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Making decisions

Should I accept the offer? Will it help me fulfil my professional goals and career planning? What if my expectations are not accurate? Or should I wait for a better opportunity? When questions like these start piling up and the answers seem out of reach, it can be difficult to make the right choice. Some decisions stay with us for the rest of our lives. But how do we decide and what is the best approach?

Hard Choices

Sometimes we need to choose not just between two things, but from a whole pallet of options, and often in only a very short time. There are some decisions for which the answer seems certain right from the outset. For example, when it comes to the question of whether we should drink coffee or tea, we know that for sure it will be either coffee or tea. Much more difficult are decisions that are linked to uncertainty, because all of the information needed is not available at the present time.

Decision Basis and Timing

There are two major factors in the decision-making process. The first of these factors is the decision basis on which we found our decisions. The second factor is the timing. It is essential to collect as much information as possible from all potential sources. Of decisive advantage in this respect are an abstract, networked style of thinking and complete objectiveness. Our own perspectives can be expanded by obtaining the opinions of experts and input from our peers.

...an Example

Is this software suitable for the project? How will the users react to it? If we know a particular piece of software has already been improved by another provider but it does not fit our interface and the costs of a conversion are very high, then we will decide for the old software. But if we know that the interface will no longer be needed in the future because another solution is available, then we will opt for the new software. Decisions often depend on a prediction of future circumstances – and therein lies most of the uncertainty. Because the decision must be reached based on the information currently available. In these cases, intuition plays a key role.

Intuition - the Inner Voice

The consideration and rational organization of information is one way of reaching a decision. When information and time are limited, however, the human brain is overtaxed – the problem is too complex to be broken down into all of its individual elements. In such situations, many people rely on their intuition – and make what is referred to as a ‘gut-level’ decision. According to US researcher Milton Fisher, intuition even makes for most of what we know. Because most of the 11 million sensory impressions reaching the human brain every second are stored in the unconscious. When we make a decision based on our ‘gut feeling’, our brain is unconsciously processing combinations, attempting to identify patterns or similar experiences.

Tips

Find out what type of decision-maker you are: Do you tend to react rationally or more instinctively? Think about how important the decision is for you. If enough time is available, avoid acting hastily. Obtain more information first. Make a list of the pros and cons. For decisions with long-term consequences, the 1-2-3 formula is also recommended (consider the consequences of the decision a day, a month, and a year from now). If you are still unsure, don not rely on your intellect alone but trust your intuition as well. Important: learn to accept decisions that seem less than ideal in hindsight. Do not try to find the ‘one, right’ decision – because such decisions usually do not exist. Even wrong decisions can be helpful later – namely when you use them to draw important consequences for the future.