Have you ever wondered why some people go from one success to another, while others struggle to make it? To a large extent, how they make decisions can explain the difference.
Your decision-making patterns are determined by your early 20’s. Your cognitive strengths and weaknesses are derived from how much time you routinely spend in each of the three stages in decision-making, each stage comprising two cognitive processes. Your successes in life are determined by how effectively you leverage the resulting strengths. If your results are not what you would like, it is essential to bring awareness to your decision-making patterns to begin to make a shift.
We can get to the point of awareness, but then what to we do? We encounter pitfalls in our decision-making, stemming from our ingrained patterns.
The 3 stages involved decision-making.
We all have fixed and predictable patterns emphasizing more or less of our time between the three stages outlined below, impacting collaboration and effectiveness. Your strengths and habits will favor some of these over the others. It is critical to understand that ALL of these are important to varying degrees depending on your goals. Spending 20% of your time, or greater, in any of these cognitive processes indicates a strong motivation in the area, and below 10% is a potential blind spot. An elementary view of these cognitive processes follows.
The stage of gathering information:
Exploring is a way to gather information with a broad scope. This involves looking for alternatives, different options or brainstorming. Spending a lot of time in this process will lend to innovative solutions, yet one may also make you appear distracted and not focused.
Investigating is the process of gathering in-depth information on a narrower scope. Gathering and analyzing detailed information for an initiative to be well informed. People who spend a lot of time in this process will be prepared, analytical and will take less risk when proceeding to action, yet they may overwhelm others with too much information they may not be interested in receiving.
The stage of deliberating:
Evaluating is the process of weighing pros and cons, prioritizing initiatives, information or actions. This is a deliberative process of creating clarity and shaping hierarchy. People who spend a lot of time here may be able to create clarity for themselves and others, yet see things as black and white, potentially to the point of being judgmental.
Determining is the process of standing firm in your position when faced with obstacles, regardless of changes in circumstance. Will you push back if others apply pressure to you? Or will you cave? People who spend a lot of time in this process are known to have grit, yet may be viewed as stubborn.
The stage of executing:
Anticipating is the process of generating vision, forecasting consequences of actions down the road and staging activities to reach an end goal. People who spend a lot of time here are great in forward planning and spotting trends, yet may be anxious, always living in the future and not in the present.
Timing is the process of being able to accelerate or decelerate actions based on the needs of an initiative, in contrast with those who prefer to execute with steady pace. People who spend a lot of time here are known to seize opportunities, yet may expect others to match their adjustment in pace and become impatient with others who cannot do so.
What happens when emphasis varies between these processes?
One logical way to progress through decision-making is in a linear fashion from stage to stage, starting with gathering information, to deciding what to do, to doing it. However, it doesn’t always work that way. Many people will commit to something and figure out the information they require later or along the way. Others may take a position to decide what is important to them, then collect the information required to maintain their position and execute accordingly. The manner in which people navigate these three stages and six processes, along with the time spent in these areas are what create the differences in our cognitive patterns. Let’s look at a select few of the overall patterns we see frequently.
Some individuals spend relatively equal amounts of time in each of the decision-making stages. This is what we called a well-balanced profile giving each stage sufficient consideration. This decision-making pattern, indicates someone who is a generalist because he/she is not strongly motivated by any cognitive process to spend time developing the correlating skills. This person may not be known for being innovative, analytical, visionary etc. We don’t see this profile as frequently as others, but it is a good frame of reference for the following examples.
Another decision-making pattern comprises a strong motivation to spend time in the first stage of gathering information, relative to deliberating and executing, displayed visually as an upside down pyramid. This is a low risk profile; being thoroughly prepared with information, but having lesser time get things done. One motivated with this pattern may not be known as being productive. This type of pattern may be beneficial to a researcher, but may frustrate others when deadlines approach.
Yes another pattern may display an emphasis in the middle stage of deliberation, generally reflected as a diamond shape. This indicates lesser time invested in gathering information or executing to get things done, and an emphasis on taking and maintaining a purpose and position. An individual with this pattern will continually weigh pros and cons, shaping hierarchy or the situation to the degree of right and wrong and will stick with it regardless of the information uncovered or data presented. When a position is taken and maintained without information, this is what leads to bias in decision-making. What is the position based on? This individual may also take a position based on a subset of information available or presented to support their intention, dismissing the rest, which is known as confirmation bias. The concern with this decision-making pattern, is that a firm position will be taken, not necessarily rooted in fact and not much will be accomplished either. Does that sound like most politicians we know?
Still another example of an overall pattern is reflected as a pyramid shape, indicating a strong motivation to accomplish and move matters through to completion. With minimal information gathering, this profile is positioned for higher risk. There may be a motivation to deliberate sufficiently, but not based on information, again indicating a potential for bias. This individual may be a good project manager, planning execution and timelines, and relying on a team to manage the information and structure.
Working with similar or different decision-making patterns.
Have you started to get an idea of what your overall pattern is and if you are known for your research, innovation, creating systems, persistence, vision or seizing opportunities? We tend to like others with patterns similar to our own, and we like to work with them because our approach to work automatically aligns.
If someone’s overall pattern emphasizes information gathering, he/she will not want to be rushed to deliberate or execute. Someone emphasizing execution will perceive that as a waste of time, the entire initiative is being held back, and will become impatient. This is a typical scenario of a conflict arising from differing approaches in decision-making.
Like tends to hire like. Many executives, managers and leaders will continue to hire people based on how that person will “fit in” with the team, desiring minimal conflict, with the perception that this will increase productivity. This inevitably leads to a skewed team with similar decision-making patterns. Unfortunately, this is exactly the formula to ensure groupthink. The strengths in decision-making will be reinforced and the weaknesses will be dismissed as unnecessary.
The well-known understanding of groupthink is that creativity and individual responsibility are discouraged. However, if a group is strongly motivated in Exploring, seeing and using information from a different perspective, this will be a creative group. Let’s say we all emphasize information gathering, being innovative and analytical, and nobody has an eye on when to execute to meet the looming deadlines. Not only will this group dismiss moving to deliberation and execution because they are reveling in their brilliance, they may end up blaming each other for dropping the ball on the missed processes and deadlines!
The ongoing cost of improperly constructed teams from the perspective of decision-making, will vary based on industry, time passed, money invested into poorly performing teams and how quickly movement can be made to restructure the mindset of the organization’s leaders in their hiring practice. The key for a leader to understand is that all employees cannot be pushed in the same way for the same work, invariably some of them will fail because the work didn’t align with their cognitive specialty.
The bottom line advice is to ensure a thorough process for an initiative is to construct a team having a variety of overall patterns in decision-making, as well as at least one individual with a strong motivation in each of the six cognitive processes. This designates a leader for each process to ensure that it is not missed, and individual responsibility will be required. This will position a team for conflict. Guaranteed. But when awareness is brought forth to the value of the varying approaches, the conflict easily dissolves to respect and valuing of each other’s talents.
Take your work to the next level.
Where do we go from here? Let’s take a look at some immediately applicable tools to re-align your work and working teams as they stand today.
• When approaching your tasks and responsibilities, spend time in each of the 6 cognitive processes. Many times when we make an error or don’t succeed, it is because we missed considering one of the 6 cognitive processes discussed above. This is a missed detail, overlooked viable option, lack of persistence, missing plan, missing process or we didn’t adjust pace for the deadline. Bringing one’s attention to each of the six processes in decision-making will ensure a thorough thought process.
• Structure team meetings ensuring an equal amount of time in each of the six cognitive processes. How many of us complain about too many meetings that go nowhere? If we cover each cognitive process with equal time, we are more likely able to progress from preliminary consideration to execution. Pass the lead of each of the 6 processes to those having strengths in the area.
• Assess project needs and compare these needs to the cognitive strengths of the team/individual. At the outset of a project, one can accurately predict the likelihood of success or failure. You can either accept or decline the project based on the cognitive profile of the team. If there is a deficiency in the cognitive patterns required on a project, a leader can supplement the team with consultants, or add other required resources.
• Reassign responsibilities within a team based on the cognitive strengths of the individuals. Structure the team to pass off parts of a project to each other based on cognitive strengths. When work roles and responsibilities utilize an employee’s cognitive strengths, workplace stress is reduced, work quality increases and turnover is reduced.
Incorporating one or all of the above suggestions will lead a team to success. Not by the games of showing up on time, staying late and walking fast in the hallway as suggested in many business periodicals, but by strategically crafting the decision-making processes and streamlined productivity.
Also Read : Team Collaboration Does Not Mean Team Building