Decision making 2020-10-11T21:49:35+00:00

Scientific lessons to improve your decision making

learn actionable and science backed techniques that help you make the best decision by adopting the right decision-making framework

“Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right”

Phil McGraw

Decision making style determines whether you make the best possible choice or not. It can hold you back from achieving positive gains, which in turn hinders your professional (and personal) development. Optimizing your decision making style helps you to develop skills necessary to push your life and career towards success.

The lessons included in this module have been carefully designed to help you optimize your decision making, based on decades of research in decision science, behavioral economics, and cognitive neuroscience. The lessons have been organized in a way that makes them easy to follow and implement. Here, you will find a number of different strategies, tools, and tactics to choose from, so that you have the highest confidence in improving your decision making.

In this module, you will learn how different cognitive strategies are needed to improve your decision-making process. You will be presented with quick and easy fixes that you can use in the moment, as well as micro-habits you can implement whenever needed to make your decision making process easier and more effective.

How do you make good decisions?

The manner in which you gather and process information to make a decision depends on your decision making style, which is a learned habitual response pattern that you follow when confronted with a choice. The amount of information you gather, the number of alternatives you consider, the way you make sense out of the available data – all this is largely determined by your decision making tendencies. That in turn, determines the outcomes of your choices and whether the option you choose is, indeed, the best there is. In addition, some styles are linked with more efficient decision making process, while others – can severely hinder your strategies and actions. In what follows, we will walk you through the key decision making styles as well as their advantages and pitfalls.


Rational decision making style

This style is characterized by a comprehensive, thorough search for information needed to make the decision. You rationally gather all the data in a systematic way, you carefully evaluate it, you make an inventory of alternatives and you draw logical conclusions. You like to give a structure to the problem and you assume personal responsibility for it.

Generally speaking, rational decision making is adaptive, especially in important and complex decisions that have a potentially major impact on your life. However, not every decision in your life needs to be based on the thorough evaluation of all possible options. After all, these types of decisions tend to take more effort and time. The key is to recognize whether the decision scenario warrants this type of decision deep-dive.


Intuitive decision making style

Intuitive decisions are usually much faster than rational decisions – instead of systematic evaluation of your alternatives, you rely on your gut feelings and hunches. An intuitive style also means focus on the flow of information and paying attention to just the important details, rather than take an inventory of all the available data. It often leads to trial-and-error solution testing, where the first intuitive hunch does not work out the way you wanted, so you go for the second-best option. Using your intuition in decision making means you filter the data around you and focus only on what seems the most important in a particular situation. While that means greater self-confidence in approaching decisions, it often leads to a diminished sense of personal control – so, feeling like you make decisions by chance rather than fully controlling all the things going on. In this way, intuitive style can be a hindrance if you use it in decisions that require careful consideration of all possible options.


Dependent decision making style

Dependent decision makers rely heavily on other people and have very little confidence in their decision making skills. So, the search for the information is based heavily on advice and opinions gathered via other people, as opposed to information gathered from independent and objective sources. Dependent decision making style works well in situations where the outcomes affects not just you, but also other people, or in situations where your knowledge and expertise is not sufficient to make the right call. Seeking advice from others can be useful at times. However, if used too frequently, it can lead to the inability to act and will reduce your self-confidence and sense of ownership of your work.


Avoidant decision making style

While the above three decision styles have both pros and cons depending on the situation, this last one, the avoidant decision making style, is rarely good for you. Those who avoid decisions have little confidence in dealing with problems. They postpone their decisions as much as possible. If making a decision makes you uneasy and you procrastinate as much as possible, there is a risk that you make your decisions very last minute. You fail to make fully informed, well-thought choices. Avoidance strategies can be incorrectly applied to situations where the decision feels important. High stakes decisions lead to an inability to decide and a complete lack of personal control or confidence. A good number of tactics in this module help with reducing the negative impact of avoidance decision biases.  

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Decision making & the brain

Decades of research in cognitive neuroscience and neuroeconomics has uncovered key brain areas responsible for reasoning and self-control that are essential in decision making. First, you need to collect and process the sensory information from your environment. For example, if you are deciding which task to tackle next on your to-do list, you first look at it, read it and process that visual information. The association areas of your brain integrate the stimuli to give you a bigger picture.

Once that’s done, the reward system in your brain kicks in – you assign different values to your potential choices based on the possible benefits it will bring you. For example, if you’re feeling tired and one of the tasks on your list requires a lot of focus and attention, you will assign it less value than another task which requires relatively less effort. Then, based on your evaluation of the different options, your prefrontal cortex orchestrates the different processing outcomes into a specific action and exerts cognitive control over your behavior, thus leading to a choice and action. The muting of any of these signals in these brain areas can impair decision-making.

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