Another mistake is placing too great an emphasis, before a decision is made, on the need you will have to justify your rationale to others. When people feel forced to scrutinize their reasons up front, it has ways of disrupting the decision.
An example of this is found in wine tasting. Judging the quality of wine is a subjective experience and a complex judgment. When we ask people in studies to deconstruct that preference—to not only say which is their favorite but give their criteria for picking a favorite—it disrupts the quality of the decision. People end up choosing wines that are objectively seen (to the extent this can be objective) as being of lesser quality. Instead, allow people to make a general evaluation and then talk about their reasons afterward.
Another mistake is not having clear, explicit goals for any decision that everyone agrees is important. For some people the goal might be to do the best job possible, while for others it might be to avoid investing too much time in this endeavor. If people don’t agree, trouble arises.
Another mistake is overlooking sleep. Sleep seems to be very important for consolidation and memory—for taking complex information and restructuring it. We’ve done interesting studies where we look at how well people organize all their different ideas. After sleep and periods of unconscious thought, ideas seem to take more orderly shape.
S+B: Is high-quality decision making that simple: “Let’s sleep on it”?NORDGREN: I’m not suggesting that any of this is a magical or effortless process. In many cases, people associate the word “unconscious” with mysticism and unreliability—something they can’t explain. But we think it can be explained, and even measured. Nonetheless, when we’re leading a decision-making session, we don’t always tell people, “We’re going to pause right now to tap into the unconscious mind.” We just say we’re stopping for a bit of incubation time—time to integrate what we’ve heard. When they’re prompted to take the time by someone who does it authoritatively, people tend to recognize that the decision will be better as a result.
Reprint No. 00210
- Ken Favaro is a senior partner with Booz & Company and global head of the firm’s enterprise strategy practice. He is based in New York.
- Amy D’Onofrio is a Booz & Company associate in New York, aligned with the enterprise strategy practice.
- Also contributing to this article were Booz & Company partners Matthew Egol and Elizabeth Powers, senior executive advisors Shaun Holliday and Nadim Yacteen, chief marketing and knowledge officer Thomas A. Stewart, and head of global media and communications Margaret Kashmir.