A different approach to decision making

― Posted by Taj Pelc on Feb 18th, 2013 ―

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Making good decisions is hard, yet most of us consider ourselves to be good decision makers. After all we make decisions every day, most of them without much effort. But there are times when looking at the past when you can’t help thinking how you should have done something different. How to do it better?

The simple truth is, there’s no easy way to do it, no magical recipe to tell us what the right course of action is. Decision making is one of the most complex processes and one we still don’t fully understand. However, advances in neuroscience have offered new explanations for what goes on in our mind when making a decision. Contrary to what you may believe, we are not completely rational beings. We are influenced by our emotions more than we care to admit and it’s not always a bad thing. Jonah Lehrer does a good job exploring decision making in his book How We Decide. There you may find out about how and when to use your instincts and when to force yourself to be rational. Finding a balance between the emotional and the rational and taking into account the type of the decision we are making is not the only thing we can do to improve our decision making.

One of the key elements to making a good decision is thinking about the decision itself. What kind of a decision are you making? If you are buying shoes you may not want to apply the same kind of thought processes than when investing in your portfolio. But most importantly, thinking about the decision makes you avoid mistakes. Another useful thing is to spend more time on a decision. Though not always possible, it can be very helpful. Making good decisions slowly is much better than making bad decisions fast. And having a model of the decision problem, where you can collect all the data and visualize it can also help you see it in a different perspective. It may make you realize that you know more than you know.

This is where the project that started from a simple idea back in 2010 for my bachelor’s degree comes into play. We wanted to create a system that would help you easily and quickly create a model of your decision and gain insight into your decision problem. The system should be so easy to use that you don’t bother with figuring it out, but can instead focus on your decision. You could then share your decision with your friends and get their view on your problem. As it turns out, people are faster and more creative when solving other people’s problems according to a recent study discussed in an article by Daniel Pink. And this is where the added value would come into effect. By getting other people to think about your problem, you would be able to get creative solutions and in the process think about the decision yourself until you find a satisfactory solution.

In 2012 we, with Frenk Ten Sedmak Nahtigal and under the mentorship of prof. Mirjana Kljajić Borštnar, PhD, have deployed a public test version of such a system, called odesys. Today, it grew out to be a fully functional decision support system. We put a lot of emphasis on making it as user friendly as possible. We guide you through the decision making process and provide instructions on every step of the way. After a model is made, you are able to visualize your alternatives to better understand how they compare and get opinions and comments from your friends or followers by sharing it with your social circles and kick start the learning loop.

What it boils down to is a simple system that helps you create a model of your decision, share it with friends, get their input and see which alternative is best for you. You just connect with your favourite social account (or stay anonymous) and start modelling. It’s dead easy. So hopefully by using this system, thinking about your decision and getting an outside input, you will be able to make a better decision. And this is ultimately what it’s all about. Good decision making.

You are welcome to test the system and send us any opinions, comments, questions or suggestions.

Check out this showcase decision model – Buying a car.

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  • Digg Making good decisions is hard, yet most of us consider ourselves to be good decision makers. After all we make decisions every day, most of them without much effort. But there are times when looking at the past when you can’t help thinking how you should have done something different. How to do it better?
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