There are big differences between the decisions we make by intuition, and those we make by logical analysis.
The logical part of your mind (the part you are aware of) can analyse problems and come up with rational answers. It’s excellent at solving problems, but it is slow and needs a lot of energy. If you have to solve a demanding problem while walking, you will probably stop because your analytical mind can’t focus on both tasks simultaneously. Your intuitive mind on the other hand is fast and automatic. It’s very powerful, but hidden and is responsible for most of the things that you do, think and believe but you have no idea this is happening. It is your hidden auto-pilot, and has a mind of its own.
Your intuitive mind is normally in control, efficiently dealing with the myriads of decisions we have to make each day. Mistakes occur when we allow our intuitive system to make decisions that we should allow our logical mind to deal with.
Understand the problem
What is the purpose of the decision?
What is the expected outcome?
What are the key priorities: time, money, quality? Will a quick, cheap and cheerful solution do or do you need to invest time and cash to get things absolutely right?
Analyse the data systematically.
Decisions can’t be made in a vacuum! Gather, collate, classify and organise the information you need to make a decision. You need to analyse and evaluate all the important factors in making the decision. Analyse the various factors involved in the problem and identify the key ones.
Highlight any critical factors upon which the success on the decision will hinge.
Sound out the views and opinions of others: they may see something you have missed.
The possible solutions
Produce a list of all the courses of action you can think of without trying to narrow these down. At this stage just produce a list of possible courses of action without trying to evaluate these. Brainstorming may help here. Think outside the box: don’t just look at the obvious and tried and tested options. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.
How to brainstorm
◾The purpose of brainstorming is to produce as many possible options as possible without evaluating them.
◾Get a blank sheet of paper and write down any idea or possible solution which may help.
◾Don’t censor your ideas. Write down everything, no matter how silly or insignificant to keep the flow going as once idea might lead to another.
◾Only once all the ideas have dried up, cross out or adapt all the weaker ideas: this should still leave you with a number of possible solutions.
◾Brainstorming can be done in a group, in which case no comments should be made about the decisions proposed or group members put down for proposing unusual ideas.
Cut short the above list
Remove any obviously poorer choices. Don’t have too many options in your final list or it will be too confusing. Differentiate between practical and impractical solutions.
Make your decision
For each of your shortlist of options consider its advantages and disadvantages. Try to recognise any inconsistencies in your reasoning and question any assumptions you have made.
Evaluate each option against the key factors to consider the combined effect of all the factors. Weight each factor in terms of importance paying particular attention to any critical factors. See the decision matrix below to help you do this.
Sometimes you may get so immersed that you may not be able to see the wood for the trees: if this happens sleep on it and postpone the decision until the next day. This may give you a fresh perspective.