Some decisions—such as where to go to lunch, or what to wear to a work function—may require a bit of deliberation, but can ultimately be made relatively quickly. Yet if you are faced with a challenge that carries a heftier commitment of resources and has a greater impact on a larger number of people, you may find yourself seeking input from other sources.
Indeed, when making an important decision, it is wise to gather and analyze information that could have an impact on your ultimate course of action. To start your information-gathering endeavor, consider the guidelines that author Jeff Butterfield presents in Problem-Solving and Decision Making: Illustrated Course Guides, 2nd Edition:
- Define your data needs. What information do you need to reach an informed decision? A thoughtful answer to this question helps guide your research. Make a list of important data and where you can find it. Consider the costs of acquiring this information ( such as money and time), and plan to pursue the data that provides the best return on your efforts.
- Do not overestimate what you know about the problem. The information you gather might contradict your assumptions. Be scientific and objective in your research. Let the data stand on its own and keep an open mind about interpreting it. Apply intellectual humility, and assume your research will reveal more than you already know about the problem.
- Document the data and its sources. As you talk with people, review documents, and make observations, take time to record basic information such as title, author, and location. Your records will be useful when you need to retrace your steps. As other people become involved, they might also need to review your work.
- Examine existing information first. Acquiring information costs you and others time and effort. Before you start to collect new information through observations or studies, look for sources of existing information. Talk to others who already observed the problem and can quickly provide you with details. Company documents and records can reveal information with a quick search and review. Start to gather new data after you examine the available material.
- Rely on people as your most important resource. Much of the information you need might be available only from other people in your organization. They often have insights or experience that is not available anywhere else. Even if they do not know about the problem directly or do not think they could contribute to the solution, identify and approach people who might be able to share data with you.
- Consider interrelationships. Most of the data you collect is interrelated because it is connected to the same problem. Examine all of the information together to see how it is connected. Does one factor or process show up repeatedly? Do you see a trend or pattern? What do the relationships tell you about the nature of the problem? (p. 26)
Would you offer any additional suggestions for making informed decisions in the workplace? Share your suggestions below.
Reference: Butterfield, J. 2013. Problem-Solving and Decision Making: Illustrated Course Guides, 2nd Edition. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.