We make a lot of them.
From deciding what we want to wear in the morning to making a bold, life-altering decision like starting a small business, we have to make decisions day in, day out.
In fact, we humans make over 35,000 decisions that we’re remotely conscious of per day.
But not all of those decisions will be smart ones – leading to bad, negative, or even downright harmful consequences.
How can we learn to bypass those bad decisions and, instead, become intelligent decision makers?
No, that’s not me shouting at you and telling you to decide – it’s me introducing you to a decision making framework and process called DECIDE.
DECIDE has personally helped me make better decisions day-to-day which is why, in this post, I’ll be describing why intelligent people make poor decisions, what DECIDE is and how it came about, and how you can apply DECIDE to both your life and business!
All you have to do is read through the below sections:
- What’s the reason for poor decision making skills?
- What is the DECIDE decision making process?
- DECIDE: 6-steps for making good decisions
- How to make decisions in life and business with DECIDE
- How Process Street can help you win in life and business!
Make the right choice and read on.
What’s the reason for poor decision making skills?
Our well-being. Our health. Our careers. Our relationships. Our environment.
The decisions we make affect every part of our lives.
Considering the monumental impact decision making has, human beings should all be making the best choices possible, no?
But it’s never as easy as that.
A varying number of factors – such as heuristics, decision fatigue, analysis paralysis, and surprisingly, optimism – can stop, block, or even trick us into making poor decisions.
Let’s deep dive into those issues.
Biases and heuristics
As you now know, the average human makes 35,000 decisions a day. Despite them mainly being minor decisions, it’s still a huge number. So that the brain can cope with all this information and, as people, we actually make choices and we’re not just stumbling around in a confused daze, our brain makes cognitive shortcuts.
These shortcuts are known as biases and heuristics.
Although there’s overlap, they’re two subtly different concepts.
As Andrew Miller, Process Street‘s director of digital marketing, explains:
“One way to think about the concept of ‘bias’ is as a personal mental shortcut that we create when going through the decision making process. This is typically looked at as an error in thinking.
A heuristic is also a mental shortcut but these are typically focused on solving problems.” – Andrew Miller, Social Cognition and How to Spot a Fraudster
To put it even simpler, cognitive biases are patterns of thought that aren’t logical, thus causing us to make illogical decisions.
Heuristics, meanwhile, are more practical, let’s-get-things-done approaches that allow us to make decisions quickly, but don’t always have our best interests at heart.
Here are two examples.
With cognitive bias, a line manager could be prejudiced against a candidate – due to their ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, or background – who’s applied for a position in their team. The cognitive bias puts this candidate at an immediate disadvantage due to how the line manager (incorrectly) presumes the candidate will act or be in the workplace.
However, if the hiring process results in a deadlock between two candidates – and no more time can be wasted on the decision making process – then heuristics will allow the line manager to make a choice once and for all. No matter if the choice is, in hindsight, the wrong one.
Making decisions is hard. That’s why our brains, both helpfully and unhelpfully, have created decision making shortcuts.
Do you ever get tired of making decisions?
All those 35,000 decisions a day, the 245,000 decisions a week, the 12,775,000 decisions a year…
It can be not only tiring, but fatiguing.
To boot, the modern world has provided us with more options than ever before!
Even while writing this post, I’m getting intermittent thoughts regarding how I should spend my evening, such as:
- Should I play a Blizzard game, revisit Half Life, or play something else?
- Should I not waste time on video games and, you know, do something worthwhile like finish building my LinkedIn networking page?
- Before any of those activities, should I have dinner before? Or after?
- Should I order food from Deliveroo? If so, what cuisine? American? Indian? Chinese? Vietnamese?
- Should I just buy and cook food from the supermarket?
Speaking of supermarkets…
In a study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, it was unearthed that, when confronted by too much choice, feeling overwhelmed stops us from trying and buying products at all.
In Iyengar and Lepper’s study When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing?, they set up two displays at a supermarket. One display featured 6 options of jam, while another offered 24.
The pool who were exposed to only 6 options were far more likely to purchase the jam, despite more people being curious about the 24 options. This is what Barry Schwartz, an influential American psychologist, refers to as the Paradox of Choice.
Suffice to say, there is such a thing as too much choice.
When we have too much choice, we often don’t know what to do.
So we get nothing done.
Analysis paralysis isn’t only a quippy, pithy term that suits song titles – and explored in singer-songwriter Jen Cloher‘s lyrics – but it’s also a scientific, psychological term for when overthinking halts us in our tracks.
As explained further by the team at Investopedia:
“Analysis paralysis can occur in both standard and complex problems. It is often the result of analysis that involves an undefined number of variables.
[…] Analysis paralysis may set in when an individual is unsure of the best practices for identifying an outcome. The situation or problem may also involve an undefined number of variables that result in an arbitrary outcome with a low degree of confidence.
Thus, in some situations analysis paralysis may be the result of an undefined outcome. However, in many problem sets, analysis paralysis can be overcome by broadening the analytical practices used.” – Investopedia, How Analysis Paralysis Works
To make good decisions, there needs to be some thought.
This might sound painfully simple, but there’s thinking and then there’s overthinking.
Overthinking takes us to a mental point where we’ve thought about a problem or issue to such an extent we’re afraid to act on it.
As Jen Cloher herself sung:
Worrying won’t change a thing
[…] Full of good intentions but never any action.” – Jen Cloher, Analysis Paralysis
Frustratingly, analysis paralysis doesn’t just impact our ability to make decisions. Oh, no. It also lowers our performance when carrying out demanding tasks, halts our creativity, makes us unhappy, and even ushers us into a state of lowered willpower.
Suffice to say, between cognitive biases and heuristics causing us to make decisions too quickly, and decision fatigue and analysis paralysis drawing out the decision making process for far too long, there’s a fine middle-ground in which our best decisions can be made.
The DECIDE framework and process fit right between that intersection. (More on this in a few more paragraphs.)
Look, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer and spoil everyone’s day, but optimism can, ironically and surprisingly, cause us to make terrible decisions.
This is what’s known as optimism bias.
The University of Bath’s Chris Dawson researched optimism bias and how it directly – and negatively – impacts entrepreneurs.
Past research found that naturally optimistic people are more attracted to entrepreneurship – Dawson’s research builds on this, showing us that the optimism of entrepreneurs means they overestimate the probability of positive events occurring. This then has a domino effect on satisfaction, financial planning, and their employees’ end-of-month pay packets.
Basically, by being too optimistic about the future, decisions aren’t 100% grounded in reality, which can have rather nasty consequences.
Now, I’m not saying optimism is a bad thing. Optimism is great – it can accelerate job performance, bolster mood and health, and even make you more productive.
However, a healthy dose of realism always helps to keep bad decisions at bay.
Other elements that impact decision making
On top of the above issues, there are also other “smaller” (read: elements we don’t consider so heavily) that affect our judgment on a day-to-day basis.
Stress plays an undeniable part. Sleepiness, too, knocks our decision making skills and abilities for six. Not to mention alcohol and common medications.
We’re strongly advised we shouldn’t get behind the wheel of the car as nearly all of the above (minus stress) impact our motor and decision making skills alike to the degree where, not only could we make bad decisions that affect us, but the people around us, too.
So why should we make important decisions in life and business if our decision making skills are impaired?
Answer: We shouldn’t. We should, instead, go about decision making properly.
That’s why, to make the best decisions possible, you should have a decision making process that looks at all areas before that final decision is made.
What is the DECIDE decision making process?
DECIDE is a framework and process to help people go about decision making easily.
As is the case with many frameworks, there are multiple, subtly different variations of DECIDE being used in the world – most commonly for academic research.
However, the most useful, general-purpose version of DECIDE you can use both in your life and business is Professor Kristina L Guo’s model.
Guo specifically created this variation to help healthcare managers.
Considering that healthcare practitioners make life-or-death decisions on a frequent basis, they need to know – for sure – that their decision is the right one.
You might not be a healthcare worker yourself – perhaps you’re a financial advisor, a content creator, or a developer – but the decisions you make will impact your organization, like how a healthcare worker’s decision invariably impacts another person.
DECIDE, just as it’s undoubtedly helped healthcare staff, will surely help you, too.
Let’s take a look at what the acronym DECIDE stands for, shall we?
DECIDE: 6-steps for making good decisions
DECIDE decision making process step #1: Determine the problem 🤔
The D in DECIDE stands for Determine the problem.
This, essentially, prompts you to acknowledge the issues, problems, or items at hand.
You’ll want to ask yourself:
- The main question: What is the problem?
- Why is it a problem?
- Should something be done about it?
Once you’ve determined and defined the problem – one of the easiest parts of DECIDE – you can move on to the second step.
DECIDE decision making process #2: Establish the criteria ✅🚫
E refers to Establish the criteria.
What this means is establishing what, exactly, you want to achieve and avoid with your decision.
For instance, let’s say you’re a solopreneur.
Things are going pretty darn well for your no-code SaaS product; you’ve just received an investment offer from a trustworthy angel investor! However, the equity they’re asking for is more than you hoped for or wanted.
Analysis paralysis hits hard (as is often the case with decisions related to finances and investment) and stifles your decision making.
But the clock’s ticking.
By using this E step, you’ll ask yourself:
- The main question: What do I want this decision to achieve?
- What do I want to avoid with my decision?
By asking these questions, you’re setting the parameters of what it is you want your decision to make happen.
Once those questions have been asked, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and consider which answers will achieve the criteria you set.
DECIDE decision making process #3: Consider alternatives 🧠
C refers to Consider the alternatives.
The word alternatives here is synonymous with options.
With that in mind, the next part of the process is to ask yourself:
- The main question: What possible options, choices, and alternatives meet the criteria?
There will be times where there simply isn’t an option that hits the set criteria, which you – the hypothetical solopreneur – have just realized.
You wanted to avoid giving up such a large chunk of equity, but you wanted – no, needed – the huge financial backing the angel investor offered.
That’s why you should think of options that fit the criteria as closely as possible. Because if you don’t, you’re one step further from achieving your preferred outcome.
DECIDE decision making process #4: Identify the best alternative 🥇
I stands for Identify the best alternative.
(Keep in mind that alternative here is still synonymous with options.)
With all the appropriate alternatives, choices, and options thought about and considered, it’s time to choose the best.
But whittling your list down to one is, well…
Plus, how you pare that list down will depend on the approach you take (i.e. whether you take the Maximization approach where you go through an exhaustive list until the perfect option is struck, or the Satisificing approach where you go through alternatives until you find something that’s just good enough.)
What’s most important, however, is that one of these approaches is used.
Because – and not to sound like a broken record here – if not, you’re delaying yourself from making a decision or putting it off entirely, which could sabotage your chances of making a good, solid decision.
DECIDE decision making process #5: Develop a plan of action 📝
The second D prompts the user to Develop a plan of action.
You’ve set your scope for what you wanted to achieve and avoid, you’ve made a list of possible decisions, and chosen the best option.
It’s time to act.
Develop a plan of action (How will the decision be made or announced? At what time? Where?) then follow through with it.
DECIDE decision making process #6: Evaluate the solution 🔍
How does it feel having made the best decision possible?
Pretty good, huh?
The process isn’t quite over yet, though.
The second E refers to Evaluate the solution. This basically means monitoring the outcomes of the decision.
For you – the aforementioned hypothetical solopreneur – you asked for a reduction of money in trade for a slightly smaller amount of equity the investor originally asked for.
This decision was the best possible outcome. You’ve secured a substantial amount of financial investment while also feeling comfortable with the amount of equity that was traded.
By using the DECIDE framework, you didn’t let analysis paralysis win, let emotions lead you to a bad decision, or give up the ghost and abandon the whole thing.
Instead, there was intelligent decision making.
How to make decisions in life and business with DECIDE
As you can see, DECIDE is pretty darn useful.
However, this might be the point where you’re thinking “But I’m not a solopreneur! How will I ever use DECIDE in my daily life?”.
The beauty of DECIDE is that it can be used in pretty much any tough situation where you have to make a decision.
To help you out, here are 2 examples of where DECIDE can be used in life and business alike.
Buying software for your organization 💻
At Process Street (where we create cutting-edge BPM software) we know that choosing the right software is incredibly important.
After all, you don’t want to introduce a new system to your team only to replace it in 6 months.
That’s why the decision making process behind choosing software is often fraught.
Let’s say a startup has grown to the point where they need a proper, robust CRM tool to house their customers’ information.
But they’re lost in the vast sea of 300+ readily-available CRM products.
DECIDE can help them choose a product that they’ll stick with for years to come.
Their written DECIDE answers will look a little like this:
- D: We’ve hit the 50 customer mark yet we aren’t using CRM business software. This is problematic for keeping a hold on our customers’ contact details and data.
- E: The product must be able to house the bulk of our customers’ details and data. We want to then use and analyze the data stored in the CRM so we can pre-emptively fix any problems before they stumble on the problems themselves. As a remote team, we also want the CRM to be mobile-accessible, so team members can provide updates while on the move. Important: We do NOT want to pay over $75 a month for the CRM product.
- C: (1) Get the free HubSpot CRM which has restrictions, but the bulk is there. (2) Get the Start HubSpot CRM plan, which is well within our budget. (3) Get the Superoffice complete CRM plan which, again, is well within our budget, but maybe not as versatile as HubSpot’s more premium packages, should we grow far larger quicker than anticipated.
- I: (3) Get the Superoffice complete CRM plan.
- D: Before purchasing the monthly Superoffice complete CRM plan, let’s have a demo of the product to get deeper insight.
- E: The demo ensured us this is the product that we need at this time (and in the near future, too). We will stay vigilant so that, in a couple of years, if we need to upgrade to a CRM with more advanced features, we can do so.
The DECIDE framework and process can help any kind of modern organization choose their next software purchase intelligently!
Deciding which location to move to 🌍
The world’s your oyster – particularly if you’re a remote worker.
Seeing as there’s been a 44% growth in remote work since 2015, there’s a substantial number of us working and living across various continents, countries, and timezones.
In fact, I relocated when I was offered my job here at Process Street – and I used DECIDE to help me whittle my down my choices and make my final (and, looking back, best) decision.
You see, I had contemplated moving to Canada, Greece, or Edinburgh.
I’m originally from the south of Britain, so Edinburgh and Canada were the most liveable options – I could already speak the dominant language.
However, Greece was, by far, the most price-performing (and warmer) option.
Needless to say, I had a conundrum on my hands.
That’s why I used DECIDE.
Below, you can read the exact notes I wrote down while progressing through DECIDE’s 6 steps.
Take a look for yourself:
- D: There are 3 places I’ve always wanted to live, but have never had the opportunity to: Canada, Greece, and Edinburgh. With my new job at Process Street – which operates as a virtual team – I can move to one of these places.
- E: The criteria: It mustn’t be a location I’ve ever lived in before. The location should have affordable rent – my rent cannot be more than half of my monthly earnings. It must be in a city or well-serviced town so if the internet goes down, I can quickly hop to a café and work from there.
- C: (1) Move to Canada (ideally Toronto) where I don’t know anyone but, considering its population and the people who live there, it shouldn’t be too hard to make friends. (2) Move to Edinburgh where I know people, have family, and from previous visits know I’ll enjoy living there. (3) Move to Greece, which is the wild-card. I don’t know anyone in Athens, but it’s so, so inexpensive.
- I: (2) Move to Edinburgh where I know people, have family, and from previous visits know I’ll enjoy living there.
- D: I’ve started looking at apartments immediately because I know the rental market is incredibly fast-paced. I’ll start messaging the friends I have there to see if they know of anything available.
- E: I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the move is as seamless as possible. If I don’t enjoy Edinburgh in the long-term, I can always try one of the other two locations!
Although it’s strange reading the above text back, I can say with complete honesty that moving to Edinburgh was definitely the right choice out of all three.
If you’re thinking of relocating too, try DECIDE.
To similarly help you succeed in both life and business, it’s time you got to know Process Street.
How Process Street can help you win in life and business!
If you haven’t previously heard of Process Street, Process Street is superpowered checklists.
You can document workflows, business processes, and procedures as templates. Then, whenever you want or need to complete recurring tasks properly, simply launch checklists from that template.
Then, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll complete that task effectively, efficiently, and with severely reduced rates of human error!
But what makes our checklists superpowered compared to other checklists?
Ours have a whole host of incredible, additional workflow features, including stop tasks to ensure order, task permissions so you can hide important information from certain people, and approvals, so you can get the go-ahead from decision makers in your business!
Check out the webinar below – hosted by Process Street’s Blake Bailey – for more helpful information on how you can bolster checklists yourself!
Now, with Process Street, you can create your very own DECIDE template.
All you need to do is sign up for an account (which can be done for free!), then copy the DECIDE framework’s 6 easy-to-follow steps as separate tasks in the template.
Once that’s done (and you’ve edited the template to your liking) you have a repeatable process to follow each time you or your business needs to make an intelligent decision!
It’s as easy as that. 💪
Additional resources for making intelligent decisions
Because I want to help you make the best decisions possible, below you’ll find a list of additional resources created by Process Street’s content team.
Read through the blog posts, use the templates, and become one step closer to making good decisions all the time, both in and out of the workplace.
- Approvals: How to Streamline Decision-Making in Process Street
- Choice Architecture Explained: How To Remove Human Bias From Your Business Today
- Prioritization Matrix 101: What, How & Why? (Free Template)
- Leadership Theories: How to Be the Perfect Leader for Your Team
- Behavioral Theory of Leadership: How to Be a Better Leader
- 8 Critical Change Management Models to Evolve and Survive
- How to Make Your Own Aptitude Test with Process Street (6 Free Templates)
How do you go about intelligent decision making? Do you use DECIDE or another decision making process to help? Let me know in the comment section below! 💡
Thom James Carter
Thom is one of Process Street’s content writers. He’s also contributed tech-related writing to The New Statesman, Insider, Atlassian, G2, The Content Marketing Institute, and more. Follow him on Twitter @thomjamescarter.