Explain The
Decision Making Process
To Me!

To fully explain the decision making process we need to cover what it is, the stages, the various models, styles of decision making, and what works.

What is it?

Decision making is about choosing from several options or ideas and taking action to generate a particular result. It is usually considered to be a rational and logical thinking process.

However, this does not explain the decision making process in every case. Sometimes you will hear people saying things such as 'I listened to my heart' or 'I went with my gut'. Obviously, they are using a different (intuitive) approach.


The stages

The following decision making stages are typically described. Firstly, it's important to be clear about what you want the decision to achieve. In fact, it's vital!

Then you need to come up with alternatives that you think might get you what you want. The information gathering stage involves assessing the various alternatives and their consequences. The idea here is to work out which alternative will best give you your outcome.

And, of course, a decision is not complete until you take action and then determine if the action got you your outcome. If not, you need to cycle back to an earlier stage in the process.

Some decision making models have many more stages than described here but what you'll find is that they have taken these stages and broken them down into their component parts.

In order to explain the decision making process, it's easier to describe stages and it may seem like one stage follows the other. In reality though, it is usually not a linear process. There may be a cycling through various stages or even several stages happening at once. Some processes don't even compare alternatives!

The models

Rational decision making models are just that. The alternatives are compared rationally and logically, with the pros and cons being listed and ranked in importance. The option with the highest score is considered the best.

Intuitive decision making models, by definition, utilise intuition. The various models described differ because of the way the term 'intuition' is defined.

There are various models described which combine both of the above.

Recognition primed decision making models explain the decision making process in a different way. Gary Klein, a psychologist, reckons that up to 90% of human decisions are made in this way. Basically, when a decision has to be made, a viable option is considered. If the decision maker thinks it will work, they go ahead. If they don't think it'll work, they discard it and choose another. They go from one option to another until they find one they think will work.

The decision making model used to build decision making confidence uses elements of all three types.

The styles

Sometimes when people explain the decision making process, there is a mix up between models and styles. Decision making styles are descriptions of how people use the models. They can be impulsive or procrastinate, they may play it safe or be willing to take risks.

There are situations where one style is more appropriate than another, so it's useful to be able to move easily through (some of!) the styles.

What works?

While this page does explain the decision making process in brief, if you want more specific ideas as well as important principles behind decision making, see the sections on decision making tips and decision making skills.

And remember that decision making is a skill. That means it's learnable. But it's not enough just to have somebody explain the decision making process to you. It's much more useful to go through the process and then practise, practise, practise...

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