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INSIGHT – TRANSFORMATION – LEADERSHIP

Black Box: How do we make decisions?

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With the amount of decisions that we make every day, it is astonishing that the process of making decisions is not well understood. So how do we make the best choice?

The very act of deciding seems a bit like the proverbial piece of soap in the bathtub: the more you want to get a grip on it the more it slips away. Much is written today about VUCA conditions, and decision making in complex adaptive spaces with highly uncertain outcomes, volatile ingredients and complex relationships are a different animal all together to deal with. We run an Adaptive Leadership training some time ago with top level leaders from the wider UNO network. We wanted to test if their complexity of thinking was matching the complexity of their jobs and run a Decision Making Assessment (LDMA; from Lectica). These leaders were presented with an ill-structured dilemma (no right or wrong solution) to which they had to come up with ways of responding and deciding and their reasoning. When asked about to portrait decision making process in a way that it could be followed or repeated by others, much to our surprise most came up with a list of action rather than some decision making process. That made us even more curious. We ventured more into this terrain.

The weird thing is that even in ‘normal’ conditions people are not aware of how they make choices. Some people pose their questions attentively, gather relevant information superbly and then “wing” it with the actual act of deciding. And then come up with a perfect explanation in hindsight.

So, starting to establish a baseline around decision making, let’s consider basic steps, drawing on the Lectical Decision Making Assessment and Russo & Schoemaker (Winning Decisions):

  1. Framing: the general goal of the decision maker including the way they think about the knowledge upon which they base their decision
  2. A realistic approach to gathering intelligence
  3. Coming to Conclusions: organising and analysing the information and a way to coordinate different perspectives (weighing)
  4. An approach to communicating and implementing the decision made
  5. Learning from Experience, including a way to measure the decision’s effectiveness so adjustments can be made

In the next blog snippet, I will elaborate a bit more on the single steps, each provides rich ground for further exploration.

Outlook: In some next blogs I intend to bring in more and more layers of decision making, exploring input from different topics, authors, influenzers  and frameworks: Dave Snowden, Gary Klein, Bonnitta Roy, Gerd Gigerenzer, Andy Clarke; Lectica.org; concepts/models/ methods: Framing, Cognitive Biases; Intuition; Sensemaking; Cynefin Framework, OODA Loop, Risk vs. Uncertainty, Heuristics, Constraints, Learning, Failure, Innovation, Theory of Change

2 thoughts on “Black Box: How do we make decisions?

  1. Pingback: #Decison-Making: Framing | MindShift

  2. Pingback: Decision Making: Risk vs Uncertainty | MindShift

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