Decision making is a science. It’s part human psychology, part behavioral economics, part group dynamics, part strategic thinking and much more. Most of the decisions we make take place in dynamic settings filled with dozens of inter-related variables, yet we are often presented with binary options: “Left” or “right”? “Yes” or “no”? “Black” or “white”? “Red” or “blue”? This false dichotomy encourages us to perpetuate an “either, or” paradigm, which is not reality. We live in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous) times, and nothing we do is as cut and dry as any of us would like.
There are many different ways to make decisions. When our decision-making processes lack integrity, so do the results. If the decision-making process forces people to support a decision they do not really support, then the resulting decision, while appearing to have buy-in, lacks the level of buy-in needed to move the decision from theory to practice.
Before we make a decision, we need to define the decision-making process. Some decisions require consensus, others work with a simple majority, others do fine with a slight plurality. The amount of support needed to move the decided-upon actions into practice should be paramount when deciding which process is right for the decision needing to be made. Once the level of support needed is identified and the decision-making process defined accordingly, then we can proceed to making better decisions.
A few of my favorite decision-making processes are Gradients of Agreement, Ranked Voting and Dot Selection. Gradients of Agreement and Ranked Voting allow people to show their level of support of any given proposal without having to be complete partisans. Dot Selection is a fast and visual process that allows a group to quickly express their thoughts on any given proposal and side-step debating the merits of each proposal. These decision-making processes are some I use regularly, and there are many more.
As election day nears, decision making is front of mind for me. The USA's brand of democracy has perpetuated an either/or paradigm for incredibly complex issues. Our brand of democracy also relies on a voting process that is antiquated, fraught with barriers and filled with vulnerabilities. At the national, statewide and local levels, we need a better voting process, for if the process lacks integrity, so too will the results.
I recently sat down with Jeffrey Stern of Votem, a company that is implementing mobile voting across the globe. Their work upgrading the decision-making process we know as “voting” is vital to the future of democracy. Votem is one of many social innovators helping upgrade our democratic institutions by improving the accessibility and security of the sacred right to vote.
Our institutions, organizations and teams need more flexible and accurate processes to make decisions - small ones, big ones, and the myriad in between. If you are interested in helping your teams make better decisions, let's connect!