too:
Astonishingly, various estimates suggest that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions each day, with 226 of those focused on food alone (250 if the ICC cookie jar is full). Many of these will be largely consequence free, such as what to wear or when to go for a walk. But some decisions have far-reaching consequences on ours and perhaps the lives of other people, such as whether to get married, whether to take a new job, or where to live. It makes sense then (doesn’t it?) to take our time with decisions. But then we run the risk of being labelled indecisive.
What causes us to be indecisive then?
- Perhaps we feel we have insufficient information to make an effective decision
- Perhaps we are experiencing peer pressure and are attempting to resist it
- Perhaps we are unable to see how the decision links to the overall vision or objective
- Perhaps there is a lack of understanding and a need for clarity
- Perhaps there are broader consequences to consider: ‘If I do X, then that means Y will happen’
At ICC, we argue that indecision is not necessarily a weakness. It can demonstrate strength of character to hold firm and say “I’m not ready to make this decision because…” rather than leaping in before we’re ready*. Every decision has a consequence: good, bad or occasionally adiaphorous. Choices compound too, with one decision adding a layer or butterfly effect to the impact of another.
*To be clear, that is very different from burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the problem completely!
So, how could we be making more effective decisions? See our Top 10 ICC high-performance guidelines to decision-making:
- Investigate the situation in detail – get complete clarity (what’s the real problem or opportunity?)
- Challenge your thinking – 20 years’ experience could simply just equate to 20 years of doing the same things
- Create a constructive decision-making environment – diverse thought and constructive challenge bring real value
- Prioritise – identify the important factors, what matters most?
- Explore your options and alternatives
- Select the best solution based on preferred outcome, not preferred process
- Avoid analysis-paralysis – know when to decide that you are good to go or ‘clean to’
- Develop and commit to a solid plan
- Communicate your decision, be accountable and take action
- Expect unexpected surprises but stop second-guessing
Even if these achieve results, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are a little dry! To give decision-making a little more fizz, we circle back to Shane Parrish from The Knowledge Project who argues that ‘people who make consistently good decisions take advantage of how the world works’. This is great advice! How do we identify how the world works?
Shane tells us: ‘Outcome over ego. You are accountable for your outcomes. When you take responsibility for your outcomes you get feedback from reality. When you get feedback from reality, you adjust your behaviour.’
“Our life is the sum of our choices” – Albert Camus
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