Stefanie Brandt-Tallqvist // March 26 2019

How to make good decisions

We make over 35 000 decisions every day according to various sources. Granted, not all of them are life-changing or big decisions were this number true, but still, it is a tremendous amount of decisions our brain goes through every day. According to Columbia University decision researcher, Sheena Iyengar, we make 70 conscious decisions every day. So how do we make sure we make the right ones? Taking core values into the process might be the key.

First let me start by saying that it’s good to realize that we do not have foresight in what may happen and even a good decision can have effects we might not have been able to anticipate. But we can make better decisions by using a systematic process wherein we incorporate our values and beliefs.

Second, positive stress may have good effect on decisions, but negative stress, fear, worry and anxiety has a negative effect on decision making. If we make decisions during severe or long term stress our brains limbic system kicks in and that is when the brain tends to go into habit based mode, and not future oriented mode. So be aware of your culture in the company, are there ways to release stress and anxiety, is the culture open for discussion and feedback, and does the work provide flexibility for different life situations when there might be more stress?

There are several ways of making decisions, lazy decision-making techniques might be good when something is entirely routine, then it’s okay to decide on something out of habit or impulsively. On the other hand choosing not to make a decision is also a decision, and this is something leaders have to be aware of. Procrastination and “driftwood” technique where you let a decision get postponed is also making a decision, just not very active one. Managers and leaders are usually there to ease their employees’ jobs, and someone is usually waiting for an answer on a decision, so it is good to be aware that the decision not making a decision may affect someone else.

This takes me to the point of stakeholders. When making a decision it is important to on top of taking the values into account also consider who the stakeholders are in the decision you are making. By taking the stakeholders and values into account you can make weighted decisions, by studying the factors and then make the best possible decision given the current information.

For someone who has to do especially hard and many important decisions per day, it may be good to prioritize the decisions to put the most time and effort in the decision that has the greatest impact.

We also have to become aware of our own unconscious bias, because bias distorts our objectivity towards the decision at hand. Our personal values, habits and culture also plays a large part and it is important to be aware of your own “system”. This is why we need to have a future mindset, that the decision should not be affected by previous experiences, and try to always evaluate the situation without any prerequisites.

In order to make the best possible decisions in a company they have to be aligned with the company values, culture and strategy. In any decision one should ask, does this take us closer to our goals, and if not, is the detour necessary, and what values are in play in this situation. By making this assessment your decision will most likely be more structured and goal oriented.

So to make future oriented and better decisions, the recipe is as follows, define the issue at hand, gather the information needed and evaluate the different outcomes, be aware of the stakeholders who are affected by the decision and take your own or in a company decision, the company values into account, then make the call and decide on how to measure the impact of the decision and how to follow up. The decisions made should be justified by the strategy, values and stakeholders in play, and that is to me value based leadership.


By Stefanie Brandt-Tallqvist, Head of Employee Experience

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