Your success in business and life hangs in the balance of the decisions you make every day. From choosing socks to picking stocks, we are constantly making decisions.
Just because we make a lot of decisions doesn’t guarantee that our choices are good ones. In this article you will discover 3 ways to make better business decisions.
One: Ask For Both/And
Perhaps the most common type of decision we face is choosing between two options. We can learn a lot about choosing by observing how kids make choices. Have you ever watched how a toddler goes through her decision making process? (Note: toddlers may not always have the best decision outcomes, but their decision making process is unhindered by convention.)
Interestingly, a child can be laser focused and immediately decisive with one set of choices and completely stumped over another.
Let’s suppose a parent offers a toddler the choice between two types of candy. The child will go back and forth between the options unsure of which choice to make. After a few moments It’s almost too painful to watch this kid become incapacitated by such a temporary choice.
But then she asks a simple question that blows the whole thing out of the water: Can I have both; this AND that?
Instinctively the parent says, “No,” and automatically rationalize the answer:
The rules are clear: you can have one, not both.
We have to save one to enjoy later.
I never had both when I was your age.
This justification by the parent creates boundaries for children and can be helpful and healthy. They also streamline the decision making process by eliminating additional choices.
As adults we carry these same choose-only-one rule and apply it to many decisions that have more than two options. As a result we get into the habit of looking at only the options that are immediately available to us. Yet the best outcomes are rarely achieved by choosing from those options.
With awareness of our instinctive bent to assume we can only choose one of two options we can then begin to consider that “both/and” is a valid choice in many circumstances.
Two: Find More Options
Chip and Dan Heath address this habit of creating single-option choices in their book, Decisive. As they explain, people tend to put too much emphasis on the choices right in front of them. As a result decision makers completely ignore the possibility that additional options are available. The Heath brothers call this the spotlight effect. Like a spotlight focuses an audience’s attention on one confined area on a stage, our attention is only in tune with the option immediately in front of us.
Business leaders are not exempt from being limited by the spotlight effect. They also focus their attention on what is immediately in front of them. Even the best corporate leaders measure company performance against industry average returns, past performance, and minimally acceptable growth. These limited options guide the choices that ultimately determine the direction of the organization.
You can break out of the spotlight effect by intentionally searching for additional options. When faced with a choice between two options take a step back and ask, “If those two options were not available, what else could I do?” Even if those options will never be chosen (you CAN choose not to pay taxes year after year), it will open up your mind to realize you do have other choices. Once the mind knows more than one option is available it will creatively think of ways to get more desirable results.
Three: Expect Exponential Impact
Let’s take a look at a group of successful decisions makers and discover what separates them from most people. These folks routinely consider options most people would never consider. For example, they make decisions expecting outcomes with exponential impact.
In an interview between Tim Ferriss and Peter Diamandis, Peter explains how he considers business ideas that have a 10X return. But he’s not the only one; Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and others achieve exponential growth by considering options other leaders don’t even consider.
Most business leaders have plans for the next 3, 6 and 12 months. What could be accomplished if these leaders asked, “What it would take to accomplish that 12 month goal in 6 months. What would the company need to do to meet that 6 month goal in 2 months?” Simply asking the question will open your mind to the possibility of an improved outcome.
Are you currently in a situation that seems to have only two options? Do you feel like you have no choice that leads to a desirable outcome? I’d love to hear about it and help you come up with a solution!