Thinking Skills

Decision Making Skills: 15 Useful Methods For Deciding Better & Faster

Decision making

If you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin'.

- Anon


The probability of someone watching you is proportional to the stupidity of your actions.

- Anon


1. Pareto analysis: The 80/20 principle

- 20% of efforts/customers will give 80% of results/sales.

- Focusing on the things that will bring in most benefits


2. PMI: Plus, Minus, Interesting

- Weighing pros and cons of each option by thinking up the plus, minus and interesting thing about each option.


3. Force field analysis: Analyzing pressures for and against change

- On a piece of paper, put your plan/proposal for change in the middle - list all forces FOR change in one column on one side and all forces AGAINST change on one column on the other side

- Put a score to each (1-5 rating)


4. Six Thinking Hats: Looking at a decision from different perspectives (Idea given by Edward De Bono)

- White hat (Blank sheet): Information & reports, facts and figures (objective)

- Red hat (Fire): Intuition, opinion & emotion, feelings (subjective)

- Yellow hat (Sun): Praise, positive aspects, why it will work (objective)

- Black hat (Judge's robe): Criticism, judgment, negative aspects, modus tollens (objective)

- Green hat (Plant): Alternatives, new approaches & 'everything goes', idea generation & provocations (speculative/creative)

- Blue hat (Sky): 'Big Picture,' 'Conductor hat,' 'Meta hat,' 'thinking about thinking', overall process (overview)


5. Six Action Shoes (Also De Bono's idea)

- Navy formal shoes: Routines and formal procedures

- Grey sneakers: Exploration, investigation, and collection of evidence; Purpose of the action is to get information

- Brown brogues: Involves practically and pragmatism, Do what is sensible and what is practical, Figure it out as you go using initiative, practical behavior, and flexibility, Almost the opposite of the formality navy formal shoes

- Orange gumboots: Danger and emergency, Emergency action is required, Safety is a prime concern

- Pink slippers: Suggest care, compassion, and attention to human feelings and sensitivities

- Purple riding boots: Suggest authority, Playing out the role give by virtue of a position or authority, There is an element of leadership and command, The person is not acting in his or her own capacity but in an official role.


Difference b/w The Six thanking Hats and The Six Action Shoes

- The Six Thinking Hats style is more concerned with Scenario-based thinking.

- The Six Action Shoes style is concerned with action-based thinking.

- Unlike the Six Hats, the Action Shoes can be combined.


6. Starbursting : Understanding new ideas by brainstorming questions

- Draw a STAR - on each of the five prongs, put ‘Who - What - When - Where - Why’ - and then put in questions (one or many for each prong)


7. Stepladder technique: aka Delphi method, a type of groupthink (group decision making)

- Present the problem to all members

- Give them time to think

- Then one by one get them in and hear their solutions/ideas until the whole room is full of all members and their solutions


8. Cost-benefit analysis: Seeing whether a decision makes financial sense


Related: Cash flow forecasting through spreadsheets to see whether an idea is financially viable

- Period of time as column headings (e.g. Jan, Feb.)

- Put Income, Outgoings and Subtotal as row heads


9. Decision trees: Choosing an option by thinking forward with different options

- On one far side of a blank sheet, put the decision to be made in s a square box

- From it, draw lines to the right representing each solution - kind of rays emanating from the Sun

- At the end of each solution, draw lines for result/s (one or more lines per solution)


10. OODA Loop: Decision-making style formulated in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s (Korean War).

Observe: Scan the environment and gather information from it.

Orient: Use the information to form a mental image of the circumstances. That is, synthesize the data into information.

Decide: Consider options and select a subsequent course of action.

Act: Carry out the conceived decision. Once the result of the action is observed, you start over.


Variation: SOAP

Used by paramedic's and medical techs. SOAP is a standard process for: Situation, Observation, Analysis, Perform.


11. Dialectics Decision Making (Socratic Method)

Dates back to Socrates and Plato.


Issue a clear statement of the problem to be solved.

Two or more competing proposals are generated.

Members identify the explicit or implicit assumptions that underlie each proposal.

The team then breaks into advocacy sub, who examine and argue the relative merits of their positions.


The group reassembles and makes a decision:

- Embrace one of the alternatives

- Forge a compromise

- Generate a new proposal


12. How to Optimize Simple Decisions

- Define the problem.

- Define the time frame in which the decision must be made.

- Explore options for resolving the problem.

- Eliminate the options that are unrealistic.

- Examine the consequences of each option.

Write down the advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons).

- Rate or 'weigh the pros and cons on a scale from 1 to 10.

1=least important, 10=most important

- Determine which option is in your best interest.


13. How to Optimize Complex Decisions

- Decide upon what you most want to achieve.

- Define the time frame in which the decision must be made.

- Make a list of the most important factors (criteria) that will influence your decision.

- Rate your criteria.

- Rate how well your first options meets your criteria.

- Multiply the ratings for your criteria (Step 4) by the ratings for how your first option meets the criteria (Step 5)

- Determine the total score.

- Complete Steps 6 and 7 for your other options.

- Decide on your best option based on the highest score.


(Source: ‘Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self’ by Rosalene Glickman)


14. SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a subjective method used to evaluate the STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, and THREATS involved in trying to attain an objective. It involves specifying the objective and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving the objective.


15. Now a couple of grid (X and Y) chart based decision making methods:


Paired comparison analysis: Working out relative importances of different options.

This is done on a chart, putting the various choices on the two axis and giving them points.


Grid analysis: Making a choice taking into account many factors

- Options in the columns - criteria in the rows


Bonus tip: PCD

Possibilities, Consequences, Decision.


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