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Making an Informed Decision Is the Best Decision

For you and those you ask for advice when choosing

Image by g-stockstudio from Getty Images, edited by Author

Researchers at Cornell University determined we make 226.7 decisions per day on FOOD ALONE. (I believe the 0.7 decision was that fleeting thought I had regarding a Chili dog, before my common sense — and GERD — prevailed).

We literally make a multitude of decisions every single day. Again, it’s been estimated the average adult makes over 35,000 decisions per day! How we make those decisions says a lot about us, and it often determines the effectiveness of making a decision.

For example, sometimes (just sometimes?) we are IMPULSIVE. We just decide to do something because, well, it feels right. I’ve had a lot of entrepreneurs tell me, “Well, I just had a ‘gut feeling’ about this decision, so I did it!”

Hmmm… I’ve always said that before you make a decision based on gut feelings, it might help to develop your gut (i.e. get those six-pack mental abs first!).

In addition, sometimes we make decisions based on AVOIDANCE. We simply don’t want to deal with the situation so we either ignore it until the situation resolves itself (makes its own decision) or we just let the situation “fade away” in hopes it won’t become important but will rather disappear.

Yeah. Good luck with that one as well.

A lot of managers are guilty of avoiding the need to terminate someone’s employment because the manager doesn’t like confrontation, so they simply avoid the decision and pile work on the person so they’ll quit. That normally doesn’t work well. When faced with even more work, an employee who isn’t getting the work done is likely to not get even more work done. Not quit because of it.

There are plenty of other ways we make decisions. We delegate them to others, meaning we decide to let someone else decide. We decide to be compliant, making a decision that is pleasing and popular to others (because we like to be liked). We make “balanced” decisions, weighing the pros and cons and doing a lot of if/then conjectures to make an informed and reasonable decision.

We also make reflective decisions; we ponder the results of the decision, the overall ramifications of the choice, and the long-term effects of the decision. We often engage experts, mentors, advisors, friends, and others who have been faced with similar choices to assist us in the decision-making process.

But to help you with your decision making, let me offer this piece of advice:

Provide details!

I live in a retirement community, where most people get around by driving golf carts. A friend of mine asked, “Should I purchase a gas golf cart or an electric golf cart? What do you think?”

Well, what I THOUGHT was this: “GIVE ME MORE DETAILS! Are you going to drive long distances every day/week? If so, a gas cart is a better option. Are you inclined to be more ecologically-minded? Then get an electric cart.

Does the cost of maintenance seem daunting to you? An electric cart has lower maintenance costs. Do you see yourself making frequent trips every day? You might be better off with a gas cart. Can you remember to “plug in” the electric cart every night, so it’s fully charged the next day? If not, maybe a gas cart is best for you.”

And so on, and so on.

It’s very difficult to help others if you don’t have a complete picture of WHY they’re pondering the decision, WHAT the factors are surrounding the decision, WHEN the decision has to be made, WHO the decision impacts, and HOW they’re approaching the choice. (Yes, I know I left out the “where.” It doesn’t really apply, in my humble opinion, but I suppose it could if you’re making a choice about where to live, etc.).

I do mentor several companies, and provide advisement on several company boards. I find myself constantly being asked to assist with serious decisions, matters of importance that truly affect the future and growth of the corporation, and I also find over and over that I have to ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION!

Like my friend and the golf cart choice, I need the details of the situation, the direction, the options, the past decisions that led to this decision, etc. So my answer to most people when they ask for my advice regarding a particular decision is “IT DEPENDS.” And that’s because a true answer DOES depend on the factors surrounding the choice.

This is why the details are crucial

Another example was from a particular entrepreneur who asked me about taking investment dollars from a particular group. At the end of an “A” round of funding, this entrepreneur had raised more than she set as a goal. (She had set a target of $5.5 million, and two weeks before the expected close of the round she had collected $5.9 million, with the approval of the board.)

One particularly prominent group (who had offered a million dollars early in the round) asked for a “short breakfast meeting” with the entrepreneur to “just go over some details.” She called me at 7:44 a.m. that day from outside the restaurant. The group had sent six representatives to the meeting, four of whom were the group’s attorney’s.

They were making some serious demands: “We need permanent, non-revocable seats on the board” and “We need guarantees you won’t raise any more funding to dilute our investment” and “We’ll need an additional two observer seats on the board,” and “We need our investment backed up by the patent portfolio of the company.”

She had been ambushed, and she was upset because she was being pushed to make decisions she wasn’t prepared to make. I told her to simply go back, enjoy the breakfast, tell them she would love to have a list of all their requests and demands, and she would take it up with her board.

As I expected (as WE expected, actually), they didn’t like that answer and they wanted an immediate decision from her. (They even asked that she get me on the phone, as I was the chair of the board at that time.) So she thanked them for their interest and told them again she would need a detailed list and explanation and then she would get back to them; otherwise, she appreciated their consideration of the company and perhaps they would reconsider an investment in the future.

WELL PLAYED, well played. She left the breakfast feeling empowered and in charge (she was!) and never looked back. (She closed the round without their investment and has since raised two more rounds of greater magnitude.) I was thrilled that I was able to help her.

Not just that asked for my help, but that I was able to help her. BECAUSE she gave me direct details of the discussion, explanations of their demands, and her thoughts about the situation. I had enough background to be able to give her solid advice.

If she had just called me and said, “They want a bunch of stuff and I’m not sure about it,” I wouldn’t have been able to assist her, and I couldn’t have made reasonable value judgments about the situation. Having her carefully explain everything enabled me to give her the best advice I could possibly give.

Your takeaway

So, the moral of the story? When you ask something of someone, expect an answer of “it depends” UNLESS you give them solid, significant details of your request. Try to include everything that might impact the decision and state the reason/purpose you’re seeking advice.

I guarantee you will receive better and more concise information if you’re specific with your request. Your clarification of the problem, the issues, the decision points will make the responses you receive much more pertinent to the answers you receive.

Help yourself make an informed choice by informing those you from whom you seek advisement. Make sure they have all the facts so they can help you make a factual choice!

Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on October 5, 2021.

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