Decisions can be notoriously difficult when you're an entrepreneur or you're in a leadership position of a bigger company. Because you're invested in making the best possible decision for your business or for your employer, you must use a line of objective reasoning and eliminate any emotional or biased influences that might alter or compromise that decision.
Of course, that's easier said than done. How can you objectively decide whether or not to fire someone you've worked with closely for more than a decade? How can you objectively decide to go with one style of website design over another? How can you objectively decide between two options that aren't directly comparable?
There's a limit to our objectivity as human beings, but with practice and with solid strategies in place, you can make the most objective decision possible. Try using one or more of these strategies when making your next major decision:
1. Acknowledge and Compensate for Your Biases. Our decisions stop being objective when our emotions and biases begin to interfere with our evaluations. In order to reduce this impact, think critically about your own mentality and what factors could contribute to a subjective decision. How much and how well do you know the other people involved with the decision? What past experiences could lead you to a biased view on the different options available to you? What assumptions have you made? Consider these carefully when determining which direction you're leaning toward--if you find yourself leaning toward or away from an option because of these biases, restructure your thinking.
2. Use Pro and Con Lists. Pro and con lists are an old standby, but they're still a worthwhile pursuit. Take each option in your decision and make two lists for each; on one side, you'll have all the benefits of an option and on the other, you'll have all the downsides. Try to give your list a sense of scale; for instance, a $10,000 upside should be more of a considering factor than a 1 minute increase in travel time for a downside. This can help you think through all the positives and negatives of all your options, and help you visualize the generally best candidate.
3. Imagine Counseling a Friend. It's easy to get lost in your own head when considering all the possible factors that could affect the outcome of your decision. Imaging your own advice if you were counseling a friend on making the decision can help you understand what an outsider's perspective might be. Because you're in the middle of a situation, your views are distorted, but on the outside, you might see things differently. Imagine your friend telling you the problem using only the most important information, and think about what you might say in return.
4. Strip Down Your Deciding Factors. This strategy is useful when your decision is particularly difficult. Instead of trying to think of everything that could possibly be accounted for when making the decision, try to limit what you have to interpret. Strip down the deciding factors to a minimal number; for example, if you're deciding between two new jobs, you could pare the decision down to salary, work culture, and potential for growth. Eliminate any factor that isn't one of your primary considerations, and look at what remains. It's far easier to make an objective decision based on three pieces of information than it is based on a hundred. The only hard part is determining which factors are most important.
5. Experiment By Reversing Your Line of Thinking. During the decision making process, you're going to make assumptions--it's both natural and unpreventable. But that doesn't mean you can't tinker with those assumptions in order to get a fuller, more objective view of the situation. For example, you might assume that your company is going to continue growing in revenue, but what if your sales decrease over the next two years? How would your decision play out?
6. Create a Scoring System. This is a way to reduce your decision down to a game of numbers. Assign positive or negative points to each quality associated with each of your decisions, and keep a total score running for each one. For example, the fact that a new potential marketing strategy is inexpensive might be worth 3 points, but the fact that it's a moderate risk might be worth negative 2 points, leaving it with 1 point remaining. Once you've taken everything into consideration, one decision will be objectively worth more than the other. You'll still be affected by your subjective opinions, but they'll only be manifesting on a factor-by-factor basis, thereby reducing their impact.
7. Make a Decision and Live With It. Ultimately, no matter how much you pore over a decision or think about all the possible consequences, a decision will have to be made. There's no avoiding it. Don't delay making a decision just because you can't come down easily on one side or the other--instead, make a decision and hold firm to that decision. You can deal with any consequences of that decision as they arise later. In most cases, making a bad decision is still a lot better than making no decision at all.
It's impossible to make any truly objective decision--we are all subtly influenced by our emotions, our personalities, and our past experienced, no matter how hard we try to isolate the objective details. Still, using these strategies to make your decisions more objective is a worthwhile endeavor. Even if your decision doesn't pan out the way you intended, you can at least rest assured that you made the best possible decision under the circumstances.