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Brain circuits

Five questions to help make better choices in times of uncertainty

Published 24 August 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

Every day, leaders make multiple decisions and their success depends on the quality of their decision-making. Particularly in times of rapid change and high levels of uncertainty, quick and effective decision-making is key. However, several things can get in the way of a person’s decision-making process. To ensure you don’t stumble into one of the five common barriers to making high-quality decisions, reviews this quick checklist of questions to help you make critical choices:

Are you too rushed? No matter how dire the situation may seem, you need to press pause and step back for some perspective to make the best decision possible. Ask yourself, which is worse – pausing even if I don’t think there is time, or making the wrong decision because I was hasty?

Are you answering the wrong questions? It is important to focus on asking many questions to broaden your understanding of the issues and identify the good questions that can lead you to good solutions. Many executives rush to find solutions and never reach an understanding of the situation, the challenge, or the issues. In the aftermath they often realize they were reacting to symptoms, rather than addressing the root causes of problems.

Are you suffering from information overload? In times of crisis, we can be bombarded with information. It is important to use constraints to narrow down the scope to gain focus and direction, which will help you make a better decision. Research has shown that introducing constraints can boost your creativity and help you find better solutions to your problems.

Do you have specific skills or expertise on the issue you need to make decisions about? It is important to bring in different perspectives and involve people with different backgrounds and expertise to make sure you have well-rounded input in your decision-making process. For example, invite them to a question burst session.

Do you have a strong decision-making process in place? A major error leaders make is relying on a poor process or totally lacking a system for decision-making. You should try a variety of techniques to organize your thinking and provide yourself with the confidence you need to make good decisions.

Authors

Louise Muhdi

Louise Muhdi

Affiliate Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Louise Muhdi is Affiliate Professor of Innovation and Strategy. She helps organizations adapt to uncertain and fast-changing business environments, drive innovation and growth, and sustain value creation for the long term. She has an MSc in biology and a PhD in technology and innovation management from ETH Zürich, Switzerland. Prior to joining IMD in 2019, Muhdi was Head of Innovation Strategy and Portfolio for Global Science and Technology at Givaudan International where she developed the global innovation strategy and implemented multiple strategic initiatives to drive short, mid, and long-term growth. She also spent several years in the pharmaceutical industry.

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