Decision Making Frames

What are they?

Decision making frames are perspectives or maps used by the decision makers to guide the process.

As the name suggests, a frame establishes the boundaries and constraints of the process, and can have far reaching consequences on the decision results.

How are they useful?

Decision making frames greatly influence the decision making process. They can be used to:
  • delineate the current situation
  • establish what the options are
  • improve efficiency by determining which information and issues can be omitted
  • help to determine possible consequences
  • choose an effective course of action

Which frames?

Decision making frames can be divided into two broad categories. The first frame has to do with how many people are affected by the decision. The second category has to do with how far forward into the future the impact of the decision is expected to extend.

How many folks?

The number of people who will be affected by a decision will influence the whole process. (The number of people making the decision also affects the situation and these decisions can still be considered within these 2 frames.)

Deciding what to cook for yourself versus cooking for a group of people immediately changes the options available to you. It may mean you need to gather more information before you're in a position to even make a decision. Extra consequences may need to be considered. And for these reasons the eventual decisions made are unlikely to be the same.

An important point here is that this particular decision frame is often wider than at first seems. Taking the previous example, let's say the people have a really good experience at this particular meal. And afterwards they leave and interact with other people.

The impact they have with these others will be dependent on the state they are in after the meal. Good meal, good impact! And so the impact continues like ripples in a pond. And, of course, the same kind of ripple effect occurs with bad decisions.

So how far out from you do the impacts of your decisions extend?

Exquisite decision makers understand this. When it counts, they make the decision frames as big as possible so they are thinking about the impact they will have, not just on themselves, but on large numbers of other people as well.


How much time?

The decision making frames involving time link to the people frame. Because as the impact of the decision spreads out to involve more people, it occurs over time.

Most people make decisions within very narrow decision making frames of time. Many, many decisions are made to simply maintain personal comfort right now. Even though the individual may know that the choice they've made is not really what they want, nor will it get them what they want.

An example of utilization of these decision making frames are the high-performance athletes who are prepared to train hard today even though it may be uncomfortable and even painful. But they know that deciding to train this way today will allow them to improve their performances later.

Effective decision makers will consider the effect of their decisions over very long periods of time, 10, 20 or even 50 years. This allows them to easily take action that may be uncomfortable or unpleasant now, knowing they will reap the rewards later.


Other frames

Within these two major decision making frames many other frames can be considered. For example, political, religious and social frames are subdivisions of the 'people affected' frame. Ecological and economic frames may be considered categories of the time frame.

Excellent decision makers will easily expand or increase the number of decision making frames they use to improve their understanding of the system to enable them to make complex decisions.

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