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November 9, 2016

Improving Decision Making: Techniques, Tools and Tips

Lucy Bishop


I hold my hands up. I'm terrible at decision making. From the most basic to the biggest of decisions, it can take me ages to make my mind up.

The Perils of Too Much Choice

Yes, it's great to have choice, and we've never had more choice than we do now. But sometimes it can be overwhelming. Even the weekly shop now comes with a multitude of choices... Do I want to buy free-range? Organic? Gluten-free? Shall I splash out on a premium product or stick to value? Maybe I should start that diet that I'm always putting off and go for healthy options.

I could spend ages pondering the benefits of wheatgerm bread over brown… but I've got things to do and places to be!

Tough Decisions

I don't worry so much about getting my decision wrong when it comes to shopping for food. However, when I need to make an important decision, it comes down to knowledge. I like to weigh up the pros and cons. Perhaps do a bit of research and ask around for advice. Yes, sometimes, this can mean that it takes me a while to actually reach a decision. But, once I do, I know that I’ve made the most informed choice that I can.

Your Techniques and Tools

We wanted to see what how our friends and followers on social media approached decision making. So we asked you: "What techniques or strategies can you use to help you make better decisions?"

Most of you – like me – agreed that the best technique is to gather as much information as possible before making your decision. As Chris Hamilton, a mortgage loan officer from California, U.S., explains: "It's always good to have accurate, credible, and verifiable data. This way, your decisions are based on the concrete versus 'assumed to be credible.' Decisions can then be both thoughtful and purposeful."

Arzu Erkus, a fellow LinkedIn member and HR professional from Virginia, U.S., agreed with Hamilton’s advice, but added that remaining neutral was also key to making an informed decision. She said that "gathering intelligence – real intelligence, and not just information that will support your internal biases" was one of the most important steps to take when making a decision.

For others, strategic tools and more formal techniques were important. Facebook follower Ioana Adriana, for example, revealed that she found "gamified tools and strategy games" helpful, while Tim Broadhurst suggested that coaching was the way forward: "Get yourself a great coach (or a crystal ball)."

Mona Gallagher, however, advised that "emotional intelligence" and "soft skills" should not be forgotten in the decision-making process. She explained that while "hard skills are important as ever, in order to move forward as an organization, soft skills are an essential partner!" Her opinion was echoed by another of our Facebook followers, Ce Edge, who suggested, "Learning, knowledge, understanding, and caring guide decision making."

As always, our followers on Twitter responded with plenty of helpful hints and #mindtoolstips. Here's a selection:

  • @Ecliptic Consulting: "Think about the end result and possible complications (and resolutions) before making a decision."
  • @Jackton Omutanyi: "Understanding the value of time will foremost be of help."
  • @Craig Freshley: "Establish shared understanding about the problem to be solved or question to be answered."

Thanks to all of you who responded to our question on decision-making techniques. If you have any further tips or advice, please join in the #mindtoolstip conversation below.

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8 comments on “Improving Decision Making: Techniques, Tools and Tips”

    1. Glad to hear you found the blog of interest and value. Hope you are able to use some of the tips to help you make decisions.

  1. Though there might not be a universal formula for a decision-making process,there are some factors that one should consider,like the cost involved,time factor and sensitivity of the decision.
    It is therefore advisable to do a pilot plan for the desired decision and observe the results.
    A decision-maker with therefore be able to know what works and what doesn't.

    1. Thanks Maurice for highlights those important points. There are many factors that contribute to decisions and by using some tools just helps in that process.

  2. There are no rational decisions. All decisions have emotions built into them, and we build the rationale for the decision subsequently.

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