10 Tips for Decision-Making in Uncertain Situations
Concrete thinkers in today’s world are under pressure. Viewing the world through a black-and-white lens is deceptive, and your decision-making suffers, especially in a world where market conditions change quickly and you have to navigate ambiguous situations. Here are ten tips to help you make the jump from black-and-white thinking and guide you in your decision-making.
Assumptions and unexamined beliefs can limit your understanding of a situation. Unchecked assumptions increase uncertainty because they lead to false conclusions and limit your options. You’re probably making assumptions if you tend to think in terms of absolutes and if you think you already know whatever it is you need to know.
Therefore, you want to check your assumptions every now and then. Ask questions before arriving at conclusions or leaping into action. Doing so helps you see what’s blurring your view of the situation.
Stretch out of your comfort zone
People are like elastic bands — they only grow when they stretch. If you don’t invest in your personal and professional growth, you put yourself under a lot more pressure. Decisions made without pushing the envelope or trying something new create the same repetitive results, even when you want something different to occur.
The beauty of being an elastic band is that you can play with how much you stretch your thinking, your imagination, or your vulnerability — all of which lead to better decision-making.
Ask profound questions
The quality of the decisions you make reflects the quality of the questions you ask. Profound questions illuminate the underlying unseen dynamics that can inspire a new way of working or thinking about the situation. Great questions don’t seem profound in the moment, but they inspire illuminating answers.
How many times have you walked into an uncertain situation and sensed that there was more to the situation than met the eye?
When you’re not sure what happened in a situation and need to conduct a short, reflective debriefing, use exploratory questions characteristic of journalism: What? How? When? Where? By asking these questions, you discover what is going on under the surface and tap into creative ideas.
Learn from the past
Some people fear uncertainty. At the heart of this fear is the belief that, as long as they keep doing what they’ve done in the past, everything will go well. But times change, and so does everything else, especially as markets go global, business goes online, and customers expect more than an affordable product.
So rather than cling to the past, learn from it. Past experiences can teach you a lot; they can also confirm that you have the creativity, the confidence, and the character to walk into the unknown and thrive.
Listening deeply is harder than it sounds because of the tendency to not really pay attention to what the other person is saying. Many people, even when they appear to be listening, are actually jumping ahead in their minds to what they’ll say in response, and many others just cut in to redirect the conversation or interject their own opinions.
You gain insight and flex your empathic muscles when you listen deeply to what has heart and meaning to someone, without overlaying your own ideas about whether they’re right or wrong, weak or strong, or dumb or smart — or whether you even agree.
When someone gets over the shock of having your undivided attention, you’ll experience what listening deeply means. Words don’t convey the meaning. Connection to what matters to the person across from you is what listening deeply is all about.
Perception defines what you see in a situation, and the ability to shift perspective gives you access to better solutions in more situations. Why? Because decisions are better when diverse views converge into approaches or solutions that can be cooperatively held by more people.
Anytime you’re faced with making a difficult decision, explore different perspectives. You will make better decisions if you’re flexible about how you see, think, and approach the decision.
Move from inertia to action
Moving from inertia to action refers to taking what you’ve learned or the ideas swimming around in your brain and putting them into action. After you put an idea or understanding into action, you can reflect on what you’ve learned. By integrating what you know and experience into your future decisions, you improve those decisions.
The unfamiliar looks scary to most people at first. But don’t let that stop you from taking action.
Pay attention to what your heart tells you
Trying to do something without having your heart in it is like pushing rope uphill. It’s hard, if not impossible. Paying attention to whether your heart is in a decision is the simplest way to test your commitment to a course of action and to finalize which option you will ultimately choose.
You can try, if you insist, to use your mental will to override your feelings about a decision. You can get away with it for a while, but sooner or later, you’ll experience burnout or feel disheartened.
Because your heart brings a powerful form of intelligence to decision-making, you may as well use it. So test options or decisions you’re making by listening to your heart. Do you feel fully engaged, half-hearted, or numb?
Embrace the unpredictable
The future of the world is uncertain and unpredictable. So why not embrace this inherent uncertainty as an opportunity to be creative? Rather than hunker down in fear over what isn’t known, focus your energies and your decision-making on discovering creative possibilities. Even die-hard linear and analytical thinkers can be creative and fast on their feet.
Work with risk differently
Humans tend to discount the probability of future events. If a risk isn’t immediate, we tend to ignore it. The result? People end up unprepared. Therefore, take a different approach to risk. Instead of viewing it as a future possibility that’s not likely to happen, look at the possible risk as though you are dealing with it today. Make it real. Then plan for it.