By: Sarah Liverance

Making good decisions is critical to success – not just in business but in everything we do.  So how do we up our odds of success?  How do we avoid some of the traps that regularly trip up even the most intelligent, experienced decision-makers?

Becoming a student of bad decisions can help us.  There’s certainly no shortage of material to work with.  Bad decisions are all around us.  Just consider some the most celebrated blunders:

– The 1996 Mount Everest tragedy that took the lives of 2 highly experienced expedition team leaders and 3 team members following the decision to summit even though the teams were way behind schedule and a storm was approaching

– NASA’s 1986 decision to launch the Challenger space shuttle despite concerns about O-ring failure

Or what about that bad ad, the one that makes you shake your head and ask…what were they thinking?!

Understanding the context, the individuals involved, and the chain of events can provide some great tips on the way to better decisions:

Tip #1: The first tip I’ll offer here involves “deciding how to decide”.  By recognizing that a decision is a process, not   an event, we’re in a better position to approach decisions differently.  This sets us up nicely for…

Tip #2: Engaging the right people, at the right time, in the right way. In theory, two heads are better than one but  arriving at an optimal team-based decision is no simple matter.  Deciding we need help from others and then getting the right folks involved are two things we can do to set ourselves up for success.  To get the best from our decision-making team, we should ensure:

Diversity – hand-pick people with different perspectives, different areas of expertise, and from different disciplines throughout the organization

– Space for Independent thinking – give each team member the opportunity to assess the situation independently and arrive at their own conclusion before entertaining a lot of group discussion and consensus-building.  Having independent thinkers that can clearly articulate and support their point of view is a bonus.

– Effective method for consensus-building – Think about how you’re going to bring the group together, share points of view, and arrive at a decision.  What’s the right forum, is there a need for an objective, experienced facilitator, what techniques will you use to ensure everyone is heard and all points of view are fairly represented?  These are just a few things to consider when you’re deciding how to decide.

So the next time you’re wondering how to counsel your teenager or whether to pull that advertising that’s got a handful of consumers up in arms, give these tips a try.  Recognizing that decisions are processes that can have better outcomes if we involve the right people in the right way can really make a big difference in our lives.