How To Evaluate
A Decision


When considering how to evaluate a decision, it's important to be clear about which stage of the decision making process you're working at.

Are you doing your evaluation of the various options before the decision is actually made? Or have you already made the decision and you're now evaluating the results?

For some decisions, it's actually possible to mix these things up and, of course, this will simply cause confusion and may waste a lot of time.

The reason it's possible to mix them up is that oftentimes a person may think they are going to decide when, in fact, they have already decided which way they will go, and are now simply building reasons and justifications for the decision. See the section in decision making skills for more on this idea.

Fallacy decision making is a situation where it pays (literally!) to be forearmed with information before you proceed.

And there are decision making traps that occur simply as a result of being human!

Fragmented decision making

How to evaluate a decision-
your options

It is recommended by many that when making decisions you should list all the options as well as your criteria in order to sort out the best path to take. And there are many decision making tools and techniques designed for this purpose, decision trees, decision matrix, decision risk matrices, spreadsheet and database analysis programs and so on. This is the idea behind rational decision making.

And basically the idea here is to make sure that you're making the best choice and avoiding negative consequences. At the same time, it is often where people waste a lot of time, worrying about what will happen and trying to predict the future.

Yet somehow, this has become the mainstream, the most popular kind of decision making. People think if they can just do enough analysis, avoid all the decision traps, if they can gather enough information, if they can break everything down sufficiently, then they will make good decisions. There are lots of reasons why these methodologies are ineffective.

Gary Klein, a psychologist who has spent many years studying decision making, believes that this is not the usual pattern for humans. After extensive research, his experience is that humans approach 95% of their decision making in a recognition primed way.

Evaluate different criteria

They consider all the available information all-at-once in a unified way. This is considered in relation to the outcome they want. Based on the experiences they have had, they choose a course of action. If they think it will get the intended outcome, they go ahead.

If they don't think it will achieve the outcome (or if they try it and it seems that it won't succeed), they discard it and choose a second course of action. If they believe this will achieve the outcome, they go with it.

Of interest is the fact that there is no comparison of options or weighing up of the pros and cons. These people know how to evaluate a decision in a different way, using different criteria than is currently being taught in most institutions!

You may think this is quite simple and probably only suitable for small decisions such as assembling a DIY kit, or trying a new programme on your computer, but that it wouldn't work for major decisions.

More efficient and effective

But Gary Klein was actually studying firefighters and medical personnel who were dealing with life or death situations. And the more effective they were at knowing how to evaluate a decision in this way, the better they were at their respective jobs!

Making it even better...

Now, what if you took this kind of decision making and added in the personal aspect? So that your whole decision making process is based on who you are, and the results of your decisions become a manifestation of yourself outwards into the world?

What happens is that who you are determines what you do, and what you do strengthens your sense of yourself. This then creates a feed-forward loop that is self-reinforcing over time.

Decision making becomes easy and evident and your life moves in the direction that you want...

And now onto the second part, how to evaluate a decision after it's been made to know if it's a sound decision...

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