4 decision-making mistakes and how to avoid them

4 decision-making mistakes and how to avoid them

Let's examine four key mistakes individuals make when making important business and personal decisions – and how you can steer clear of them

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August 08, 2019


Both overconfidence and lack of confidence can cause decision-making mistakes.

The key to positive decision-making is having the ability to slow down and recognize what is most important and most helpful to a situation. However, more often than not, individuals guide their decision-making process with emotions, impulsiveness, and reactivity, especially in heightened or tense situations. This ultimately results in satisfying a short-term need or stopping the process within a comfort level, rather than aligning with long-term goals or creative visions. If an individual is overconfident or lacks confidence, they tend to make poor decisions.

This article will break down four key mistakes individuals make when making important business decisions – and how you can avoid them.

[ Do you make thoughtful decisions? Read also: 4 styles of decision-making: A leader's guide. ]

1. Acting on impulse during decision-making

As humans, we have an instinctual need to solve problems quickly, especially when pain (emotional, physical, financial, etc) is involved. This means that too often we allow for knee jerk decisions to be made without careful consideration. Specifically, when emotions are involved we are more likely to act on how we feel rather than with logic.

I think one of the worst things you can do is make a decision too quickly. Take some time to let your subconscious rollover your options before jumping to any one decision or conclusion. It’s completely okay to tell someone that you need a day to think about what is being asked, and dive a little deeper to make a better, more educated decision.

Why this is a decision-making mistake:

Making an impulsive decision without thoroughly thinking it through has the potential to derail you from the path of achieving your long-term goals. Even more poignant is the fact that impulsive decisions can result in unintended consequences that can cause a business unnecessary grief.

How to avoid it:

  • Do your best to avoid being pressured into making quick “trigger” decisions, even under the influence of authoritative figures or people with whom you have close relationships.
  • Identify the types of situations where you are most likely to make impulsive decisions and commit to being more cautious and self-aware when you find yourself in one.
  • Always ask for time to process what is being asked of you, but be mindful to avoid procrastinating. Waiting until the last minute to approach the subject will also result in decisions being made under pressure and with a lack of thought.

2. Only listening to those who agree with you

It’s natural for humans to want to be right. This is why individuals prefer to interact with those who share similar opinions rather than with those who challenge their thinking process. When it comes to decision-making, seeking advice and opinions only from those who share the same views as your own can be a detrimental mistake.

To justify our own choices, we seek out information that supports our existing instinct.

This is what is referred to as confirmation bias. Essentially, in search of justification for our own choices, we seek out information that supports our existing instinct or point of view, while avoiding information that contradicts it. Leaders need to ask themselves, are they gathering information to help them make a smart choice — or are they looking for evidence and support that confirms what they already think and want to do? Listening to differing opinions allows leaders to view the situation from another perspective and ultimately leads to a better decision.

Why this is a decision-making mistake:

Failing to acknowledge that there are other sides to a situation than what one person sees, and failing to acknowledge that a bias towards a certain solution may exist, hinders leaders from making a decision that would be most beneficial. If a better solution exists but a leader is blind to looking past their assumptions, they are not doing their due diligence as a leader to examine all possible options before making a decision.

How to avoid it:

It is always important to surround yourself with a strong team of advisors or individuals you trust. Keep a roster of like-minded individuals that can challenge your thought process and help you think in different ways. This guarantees that you will be seeing all sides of the situation and gaining different perspectives before making the final decision.



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As CTO of Clearbridge Mobile, Sanjay Malhotra has built an agile team of mobile experts who have created award-winning solutions for media, telecom, fintech, healthcare, mobile payments, and QSRs.

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