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5 Proven Ways to Find More Choices and Be More Right

Erik Larson Aug 20, 2015 8:29:45 PM

choices-decision-doorsYou need to decide, but there’s no momentum. You want to make the right choice, but the team isn’t seeing eye-to-eye. You’re worried about getting buy-in no matter what path you take. This is why you’re in the job. It’s time to stand up and make things happen.

A sure way to pump energy into your decision-making is to consider more alternatives. Amazingly, one study found that 40% of business decision makers only consider whether to do a single alternative. Another 55% only considered two choices. And even though there might not seem like much difference between one and two choices, it was enough for them to make 6 times as many good decisions! Another study found that it was enough to cut failures in half. So if you want to be better than 95% of managers, make 6 times as many good decisions, and cut your failures in half, all you have to do is come up with three real alternatives. Really want to nail it? Go for four.

Does four sound like too big a number? Dig in and try these 5 tricks for generating more choices:

  1. “And” is your friend. We often feel that we need to choose between one option and the other. But the truth is, you don’t always have to sacrifice one great idea for the sake of another. When you hear yourself asking “should we do this OR that?” try reframing your question to: “How can we do this AND that?”
  2. Divide and conquer. We tend to combine decisions together into one big decision. Instead, try breaking down a big decision into smaller ones. Do you see a small decision you can make now that will be a step in the direction you want to go?
  3. Think risk. While focusing on the positive is generally good advice, you can use a bit of negative thinking to your advantage when deciding. What are the risks? What if none of the ideas you came up with were possible? Then what would you do?
  4. Focus on what’s important. Make a short list of the key areas the decision will impact, such as quarterly goals, customer satisfaction, or business growth. What if you only catered to the most important area? The top two?
  5. Listen to other people. Explain why the decision is important and ask what options they see, then thank them for their help. You’ll get both good ideas and a team that feels involved and more motivated to act when the time comes to execute the decision.

And while you’re at it, check in with your team and always be ready to step back and ask yourself: Are we solving the right problem? When you are clear on what matters and are asking the right questions, the alternatives you come up with will make your direction clear.

We saw this happen with our team just the other day. We’ve been considering switching from Flowdock to Slack for team collaboration. For months. It was just hanging out there, important but not urgent.

Blog Cloverpop.pngFinally, this week our CTO took the reins and put the decision into Cloverpop so the whole team (trick #5) could get clear on the problem we’re trying to solve (trick #4) and brainstorm alternatives. We’ve used Flowdock for a long time — it’s great for engineering teams, which makes some reluctant to switch. But our business is growing beyond just engineering, and we’re also going to integrate our product with Slack. So we came up with five choices, and looking at them together made our decision clear. We aren’t going to stay solely on Flowdock, or move to some other product like HipChat (trick #3). Just trying Slack out (trick #2), or using both at the same time (trick #1) seemed pointless. So we decided the best choice was to move over to Slack full steam ahead.

In retrospect, it seems so simple. The right decision always seems that way. So if you want to put more great decisions in your rearview mirror, get smart and add more choices to the list.

Want to improve your decision-making performance? Cloverpop is a decision app for business — easy-to-use, collaborative and based on decision science best practices. Imagine asking the right questions, making the right decisions and getting the right people bought in, every time. Sign up for the preview today.