Decision Making Strategies And Techniques

Decision Making Strategies and Techniques

Alarm rings- Twing Twing!!

Wake up or snooze for 5 more minutes?

I am sleeping but my mind isn’t! It is wide awake and actively trying to make a decision about the time I should wake up , while I appear to be sleeping. It weighs so many pros of sleeping that appeal to me well and cons that push me to get up on my feet. Finally I wake up (Decision made).

The day begins making a decision, and then we just get into the vicious cycle of decision, from what dress to wear to selecting the route to office. We make many conscious and many unconscious decisions every moment.

“The average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day.”

What is Decision Making?

Decision Making – It is the thought process of selecting the optimal logical option from all the available options.

Example: Just like deciding on what color shirt to wear to office, black, blue or white. Our brain seems to be designed in a way that  many a times it unconsciously takes the best decision without much effort

This was a simple everyday example but there are other difficult ones like the amount of funds that a department should invest on training and development of employees, how to handle an emergency situation in factory, etc. Some decisions are easier to arrive at  than the others. To answer this let’s understand

How do we arrive at a decision? (as per studies)

  • Single feature model: Here, decisions are based on the value of a single key feature. This type of decision making is useful in relatively simple situations.
    • Eg. While booking an air ticket, choosing the cheapest ticket. In this case the decision is based on the price of ticket alone without considering other variables.
  • Additive Feature Model: Here all the possible features of all the available options are evaluated to arrive at a decision. This type of decision making is useful in complex situation where decisions have a significant impact on us and helps us arrive at best possible option. However, since it is time consuming, it should be avoided to make simple decisions
  • Elimination by Aspects Model: In this approach, one begins by exploring the feature considered best by one. However, the option is rejected if it does not meet one’s expectation. The list of one’s possible choices keeps on becoming smaller as one rejects options and arrives at just one alternative option.

These three models are used when the problem is defined or has some structure. But what does one do in ambiguous situations, where there is greater risk, sense of urgency and the decision to be made is relatively significant?

Eg. You are getting late for a meeting, should you  break the signal and drive away , but risk being booked by the traffic police or worse an accident? Or should you follow all the rules, get late, lose credibility in front of clients and put the most critical deal at risk?

We tend to employ two unique decision making strategies in such situations. These strategies are a type of mental heuristics i.e.  a rule-of-thumb, mental shortcut that allow us to make decisions and judgments quickly.

  • Availability Heuristics: when we try to estimate how likely something is, we tend to often base the determination on similar incidents that we can remember. From the example above you may remember all of the times you have seen people breaking signals and being caught, but if you don’t remember any, you may decide to go ahead and break the signal. However, if you do recall any such incident,  you would decide to wait and take the risk of being late for the meeting.
  • Representative Heuristics: When you compare yourself to your mental prototype of a particular situation or behavior you are using this mental shortcut. Eg. When trying to break the signal you will imagine yourself being caught by the traffic police. If you imagine yourself as  a reckless driver you would decide to break the signal. But if you consider yourself as a law abiding citizen you would wait for the green signal.

Therefore, decision making may be as simple or as complex a process as you want it to be. What and how we decide is not based on the mental strategies alone but the emphasis is also on the  impact of decision and its complexities.

Using appropriate strategy can make us better decision makers than the others and  allow us to allocate our time and efforts more efficiently.

Filed under: Soft Skills

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