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Decision-making techniques: 12 methods, examples and tips

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Are you making good decisions? Unfortunately, many answer with No and are dissatisfied with their own choice. Decision-making techniques help to make better decisions in the long term. Instead of frustration and regret, you are happy with your decision. We will introduce you to 12 decision-making techniques in detail and explain how they work - we also have numerous tips on decision-making techniques with which you can avoid pitfalls at an early stage ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

When are decision-making techniques useful?

Often mentioned for decisions: Be spontaneous and just do it. This is not only well-intentioned, it is helpful and absolutely necessary in many situations. The abundance of daily decisions alone makes it essential to listen to your gut and your own intuition and decide on an option.

But is that how you want to make the big, important decisions? When something is going to have a big impact on your life and the future, it shouldn't be a door and angel decision. A new job, buying a house, moving to another city - do you really want to rely on the first feeling without thinking about it?

This is exactly where decision-making techniques come into play. You greatly reduce the risk of a bad decision. With targeted methods, hasty and careless decisions are not made, but well-founded decisions are made that will not be regretted in retrospect.

Overview of the most important decision-making techniques

In fact, there are numerous techniques, methods, and procedures for making better decisions, making difficult voting processes more accessible, or simply choosing the best alternative in a situation. But which decision-making technique should you use? You should make this choice depending on your expectations and the individual situation.

With a ready-made solution, in which only the missing variables are inserted, it is not done. Decision-making techniques have individual advantages, but also catches and stumbling blocks. You cannot avoid getting to know the most important (but sometimes contradicting) decision-making techniques - and then choosing which one fits the question at hand.

Personal favorites will undoubtedly emerge, others may only serve as a source of inspiration and you will develop your own methods from them. You should definitely know these 12 decision-making techniques:

  1. Pro-cons list

    Everyone knows the pro-con list. For the sake of completeness, it should still have its well-deserved place at this point, because even if it is well-known - it works and is very simple: Take a sheet of paper, draw a line in the middle from top to bottom and write “Pro ", On the right" Contra "on it. Then write down everything and briefly explain what speaks for or against the decision:

    The sheer number of points alone can be an indication of how you should decide. Weighting is still useful in most situations: There may be a contra argument that is so serious that it cannot be outweighed by several small pluses.

    The pro-con list is used to make yourself aware of the various arguments, to visualize them and to literally bring them to mind. Often this has a much stronger psychological effect than the assessment in the head. The only disadvantage: the more alternatives are available, the more complex the lists become and the more difficult it is to choose.

  2. Benjamin Franklin List

    Named after the founding father of the USA, the Benjamin Franklin List is visibly inspired by the Pro-Contra List. However, it does not juxtapose advantages and disadvantages, but only compares the pro-arguments of various alternatives. A sheet is divided into columns according to the number of alternatives and these are filled with the advantages of the respective option. The elements are assessed with a school grade. The values ​​in a column are added up and divided by the number of arguments - the best overall grade is the best choice:

    The approach scores with its simplicity, but has one major drawback: No disadvantages are considered. So there is the risk of a one-dimensional, pink-red image. Possibly decisive consequences are ignored. This decision technique is therefore recommended as a first orientation, in order to reduce the number of possible options and to make the following decision easier.

  3. Decision tree

    Decision-making techniques do not only come in the form of lists, but also as graphics that illustrate the decision-making process. One possible representation is the decision tree, which some people may be familiar with from sports tournaments, where the same method is used to visualize knockout rounds: Two alternatives are compared - the option that wins goes one round further - until a winner is determined .

    The decision tree helps by breaking down a complex number of alternatives into small elective duels and turning the weighing up into a kind of playful competition. The crux: decision trees only work as long as clear preferences exist and a variety of options are available at the same time. In a “yes-or-no” scenario, he's no help. In order to decide the individual duels, other decision-making techniques (such as the pro-con list) can be combined.

  4. Decision mind map

    The mind map is one of the graphic decision-making techniques. It is based on the same principle as the known method and structures complex relationships:

    • The center is the decision to be made.
    • The main branches are drawn in from this, each representing an alternative that is written to the corresponding branch.
    • Each of these branches receives further branches, which are labeled as pros and cons.
    • Finally, the evaluation of the individual paths and branches and their corresponding positive and negative arguments follow.

    In addition, symbols, colors or thickly painted branches can clarify and visualize individual points - as in this schematic example:

    The biggest advantage is the clarity in complex elections. However, there is no weighting of the decision-making lines. Among the decision-making techniques, the mind map is therefore recommended as an upstream decision-making aid. The resulting results are then examined more closely.

  5. Decision matrix

    The decision matrix is ​​one of the rational and analytical decision-making techniques. All available alternatives are entered in the columns. The rows of the matrix contain as many criteria as possible that are important for the decision. These can be monetary aspects, but also emotional or abstract bullet points.

    School grades are used to evaluate the factors, add them up for the columns and determine the average grade. A simple calculation process that makes a favorite - the factors are also easier to compare with one another. It can be problematic if an important criterion is forgotten or factors have been incorrectly assessed. Great care is therefore required in the selection and justification.

  6. Consider all facts method

    The British cognitive scientist and writer Edward de Bono is not the only creator of creativity techniques such as the DeBono thinking hats. His consider-all-facts method is one of the decision-making techniques and is similar to the decision matrix. The decision-making works with a list of all relevant factors - and really all of them. Without exception.

    Depending on the complexity and scope of the decision, this can result in a very long list. Important and unimportant factors can be presented as a sequence in the decision technique. In addition, there should be space for comments and ratings at the edge. For a decision, the alternatives are then checked and compared based on the collected factors:

    • Which points are met?
    • Which criteria remain open and how important are they?
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the individual alternatives?

    As with other decision-making techniques, the incompleteness of the list of all relevant factors can distort the picture.

  7. Consider the best method

    The opposite of the Consider-all-Facts method, and sometimes better suited because of its simplicity, is the Consider-the-Best method. In short: you only focus on the most important decision factor. It is up to you to decide which one it is. For purchase decisions, for example, the price or the quality of the product.

    However, this decision-making technique quickly reaches its limits if the most important factor is not so easy to identify. A great simplification of reality is necessary. One factor is also placed above all others at an early stage - the decision may then be based on a completely wrong basis. Nevertheless, the method is suitable, for example, for everyday decisions or to be aware of what plays the most important role in a choice.

  8. Slice method

    When making a choice, the big picture is always in mind - we want to keep track of things. However, this can be extremely daunting. We are faced with a monstrous choice that will panic or even run away. We then do not commit ourselves, but procrastinate until the decision is blocked. One solution in decision-making techniques is the slice method.

    The problem is broken down into several small pieces to make the actual decision easier and easier. As with an onion, from which one peel by peel is removed, one slice is cut off at a time and examined individually, which should take away the horror of the initial choice. No fundamental, but many small decisions.

    The Scheibchen method is predestined for serious decisions, accelerates the selection process and overcomes voting inhibitions. For example the choice of profession: Do I want to study? Do I want to work in the office? Do I want direct customer contact? Each disc provides a clearer overall picture. Big disadvantage: There is no real orientation for answering the questions. It needs a combination with other decision-making techniques.

  9. Change of view

    We ponder, brood, analyze, rack our brains endlessly and in the end we just feel like Faust in Goethe's classic: "I'm as smart as before ..." Sometimes, from our own perspective, no decision is possible. Then changing your point of view helps. It enables new perspectives and problems to be seen from another side. This decision-making technique ensures clarity, especially in emotionally stuck situations.

    Try to free yourself from the personal situation and ask yourself: What advice would I give to a friend who is faced with the same decision? How to force a change of perspective. The psychological effect: we usually see things much more clearly with others than with ourselves. But the whole thing only works if you are honest with yourself.

  10. Best case / worst case analysis

    A decision is always symbolic of the fork in a path. The focus is initially on the obvious branches in the form of various alternatives. The next phase of thought, however, often goes unnoticed: Each of the options can develop in different ways - positive as well as negative. This is where the best-case / worst-case analysis comes into play. It compares scenarios based on possible courses.

    The principle is quickly explained: a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario are created for each alternative. The benefit of the method lies in the conscious discussion and consideration of the possible consequences - explicitly in both directions.

    Try to determine probabilities for the scenarios. If there is a greater risk that an option will end in disaster, this possibility is ruled out. If, on the other hand, the worst case is very unlikely and a positive outcome is to be expected, a possible way is revealed.

  11. Decision questions

    Elaborate and complicated decision-making techniques do not always have to be in order to provide decision support. It is also easier and less graphical with so-called decision questions. These should breathe mobility back into stuck thoughts and represent a hybrid of all methods. These questions include:

    • Am i honest with myself
      The best decision from an objective point of view is unfortunately not always easy or popular at the same time. You can only get out of a dead end backwards - an annoying realization that you have to admit to yourself. As is well known, the truth can hurt - but it is absolutely necessary when making a decision. Otherwise you will end up at the same point again after a short time.
    • Have I checked enough alternatives?
      It's easy to fall in love with the first chance you come across and dismiss anything but wrong. May work, but backfires in many cases. Misjudgments often arise precisely because not enough alternatives have been considered - even if it is only the option of not choosing. With this question you force yourself to be inconvenient and to think outside the box.
    • Am I aware of the consequences?
      Voting inhibitions are often the result of fear of the possible consequences. We avoid the decision. But are these horror scenarios even justified? This does not mean that you should wear rose-colored glasses. Rather, it is a call for a realistic assessment. Do not stir up unfounded fears, but also do not mask or cover up possible mistakes.
    • What is the stomach saying? What is the head saying?
      If the decision is simply not to be made, it can help not to rely on just one part of the body. The gut may find an argument that the head has not yet been able to bring to light - or vice versa. Don't see yourself just as a head or stomach person. That takes away the chance of making better decisions. No “either or”, but “both and”.
  12. Time travel method

    A look into the future in order to control not only lottery numbers, but also the effects of one's own decisions and to correct them in the present - everyone has probably dreamed of that. Unfortunately, time travel as in "Back to the Future" is not possible - you can still use the principle for decision-making techniques. The time travel method ensures distance to the current decision dilemma. In this way the situation can be viewed in a larger context.

    Suzy Welch, the wife of the ex-General Electric boss Jack Welch, developed the 10-10-10 method a few years ago, in which you only have to ask yourself three questions:

    Sounds trivial. It is. However, it helps to focus on the future and on the long-term effects of the choice. For example, run through the decision-making technique before changing jobs - will the position take you where you want to be in ten years? This requires honest self-reflection and an assessment of the future that is as realistic as possible.

Select decision-making techniques

Now you know a whole range of different techniques, methods and tricks, all of which are suitable in one way or another to make a decision, to consolidate it or at least to narrow down the alternatives and to come to a solution through a process of elimination. The catch: You have to choose - exactly - again between all the alternatives. So what to do

Break down your decisions into three basic categories:

  • Short or long term?
    Some techniques are designed to make decisions that have a lasting impact on life. In other circumstances, however, these are of little help or even useless.
  • Much or little information?
    A large amount (but not too much) of information can help to make an informed decision - it is the basis of some decision-making techniques. Those who have (too) little information either have to do some research or choose another method.
  • Rational or Emotional?
    With some decisions the mind simply fails, with others it dominates too much. It can therefore make sense to select the method in such a way that our respective inferior sensorium has more to say.

Using these three criteria, each decision-making situation can be precisely classified and combined with a suitable technology. For example, choosing a course of study would be a rational decision with a long-term horizon for which there is a lot of information (with a little effort). For example, a decision tree or a Benjamin Franklin list would be available to limit the large selection and then the time travel method to validate the selection.

Tips: Apply decision-making techniques correctly

Finally, we have put together a few tips with which you can use the decision-making techniques correctly and achieve the best possible result:

  1. Find more information
    Information is the cornerstone of any informed decision.In other words, how are you supposed to make a good decision if you don't know important factors? Do not let yourself or others press you into making a decision until you have made up for this information deficit. Assumptions, hopes and wishes are not enough. If you don't know things, start guessing and at this point, at the latest, one can no longer speak of a rational decision, but at best of gambling.
  2. Ask the right people
    How do you get the information? Right, either you do your own research - or you just ask. However, it depends on who you ask. Reach out to someone who is knowledgeable in the field and can also provide the information you are looking for. You can get job information from someone who knows the industry or even works in the targeted company. Advice is not only meant well, it is also backed up with facts.
  3. Uncover options that are only meant to be a distraction
    Different options are generally not bad, but are often used - especially by sellers - to provoke a certain decision. This phenomenon is known as the decoy effect. You shouldn't like the additional choice, but rather convince you of one of the other options. The distraction is so unattractive as a choice that the other options seem much better. If you unmask this bait, you can turn down the offer without a guilty conscience and look for an alternative that really suits your needs.
  4. Think about what you have to do without
    When you like an offer, it's easy to get lost in it and ignore everything else. Suddenly it doesn't matter that you have to pay 5,000 euros more for the car because all you can think of is the extras. But are you sure you will still think that way a few years from now? To answer this, you should consider what you have to do without. You could, for example, use the 5,000 euros to pay your rent for months, to travel with the whole family for several weeks or to repay a large part of an ongoing loan. From that perspective, is the option still so compelling?

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February 1, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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