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Decision Making

Is not wisdom based on being 
well informed?

360 BCE Greek






Adaptive techniques for solving problems are a combination of logic and common sense, and while not precise, can produce satisfactory solutions.

If you cannot follow the complete problem solving process, use these techniques when you

  • have little time for research
  • don't need exhaustive analysis
  • can accept the risks
  • can make reversible decisions

Considerations in adaptive decision making:

Decision staggering
Make incremental decisions to achieve an objective and avoid up-front commitment to a decision you cannot change.

Example: Before installing air-conditioning, try screens, shades, and fans. These alone may do the job. If not, these improvements will still have helped cool the building and increase air-conditioning efficiency if later installed.

Use information available to probe for a solution.
Exploring is a modified trial-and-error strategy to manage risk. Unlike a throw of dice, however, it requires a firm sense of purpose and direction. Use this technique to move cautiously in small steps toward a solution.

Example: Doctors avoid committing to a single, incomplete diagnosis of an illness. Through tentative but precise exploration, they determine the cause of an illness and its cure.

Managing by exception
Work on those matters that are critical to you, and leave matters to others that are not.  Strategizing and prioritizing

Example:  You tutor a child in math.  You become aware that the family situation is troubled, but you haven't the skills to help.  You inform the case manager for theri action, but continue to focus on the supporting the child with his/her homework 

Spread risk by avoiding decisions that lock you into a single choice if you are not prepared to commit.

Example:  astute investors don't "put all their eggs in one basket." They spread risks with a balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds, and cash.

Options based on your experience, values, and emotions, values?br> your gut feelings and your heart! While often able to arrive at the truth through intuition, don't rely on it exclusively. It can trigger snap judgments and rash decisions. Use logic first, then your intuition to make the decision "feel" right

If an immediate decision isn't necessary and there's time to develop options, go slow or let it wait. Sometimes doing nothing is the best decision; the problem either goes away, or events overcome it

Delegation to another
if the problem can be solved better by someone else, if the problem is not really yours in the first place (identify stakeholders!), or your resources (time, money, etc.) will not be adequate

Vision, opportunity, and options
Focus on the future to uncover hidden opportunities and options. With options, we make better decisions. Without them, decisions become forced choices. By finding tomorrow's opportunities and developing options, you can make enduring, quality decisions.

Barriers to effective decision-making

Avoiding decisions to escape the unpleasant aspects of risk, fear, and anxiety

Refusing to face the issue; obsessive gathering of endless facts

Letting a situation spin out of control; letting emotions take control

Reversing decisions; half-heartedly committing to a course of action

Half measures
Muddling through. Making the safest decision to avoid controversy but not dealing with the whole problem