Skill or Will - What hinders good business decisions
In today’s information age decision-making is not just the prerogative of the C-suite executives but is an important responsibility for roles at various levels in the organization. Most business decisions cannot be backtracked and often result in waste of precious time and other resources for the organization. This is why decision-making needs to be approached with the most appropriate way of thinking.
Good business decisions stem from a fundamental workplace skill - Critical Thinking. Research conducted in recent years by Pearson, as well as by independent academics, has shown that individuals who score high on critical thinking assessment are rated by their supervisors as having good judgment and decision-making. Critical thinkers keep emotions and biases at bay and approach decision making objectively focusing on facts and assessing the credibility of the source of information regularly.
But is skill the only factor? In a research published in Harvard Business Review, that involved data of 50,000 leaders the most important factor contributing to bad decision making was laziness – “This showed up as a failure to check facts, to take the initiative, to confirm assumptions, or to gather additional input. Basically, such people were perceived to be sloppy in their work and unwilling to put themselves out. They relied on past experience and expected results simply to be an extrapolation of the past.” Several phenomena in psychology like cognitive easing, pattern recognition and emotional tagging come close to explaining the findings.
This calls for us to ponder at what stops ability to translate into the action of good decision-making and how could organizations help employees bridge this gap for effective decision-making to occur. Research shows that in addition to skills or abilities, dispositions to think in a certain way also play a major role in how decisions are made. That is, one needs both ability to think critically and attitude (habits of mind) for optimal decision-making to take place.
Learning and Development leaders aiming at improving decision-making capabilities of their employees need to provide insights into the disposition of an employee to think in a certain way. They need to help an employee understand her personal thinking style among various thinking styles like analytical, insightful, inquisitive, open-minded, systematic, timely and truth-seeking. Better thinking is empowering for decision-making. Understanding one’s thinking style helps understand one’s preferred approach to various problems and opportunities at work. No style is better than the other and each style contributes, in different ways, to thinking clearly in different contexts. With this understanding it is easier to focus on strengths and work on weaknesses and apply the most appropriate style for any given context. Helping employees understand behaviours that support good critical thinking would eventually help them think better and arrive at better decisions.
Skill and will both are needed for optimal decision-making for your employees. Think about it!