The Goldilocks Approach to Decision-Making

I often find my corporate clients struggling with decision making because they get into a kind of black or white thinking They examine an issue and decide that it should either be yes or no, go or no-go or we’ve always done it that way, so let’s try something different this time. This kind of thinking typically happens because we fall back into familiar and comfortable ways of thinking.

Even the most mundane kinds of decisions often lead us to this binary way of thinking. Just this morning, my golfing buddy called me to ask what I thought about getting out and playing today. Dreary, cold and wet is the only way to describe today with a late spring snowstorm in the offing for tonight and tomorrow. If we’re going to get in any golf for the rest of this week, today, as bad as it seems would be the only option. Could we get in 18? Would the ground be too wet? How many layers would I have to put on to deal with 45-degree temperatures? Go or no go…that’s all I could think.  Then Steve came up with a novel idea. Why don’t we go out and start playing and see how it goes. If it gets too cold, then we could come on in and have a big bowl of soup while watching playoff hockey? Great idea and off we went.

In my consulting work, I see one of my main tasks being to give my clients choices. I tell them that the color palette on your computer screen has over 1 million colors and while there may not be a million choices for you to consider when you are faced with a decision, you certainly have more than 2, probably more like 5-10. But at the very least you should think about how Goldilocks approaches her predicament when she entered the house of the Three Bears.

Goldilocks was hungry and discovered three bowls of porridge. She tried the first and it was too hot, then she tried the second and it was too cold, but when she tried the third one, it was just right and she ate it all down.  Goldilock’s research revealed that given a series of choices she could try out one extreme, then another extreme and one which led her to a near perfect decision (other than being a home invader!)

In problem solving and decision-making for yourself and your team consider the extremes of the options that you have to choose from. What’s the worse case that can happen with that choice; what’s the best thing that can happen? By examining the extremes of alternatives, we often can find the appropriate middle ground that gives us the best and most acceptable choice from the array we can choose from.

While you might question Goldilocks overall decision making, she was definitely onto something when examining all her alternatives before making her final call.  Evaluate your options thoroughly to make sure you give yourself the best chance for a nourishing an successful decision

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