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Creative Decision Making

Updated: May 9

Paper or Plastic? Windows open or air conditioning? Dress up or casual? Get up when the alarm goes off or snooze? Cookie or apple? 


Decisions, you make hundreds of them every day. Whether you think deeply about each one or they are just an automatic reaction to a life situation, they are a part of our lives.  Do you enjoy making decisions and solving problems or is it a fact of life that you try to avoid?  How we feel about making decisions and solving problems will determine how easily we can make decisions that are positive for our personal lives and careers or decisions that lead to more challenges. 


Believe it or not there are some steps to make decision making more comfortable and a more concise process.  The steps, if followed can make the entire process, if not more pleasant at least easier to work through. The steps are:


  1. Identify the Problem. 

  2. Brainstorm Solutions. 

  3. Investigate options and their consequences. 

  4. Decide and Act. 

  5. Evaluate the decision. 

Creative Decision Making

 

First, and most importantly, you must determine what the decision to be made or problem is really.  This may seem obvious, and perhaps it is, yet, take a few moments to think through the entire situation and truly determine what needs to be decided.  If you start making a decision around an issue that doesn’t exist or that is secondary to the “real” issue then, as we all know, you will be back fixing the main issue before you know it.  Or, you will have to make several decisions to remedy the situation that could have been fixed with one decision. 


Once you have identified the problem to be solved then take some time to brainstorm possible options for solving problem. There are many ways to brainstorm. You can, 

  • Start a list on your own, share it with someone else who knows the situation and have them add to the list of ideas, share that list with someone who doesn’t know the situation at all, but whom you trust, have them add some ideas. You can limit the number of people you include in this process, or you can keep the list going for a period of time. 

  • Start a Mind Map. A Mind Map is a picture of all of the options available. Here’s an example, 




 

Start with a central question or idea and begin adding spokes out from the center that each represents another possible idea or solution to the problem at hand. 

  • Hold a brainstorming meeting with those individuals that you feel will bring the knowledge and curiosity that you desire to the process. 


Our brains are hardwired to find solutions and sometimes that can make the act of brainstorming challenging. The only rule to brainstorming is that ANYTHING GOES. Any idea is a good idea, it may not be the solution, but it may spur another idea that is the answer you’ve been looking for.



Once you have a list of ideas, uncensored of course, you are ready to move to step three of the decision-making process, investigate options and their consequences.   It is in this step that you take each of the brainstormed ideas for solving the problem at hand and study it further.  You can create your own set of metrics for determining the worth of the idea.  Some to consider are, time, money, does this idea impact anyone else, location, and resources needed to implement. 


This will begin to narrow your list considerably.  After spending some time in this step you may have your one idea that you want to implement to solve your problem, or you may have a couple of ‘good’ options.  If you have a couple of good ideas then you must continue to whittle down the pros and cons of each idea until you feel you have come to the one that you want to try out. (of course, you can keep a few ideas as back-up) 


Once you feel confident that you have the idea that you feel will solve your problem best then you move to step four of the process, decide and act.  Implement your idea and stand back to see how it works.  It may take time to discover if the results are the ones you were hoping for.  Give it the time it deserves.  Don’t just make the decision, implement and forget.  There is a fifth step to decision making, evaluate the decision


Often, we debrief a big decision with key players, and we may even evaluate our decision to have that burrito for lunch if we end up not feeling well, but how often do we evaluate our decisions just to see how well it turned out and to see if there is any follow up that can be done. 

The evaluation method I suggest is the P.M.I. approach.


P = positive outcomes of making this decision 

M = Minuses of making this decision 

I = Interesting points of making this decision 

 

By taking the time to evaluate the decisions we make that concern our personal lives and our businesses we can learn how to better make decisions that will give us the results we want.  


Using the steps to decision making may seem cumbersome at first, yet I think you will find that if you give the steps their due, in time the process will become second nature.  The steps also offer a great way to avoid making the quick or gut level decision that can cost us in the long run by slowing us down enough to question the true problem and to consider all of the possible options available. 


Next time you have a decision to make, big or small, consider the Steps to Decision making as your guide.  

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