Too often we make decisions without knowing it.
We forget a decision even exists and unconsciously take the default path.
Surfacing these hidden decisions and making them consciously can help us improve our decisions.
Every decision has a hidden yes/no decision:
Should I be making this decision?
The default is yes. But don’t accept the default. One of the best ways to get better at decision-making is learning which decisions don’t need to be made.
When your cell phone contract expires, before asking which phone to buy, ask yourself if you need a new phone. Before deciding how to implement a feature in your software, ask first if you need the feature in the first place.
Every decision has a hidden timing decision:
When should I make this decision?
Don’t always make your decision immediately. Deciding to delay decisions has benefits.
Delaying your decision to buy items that you upgrade regularly creates a cascade effect, pushing each subsequent decision further into the future.
If you delay buying a new phone by six months, the second time you decide to upgrade gets pushed out by six months. And if you delay upgrading that second phone by six months, you’ve pushed out buying your third phone by a year. That’s one more year that you don’t have to spend that money.
Delay can also save you from making the decision at all.
If you wait until you see customer demand for a feature, if the demand never materializes, you save the effort you would have spent making the decision and the effort from all the consequences that would have followed that decision.
Some decisions have a hidden location decision:
Where should I implement this decision?
When making a purchase decision, ask yourself where you should buy from.
Retail purchases can usually be made at multiple stores, or purchased online. If you’re at a store, is this the best place to buy? What’s the overhead of finding another place or shopping online? What benefits exist elsewhere (better warranties, customer service, free shipping, etc)?
When running a company, don’t automatically buy from the company that first presents you with a solution. Ask if other vendors would be better to purchase from.
Businesses regularly buy products because a salesperson calls them up and convinces them they need it, without every asking what other vendors provide the same product.
Some decisions have a hidden method decision:
How should I implement this decision?
Decide on your own how to implement your decisions, rather than letting others dictate that for you. Ask yourself if a better way exists than the default implementation.
If you need a product or service, purchasing it outright all at once is just one option. Ask for a payment plan, buy-back provisions or delayed payment. Consider leasing, bartering or borrowing instead of purchasing.
When someone presents a proposal for you, don’t make a simple yes/no decision. If your decision is Yes, consider changing parts of the proposal and make it a conditional Yes.
All decisions have hidden decisions.
Decisions come in bundles. Learn to unbundle a decision and look at the hidden decisions that lie within.
Often the best path forward lies not in the decision you think you’re making, but in one of these hidden ones. Use this checklist to uncover these hidden decisions:
- Should I make this decision?
What hidden decisions have you uncovered?
Credits: The photo used in this article was taken by Suvodeb Banerjee.