The 4 As of Decision-making


Experience is one of the best teachers around decision-making.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of being right is to consult widely, including your opponents. This can result in decisions being more highly respected even if they are not fully accepted - especially by the people most affected by them.

Consulting widely means that decisions are less likely to be uninformed, biased, prejudiced or self-serving. At the same time, your decisions that you make are still yours, but not necessarily "alone" - rather, a considered response to the facts and opinions available.

By consulting widely your decisions are not bias or prejudice but a considered response to the facts and opinions available.

"...consultation about gathering facts to make the best decision you can, after considering all sides of the issue. To consult properly, you need to be as even-handed and open-minded as possible. you need to hear different opinions to counter the tendency to favour your own views, and when deciding as a member of a group in favour of a course of action early, you need to ensure everyone has heard opposing views before casting their vote......helps you put the greater good ahead of your own, you often need to go a step further to uncover your hidden biases and keep them in check..."

Ian Harper 2019

Be aware of the 4 As (ambition, approval, appetite and affirmation)

i) Ambition (it is natural to want to advance your own interests; you need to think in terms of a higher purpose)

ii) Approval (a self-serving instinct that clouds judgement, ie

"...we all want to be liked and approved by our peers and those we look up to, but the desire is almost always detrimental to good decision-making..."

Ian Harper 2019)

iii) Appetites (need to guard against the self-seeking tendencies like possible financial reward or recognition; need to look at how the decision will impact the community)

iv) Affirmation (you can't judge a good decision as one that everyone applauds. Sometimes people who don't applaud are sending you an important message)

NB you need to have the courage of your convictions.

Sometimes a good technique is to "sleep on your decision" before making it public. An example of this is US President Obama when making the decision about raiding the possible hiding place of Osama Bin Ladin in Pakistan. After hearing all the facts and opinions from his advisers, he stated that he would sleep on it and let them know his decision in the morning. Sleeping on your decision is the end result of consulting, deliberating and reflecting. This usually brings clarity to your decision-making process, ie

"...being able to consult, listen to others, identify a higher purpose and guard against your own biases are essential skills in every decision-maker..."

Ian Harper 2019

Asking the right questions

This is an important part of decision-making

"...the most serious mistakes are not the result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions. If your answer to the right question produces a wrong, unexpected result, you can take corrective action...... but if you ask the wrong question and get the right answer, chances are it will take a lot longer to discover and inevitably lead to even more costly errors..."

Corporate Learning Network 2019

It is hard to carry out conventional market research on a truly new product, as it is not in the marketplace. Some examples

- the automobile was one of the most successful products ever launched and started with Henry Ford's Model T  .

"...Ford created the modern automobile industry. He gave people what they wanted, needed, valued, expected and were willing and able to pay for. According to Steve Jobs: "If Ford had asked people via a focus group or sample survey what they wanted, they would have said "faster horses"..."

Corporate Learning Network 2019

- fax machine. The US manufacturers had the fax machine ready to be sold but market research convinced them that there was no demand for this type of equipment!!!!! However, the Japanese asked "what is the market for what the fax machine does?" One of the markets identified was the growth of the courier services starting in the 1970s, like Federal Express. As the Japanese had asked the right questions, their firm dominated the market.

Most organisational/people conflict results from people asking and answering different questions:

"...never ask, 'who is right?' in a conflict. Never even ask, 'what is right?'. The proper response is to discover, first, what the question is that everyone is answering..."

Corporate Learning Network 2019

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