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Real Edge

11 tips to making better decisions

Making better decisions is probably the #1 thing business owners wish they could do. The truth is, short of having a crystal ball, we’ll never really know what the future holds – the last 15 months has shown us that.  But that’s definitely not a reason to resist making decisions.

Most human beings (that includes business owners) find making major decisions really difficult.  There’s a whole lot of science behind why this may be the case, but essentially, it’s to do with the what-if scenario playing out in our minds, and the consequences of making the wrong decision. Of-course we all know that not making a decision, is actually making a decision. Just not an intelligent one!

Business growth relies on sound decision making and as we gradually come out of this pandemic – making the best decisions possible has never been more important.

To encourage businesses to move forward I’ve outlined some techniques that I’ve used over the years to make better decisions faster, and with less anguish. It’s not a checklist,  and different techniques will resonate with different people, but if one of these can help you make better decisions then I’m doing my job.


1. Weekly think time session

French philosopher Blaise Pascal said  “All of humanities problems stem from peoples inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. If you have an important decision to make, try scheduling a thinking time session in your calendar each week, with pen-paper and 1 question you want answers to written at the top of the page. It’s important that you are alone- with no distractions. Write down all the options, even the ridiculous ones. Then review at the end-normally 45 minutes, and see what makes sense. 

2. Ask yourself four questions

During your scheduled think time session, you may try asking yourself the following four questions. These are all subtly different.

  1. What would happen if I did?
  2. What would happen if I did not?
  3. What would not happen if I did?
  4. What would not happen if I did not?

Once you write down the answers to each, a difficult decision can become clearer.

3. Trust your gut  (after all it’s actually connected to your brain)

Intuition is an impression, a perception, an insight whose origins we may not fully understand – but we shouldn’t ignore it.  And don’t confuse intuition with impulsiveness. Impulsiveness is the urge to do something to meet an emotional need of the moment that often (though not always) leads you down a path you’ll regret.

Trust your gut instincts. Research published in multiple social science publications shows that in some instances snap decisions are better than endless pedantic pondering and logical weighing up.

There’s no doubt that logical thought has its place in decision making. But logic is a tool and not the only one in the box! Try noticing how your gut feels about a decision.

Try flipping a coin: One way of identifying how your gut feels about a particular decision is to flip a coin. Sounds absurd-I know. It’s not actually about what way the coin lands, but rather whilst it’s in the air – which way are you hoping for it to land.  And when it actually does land – how do you feel about going with that choice.  May seem ridiculous – but it can tell you a lot.

4. Don’t over research

Economist Herbert Simon in 1956 introduced what he called ‘Saticficers’  and ‘Maximisers’. Saticficer’s are those who make decisions once their criteria has been met, whereas Maximizers need to exhaust every single piece of information because they need to be sure they’re making the best decision. Although research shows that Satificers are generally happier, and in most cases make equally good decisions as Maximisers, the biggest problem is that Maximizers often never make the decision. They consume so much time in research and investigation, not to mention creative avoidance, that the decision is often made for them, or they miss the ‘Opportunity’. 

Gathering additional information always comes at a cost. We’re better off setting our criteria for making a decision in advance (as in, “I’ll make the call once I know X, Y, and Z”). Once you have that information, make the choice and move on.

5. Meditate

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, found that people who meditate regularly use different parts of their brains in the decision-making process. The study found meditators instead draw upon areas involved in interoception and attention to the present moment. This study suggests that the trick may lie not in rational calculation, but in steering away from what-if scenarios. 

6. What’s the worst that could happen?

This isn’t always practical, but in the past when I’ve had a major decision to make, I’ve often asked myself the question “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” It can help you put the decision into perspective. If it’s not going to cost you your business, or result in some type of long-term damage, you can then decide whether you’re willing to live with the potential consequences and move on.

Once you’ve considered the worst possible downside, everything else is a potential upside.

7. Ask someone else

If we don’t have the knowledge or experience to make a decision, the best course of action is to ask someone else.  This may be someone whose opinion you value, or someone you think may have been in your situation before.  Often their insight is more valuable than almost any research.

Dick Smith built his electronics business from nothing before selling in 1982 to Woolworths for more than $50million AUD – perhaps it would still be going if he hadn’t…Dick puts much of his success down to asking people with more experience or expertise for advice when he was faced with tough decisions. 

8. Understand your motivation

Write down the issue at hand and your key motivation(s) for making this decision. Understanding the true reason for what you’re about to do, can help stop you making a bad decision. It may only be a single sentence such as “I want to put on a new salesperson because my existing sales team is underperforming.”. This may see you uncover better solutions, than the decision you’re about to make.

 9. Pretend it’s not your decision

As crazy as this sounds, pretend it’s a friend or business associate’s decision, and that they’re asking you for advice. What would you suggest they do?

10. It may not be EITHER / OR

When we have a decision to make between option A and option B, don’t forget option C – which may be a combination of the two. Often these are the best outcomes for our business.

11. Commit to your decision

Once you’ve made your decision, make it happen. Don’t drag your feet, and have regret that stops you from following through with actions. 

Have a great business!


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