Decision making, prioritisation and reaching a consensus are some of the hardest and most important things in any business. Here is a practical guide to using six of the most useful decision-making techniques, widely used by facilitators.
Before we start, let's introduce three core concepts and human biases that are most likely to negatively affect your decision making process right now. By keeping them in mind you can make less biased and more effective decisions.
Three things to watch out for:
Groupthink is a powerful human bias which reduces our critical thinking ability. It comes into play whenever we see what other people are thinking. Subconsciously we will feel compelled to be part of the group, prompting us to agree with at least a few of the opinions expressed by other team members - we won't judge the options based purely on the information available and our thinking.
Help your team by concealing the results of a decision until everyone has decided what to vote on individually. You can also encourage people to play devil’s advocate and raise controversial issues by creating a supportive non-combative environment.
Social conformity, peer pressure and office politics can make people vote for options based on whose idea it is, and who else has voted for it, rather than the quality of the idea itself.
By making voting and option generation anonymous, you can reduce social pressure and get less biased results. If you are the most senior person in the team and you want their honest opinion, that's one way to get it.
Combine or remove similar ideas to avoid confusing results. For example, as a restaurant owner, which option should you choose to focus your marketing budget on?
Steak and chips is clearly the most popular option, but if you go for that you’re disappointing the 9 people who voted for a vegetarian option. If there were two meat dishes and two vegetarian dishes, would steak and chips get the same amount of votes? Probably not, and the winner may be either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish, but the winner would be less likely to depend on that divide.
Now, how can you apply these facts to make less biased and more effective decisions? The following six techniques can help. Each technique is more sophisticated than the previous one. Our general advice is to use the simplest technique that gives you a good enough decision.
The sixth technique is a game technique if you have to make a decision but you'd like to have fun while you do it.
Save or print out these to use as a quick refererence.