How to Make Smart Decisions: Ask and Integrate

Updated on July 8, 2020
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As a Certified Associate in Project Management having worked in a PMO environment, I know the importance of planning and executing projects.

At a Crossroad

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Decision-making is the action or method of making decisions, especially important ones. It is like being at a crossroad where you need good instincts to come up with a logic to make a decision and to be smart enough to know what is right for you.

Whenever we are at a crossroad, it means there is a choice. We must choose between two or more options. Making our own choices about what we do is important because it gives meaning to our life. These could be choices about things we like best such as going places in the community, keeping or changing jobs, spending time with friends, feeling safe, and having food to eat that is good for our health.

In a global economy giving emphasis to modernization and production where everything happens fast, we need to use as much observation and insight as we can in decisions we have to make on a day-to-day basis.

We use our mental ability to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand intellectual ideas and perceptions, and use knowledge to influence our environment.

Perception and insight take time to develop. To speed up our progress in gaining experience or new skills and in applying practical decision-making, especially that business skills are limited in good decision-making, we have to make use of experience and careful thinking to find the right course of action.

We frequently face an excess of information coming from different sources and of different worth. At times, we have to take a decision with partial information. To act in a capable manner, we must plan a reasonable future situation, decide on the result that is most advantageous to us, and then act.

Rola Ruohong Wei and Jeffrey Yip wrote a book on Leadership Wisdom–Discovering the Lessons of Experience. In this book, they talk about the need of leaders to bring as much wisdom as possible to decision-making as they often find themselves torn between making quick but well-thought decisions almost all day every day.

Research on cognitive psychology says that people with the intellectual ability to make sound judgments, learn from common experiences, and embrace values that benefit them and others are considered wise. People who learn from the experiences of others as well as from their own, can often outshine others.

Investigating, considering, and careful thinking help us reach a clever approach to making decisions. Investigating takes our attention externally by having a dialogue with others, which opens us to valuable learning that people get from significant life events. Careful thinking takes our attention within, where an inner space is created that allows us to understand and learn from our own experience.

To investigate properly, we must find out who to ask, what to ask, and how to ask.

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Who Should we Ask for Input?

When selecting people to ask, older and better educated individuals are not automatically the best choice. Young or less educated individuals may have a better understanding on how to handle difficult situations. The best people to approach are those who are aware of their personal strengths and limitations, deal with a lot of people, are good listeners and open-minded. They must also have a wide knowledge base, that is a broad store of information or data that is available to draw on.

What to Ask?

We could find out from them about how they handled situations or events related to a current situation that is causing us trouble. We could ask them for details about what happened, how they felt, what their reaction was, and what was the consequence of their action.

How to Ask?

  • Listen carefully and pay attention to their body language as much as their words.
  • Withhold judgement until we have heard everything.
  • Rephrase and summarize. When we rephrase what people tells us, we repeat what they say in a different way to help us understand and memorize.
  • Take notes.
  • Share our own issue and ask for advice; and
  • Be open-minded and accept different perspectives.

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Careful thinking and Integration

Careful thinking takes place when we grasp what we have learned, why and how we have learned it. This allows us to integrate what we know. If we do not integrate and embrace what we learned, our experiences become incoherent and puzzling.

Looking for a personal meaning means putting our experience in its context, trying to understand the reason this experience was meaningful, judging our action based on whether it led to the desire outcome, and finding out if another approach would have given a different, and perhaps better, outcome.

We can start by identifying a major event in our life and taking time to consider the lesson we have learned from that particular event. We can do the same with other major life events. This could lead us to understand better where we are in life compared to where we thought we were heading. You can then adjust to steer the course of our life.

Careful thinking involves examining, scrutinizing, and combining into a meaningful whole. This helps us to understand ourselves and our environment, which in turn enhances and improves our ability to make smart decisions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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