Sure Thing Principle
Decision Making Process
Decision Making Techniques
22 Examples of Decisions
John Spacey, May 29, 2021
A decision is a commitment to a plan of action or inaction. The following are illustrative examples.
Opportunity CostsAll individuals and organizations have constrained resources such as time and money. As such, doing one thing often means that you can't do something else. This is known as an opportunity cost. For example, making a decision to pour the time of employees into an internal system project may mean that you have less resources to improve products and customer experience.
Calculated Risk TakingDecisions are often surrounded in unknowns and a probability of failure and loss. Where you carefully weight potential losses against potential gains in a decision, this is known as calculated risk taking. For example, an accomplished sailor who purposely enters a storm because they feel they can handle it and they expect it to be a peak experience.
Decision ModelingIt is possible to make decisions with formal processes and decision modeling. This typically involves precisely documenting the problem, brainstorming alternatives and evaluating tradeoffs. When a decision is made it can be captured in a decision rationale document. For example, a restaurant chain that opens four new locations that evaluates 80 locations with a decision model to select those that will produce the highest return on investment.
Do Nothing StrategyA decision to do nothing is still a decision. In many cases, this is your best strategic alternative. For example, a homeowner deliberates about how to deal with an outbreak of dandelions on their lawn. They consider hand weeding and herbicides but decide to do nothing at all. This may be perfectly reasonable.
Strategic DominanceA situation where one choice presents itself as your best choice in every possible future outcome. For example, a chess player who sees a move that is their best choice no matter how the other player may respond.
Dealing With AmbiguityDecisions often involve many unknowns. It is a talent to be able to make timely and reasonable decisions that are surrounded in ambiguity. For example, a pilot who makes a decision that a crosswind is manageable as they approach a runway without knowing if it will subside or gust further in the coming moments.
OverthinkingInvesting too many resources into a decision. For example, a health enthusiast who spends 30 minutes trying to figure out which of two organic honey products is more healthy without improving the quality of their decision in that timeframe.
SatisficingSatisficing is the practice of selecting the first option that is somewhat reasonable without overthinking. For example, a hiring manager who hires the first applicant who seems qualified enough.
RandomizationChoosing between similar alternatives with a random process in order to make efficient and quick decisions. For example, flipping a coin to choose a restaurant instead of arguing about it all night.
Principles, Processes and RulesIt is common for organizations and individuals to use principles and other formal structures to simplify decisions. For example, a manager who adopts the principle that they will never fire anyone who is honestly trying, even if they make a large mistake in the process.
HabitsHabits are a means to simplify decisions. For example, a habit of studying a language on your morning commute by train. This is essentially a decision to study each day that you have automated with a habit.
Decision CriteriaDeciding how alternatives will be evaluated before making a decision. For example, deciding that air quality, cost, safety and work commute will be your criteria for choosing a new apartment.
Big Plan UpfrontMaking a big decision that takes many years to implement. For example, a teenager who decides they're going to be a lawyer who follows through over many years to make this a reality.
Last Responsible MomentLast responsible moment is the practice of deferring a decision until it really needs to be made in order to maximize thinking and discovery of new information. For example, an undergraduate student who tries a few courses in different subjects of interest before deciding on a graduate program.
Preserving AmbiguityPreserving ambiguity is the principle that you not make any assumptions too early in a decision making process. For example, a student who doesn't automatically assume they need to go to graduate school but considers a broad range of options.
Creativity of ConstraintsThe opposite of preserving ambiguity, whereby you impose early constraints in order to try to improve a decision. For example, imposing the constraint that whatever restaurant you choose on Friday night has to be a new place that you haven't tried.
BacklogA method of decision making that never says no to an idea but instead accepts all ideas on a backlog. When resources are available, you prioritize the backlog and tackle the highest priority item. For example, a couple who are fixing their house who write all their ideas down but only prioritize one or two projects at a time. It is typically expected that many things on the backlog will never be actioned. This is fine as it allows you to always be working on your best or most pressing ideas.
Motivated ReasoningMotivated reasoning is the practice of using logic to support what you want to do at an emotional level as opposed to using logic to determine the best course of action. For example, thinking of excuses to continue a bad habit where the evidence overwhelmingly suggests you should discontinue it.
Abilene ParadoxThe abilene paradox is the tendency for all members of a group to view a group's decisions as irrational. Group decisions reflect social or political compromises such that they are often irrational. For example, business units that contribute requirements to a IT systems project with the resulting system making no sense whatsoever such that it doesn't support the firm's business processes.
Escalating CommitmentA decision to continue a project, investment or situation that is failing and unlikely to improve because you have invested so much already. This often involves pouring more and more resources into the failure in an irrational escalation. This is particularly common in government departments with large budgets. For example, a $1 million IT project that fails that it is escalated to a $10 million, $100 million, $1 billion project with the project becoming more complex but not more likely to succeed with each escalation.
Keep It Simple StupidKeep it simple stupid is the pursuit of elegant ideas that beat complexity. For example, a car company that uses a shared platform for all of its models to reduce development costs, increase overall quality and achieve low costs with economies of scale.
Sanity CheckA sanity check is a step back from the detailed logic of a decision to ask -- does this make any sense whatsoever? It is possible to become too immersed in the details of decision making such that you miss the bigger picture. For example, an individual who is deciding which car to buy based on an array of specifications and features who does a sanity check to find that it is better to use a rental service.
Decision ExamplesThis is the complete list of articles we have written about decision examples.
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Overview of preserving ambiguity.
Strategic dominance is your best choice in a given situation.
The definition of maximax with examples.
The definition of indecision with examples.A list of group decision strategies and techniques.
The definition of normative decision making with examples.
The definition of non-decision with examples.A list of decision making techniques.
The definition of ideation with examples. The common types of business decision with examples.
The common types of managerial decision with examples.
An overview of decision costs with examples.
An overview of common types of problems.
The definition of expert culture with examples.
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