Why Do We Struggle to Make Good Decisions?

We make hundreds of decisions a week in our daily lives. So why is it so hard to make important decisions at work? Here are some of the challenges that hold us back:

Too Many Choices

“When faced with the cognitive demands of choosing, people often become overwhelmed and frustrated. As a result, they may forgo the choice altogether, reach for the most familiar option, or make a decision that ultimately leaves them far less satisfied than they had expected to be” says Dr. Sheena Iyengar, a world renowned expert on the subject of choice and professor at Columbia School of Business. Her research shows that an overload of choices reduces engagement, decision quality, and satisfaction.

Lack of Foresight

It’s foresight that has us looking both ways before crossing a street. We anticipate that a car may be coming and we understand that being hit by a car could have serious consequences. In the complex and dynamic environment of healthcare, it is not easy to anticipate and understand all of the options; however, the consequences of a lack of foresight can be costly.

Incorrect Assumptions

Abraham Maslow, a notable psychologist, once said “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Our view of any situation is biased by a number of factors including previous experience, what we’ve been taught and our ability to see only one aspect of the situation. Sometimes false assumptions are merely embarrassing. But false assumptions can lead to incorrect conclusions which can lead to ill-advised actions.

Not Challenging the Facts

Studies have shown that people often make decisions on opinion not fact. While a well-formed opinion can be a great starting point, it must be tested and validated. Getting the facts on member preferences, competitive benchmarks and profitable service lines can steer organizations away from costly mistakes. Using research to inform decision making is proven to be beneficial and is a key strategy in the clinical and public health areas. Getting the facts can overcome those moments when we think we’re right… but we’re actually wrong.

We can improve our decision making in two areas – the process and information we use. For example, good process can improve our focus by prioritizing the choices and ensuring we are challenging assumptions while better information can help with foresight and evidence-based decision making. We’ll explore these topics in a future blog.

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