Buy or rent? Specialize or Diversify? Who to marry. When to have a child. How to vote. What to eat for lunch.
Every day, business owners and entrepreneurs make decisions. Some will be big and you'll be quite aware of it (who to marry, for example), and some will be small (what to eat for lunch).
But, and here's the tricky part, even the small daily ones, over time, can have a big cumulative effect.
Just try eating a greasy hamburger every single day for lunch and watch what happens to your waistline.
Decisions. They all matter, even the small ones. Now more than ever perhaps.
So, what does science tell us about how to be a good decision maker? What do successful decision makers do every day?
- They Burst Their Own Bubble - Good decision makers are in the habit of bursting their information bubble.
They talk to people outside their inner circle. They reach out to different generations, different cultures, different social groups. They talk to employees, suppliers, even competitors. They learn from different industries.
They are not afraid to challenge themselves, get a bit uncomfortable, and expand their point of view. Watch Eli Pariser warning us back in 2011 to be aware of our online filter bubbles in his Ted talk:
- They Check Sources - Good decision makers develop a healthy skepticism about what they read.
It's a trending topic in business publications lately to talk about 'biases' in the media, about the proliferation of 'fake news' and the importance of discernment in determining who to believe. I think it's a fascinating and important discussion.
But it's not particularly new - good decision makers have known for a long time that everybody has an agenda and try to find independent, verifiable research to help them make decisions.
- They Read. A lot. I love the short articles. I'm a writer of short articles. They are great for quick information pieces, keeping up on trends, getting ideas.
But really good decision makers read books. They dive into topics and learn as much as they can. They are life long learners and read every day. Yes, even Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, reads every day (and recommends you do, too).
- They Cultivate Curiosity - Good decision makers look for the outliers, what's not being said, what's unusual or interesting. They ask a lot of questions. Turns out, being curious is not only kind of fun, it also improves decision making.
- They Understand Themselves - Just like they know that people around them have biases and agendas, good decision makers are also aware of their own biases and emotions.
If they know they're having a bad day, and are likely to be pessimistic and negative about a new idea put before them, they may put off the decision until they're in a better mood, or ask a trusted colleague to review the idea as well.
I once had a boss whose default answer was always "no." He was a cautious guy, and that was just his gut reaction. But, he understood that about himself and surrounded himself with people who were more inclined to take risks, to ask questions, maybe convince him to say "yes" once and awhile.
I'm the type of person who falls in love with ideas, who is endlessly optimistic and is biased toward seeing possibilities. But, I've learned (the hard way) to ask my colleagues for a sane, sober, second look at something before I get too involved or invest any time and money into a project.
- They Want to Know More - Good decision makers always want to know more. They ask the scary questions. They understand that the data or research put in front of them is only as good as the question it was intended to answer.
They push their company's data analytics and measurements to be better, and always ask "what else do I need to know?", "what does this data mean?".
- They Actually Make Decisions - We live in a fast- moving world. Even naturally cautious leaders eventually have to move into action and put their dreams into motion.
Good decision makers understand that they must either say 'yes' or 'no' and they must move forward. They don't keep their staff, suppliers or vendors stuck in "maybe" land indefinitely.
Want to make good decisions in your life and business? Be open-minded, be curious, ask the tough questions, always push to know more, to understand deeper and be both a healthy skeptic and a wild dreamer.
Not much to ask, is it?