Making Better Decisions
Casey Vermette | 5 min read
Decisions are just about as central to life as breathing. Casey Vermette, our sales manager, took a deeper look at how we make decisions when he read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. Here, Casey outlines the concepts, shares how he employs them on the job, and lays out how you can apply this decision-making framework to your own work.
Simplifying the Decision-Making Process
Decisions, and the processes we create to receive and deliver them, are often overly complicated and complex. And that’s to be expected. Decisions are often filled with uncertainty and have many potential outcomes. Because of that, it’s critical to evaluate the decision-making process like you would any other, measuring it on effectiveness and efficiency.
When we consider the decision-making process, the infinite factors that can manipulate possible outcomes can easily become overwhelming. We have to try to simplify the process in the face of this seemingly all-encompassing cloud of ever-changing variables. This process of simplification can start with a quick overview of the two general ways we make decisions: System 1 vs. System 2.
Short and Sweet: System 1 v System 2 Pathways
System 1 can be thought of as automation: the actions and reactions and conclusions we reach with virtually no thought. This is the easy stuff, the decisions and choices we make with no thought, just maximum efficiency. Knee-jerk reactions.
- Determine that one object is farther away than another.
- Localize the source of a specific sound.
- Complete the phrase “war and …”.
- Show disgust when seeing a gruesome image.
- Solve 2+2 = __.
System 2 is the process that engages when we hit traffic on the freeway and have to click off cruise control. Our minds literally (and figuratively) hit the brakes and recognize there’s more going on, more to process.
- Determine the appropriate behavior in a social setting.
- Count the number of A’s in a given text.
- Whether to give someone your phone number.
- Park into a tight parking space.
- Solve 17×24.
As individuals, not only is it important to recognize the ways we make decisions, but also the ways that other people’s decisions impact our daily lives. If we acknowledge how our minds process the variables leading up to a decision, then we can become more proactive and, ultimately, more successful. We do this by streamlining the process and reaching the positive outcomes we aim for at the outset.
The first step in evaluating any process is understanding the existing state. With something like sales goals or a project timeline, you might already be pretty calculated. However, you can still establish a baseline in the decision-making process.
For instance, I like to start with an aggregated list of notable decisions I’ve made or have been a part of in the past. After I’ve established a list, I can evaluate the outcome, timeline, and current state of those decisions—thus creating a baseline. I often use a simple table format to structure this.
Once we’ve established the baseline, we can move into the evaluation stage. To begin, look through your list and address the most significant outcomes (positive or negative) and the variables in play ahead of that outcome.
Think about factors such as the stakeholders involved, major questions asked, hurdles you overcame (or didn’t), and milestones reached in the timeline. These are all valuable insights that will help you replicate successes and avoid coming up short as you move forward.
With a clear understanding of the levers affecting the decisions we take part in, we now have the ability to build a framework around the decisions we make. We could easily assume that this framework is focused strictly on how we make our own decisions. But we must not forget that that’s only half the battle. It’s equally important that we consider how this framework applies to desired outcomes and decisions we hope to achieve.
We wrap this all back into the System 1 vs. System 2 discussion by integrating automation—System 1—where we can, and only engaging System 2 when dealing with complex problems or decisions.
There’s no “one size fits all” approach to this framework, but for example, here’s a baseline pulled from my own framework that might help you to establish your own guidelines.
Every framework should be personal and crafted with intention. No single template can really be effectively replicated to fit a separate situation. Recognizing major variables, the ones that have the greatest impact on your desired individual outcomes, is crucial. As we continue to evolve our processes and incorporate new variables, we must prioritize the mindset of being in a perpetual beta testing stage. System 1 and System 2 pathways combine to serve as just one pillar of our foundation of reason.
As we move forward into our day with a loose understanding of how we process decisions, making choices becomes easier. We can leave the complex processes for complex problems.
All too often I find myself complicating decisions by asking the wrong questions. Other times it’s involving the wrong people too early, failing to acknowledge certain hurdles, or losing sight of the timeline. But once you come to an understanding of what affects your ability to achieve optimal outcomes in decisions you and others make, you’re able to leverage simple frameworks to build repeatable processes.
BY CASEY VERMETTE
Casey is the Sales Manager at Wisetail. Originally from Minnesota, he began working at Wisetail on the Business Development team. Outside of work, Casey’s most often found driving around with his Australian shepherd, Leo, to dirt bike races around Montana and Wyoming.