Decision Making

Making decisions is a logical process, with a little bit of art thrown in.

Decision making is an essential element to all human activity. We make decisions about many trivial and important things every day. The quality of our decisions affect lives in profound ways. The results of our decisions can determine what happens in our family life, our career, our health and our wealth. For something that has such a strong impact on our lives, it is important that we understand how decisions are made.

Analyzed Decisions

One theory of how decisions should be made sees it as an analytical process. The decision maker generates several options, then identifies criteria for evaluating these options, assigns values to the evaluation criteria, and rates each option according to these criteria. The basic idea is to compare multiple options concurrently to arrive at an optimal solution. Analytical decisions tend to be thorough, but time consuming. Theoretically, experience is not necessary for effective making analytical decisions -- reasoning power is enough.

Intuitive Decisions

A second approach is based on intuition. This approach relies on an experienced decision maker's ability to recognize the key elements of a problem, rapidly integrate them, and make a proper decision. Intuitive decisions thus replaces analysis with experience and judgment. The intuitive model credits the experienced person making the decision with the ability to grasp the situation in its entirety. Intuitive decision makers strives to find the first solution that solves the problem, rather than waiting for the "best" solution. The speedier intuitive model is consistent with the view that situations that require quick decisions are ultimately an art rather than a science -- there is no absolutely correct answer to any problem. The intuitive model works on the assumption that, by drawing upon personal experience, the one upon who the weight of decision lies will generate a workable first solution, and therefore does not need to develop numerous options. If time permits, she may evaluate her decision; if she finds it defective, she then moves on to the next reasonable solution. The only way to prepare to make intuitive decisions is to have experience and lots of it. In fact that experience will include many bad decisions, before the decision maker "arrives."

Which One Is Best?

Each method for making a decision has its strengths and weaknesses; which is better depends on the nature of the situation, particularly on the time and information available. Typically, the analytical approach is more appropriate for deliberate planning prior to an emergency where rapid action is required, when the time is measured in hours or days and extensive information can be gathered and processed. In this situation, modeling, simulation, SWOT, statistical analysis and decision matrices may be useful in allowing the decision maker to evaluate her potential courses of action. The intuitive approach is clearly more appropriate for a fluid rapidly changing environment, when time is a critical factor. In practice even in high pressure situations, the decision maker will usually incorporate certain analytical methods and decision aids into an essentially intuitive process whenever the situation warrants and time permits.

A problem with an intuitive approach is that some decision makers, tend to get sloppy. When they settle for the first possible solution that comes to mind there is the very real possibility that mediocre decisions will become a habit. It is therefore advisable to do as much analysis as possible to keep the decisions made honest and high quality.

Decision Techniques

Listed below are some of the decision techniques available on this website. They are of course analytical methods. Some of the methods do rely on intuition to some degree, but only on small parts of the problem, not on the whole thing.

Decision Making Model In Five Steps - This is the general model for making decisions. Understand how all the pieces fit together. These steps will help you make a quick decision that is logical.

Example of a Decision Matrix - This decision analysis software shows you how to evaulate an opportunity in light of your strengths and weaknesses.

Sample SWOT Analysis
- How to use Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats to help in how you make decisions.

Decision Making Techniques
- What are some of the techniques that you can use to make decisions?

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