In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Effective decision-making is… hard. Add in complex innovation projects with multiple players, stakeholders and risks, and the pressure to make good decisions can become critical — and overwhelming.
In fact, no company can reach its full potential without the ability to make hard decisions quickly, consistently and with effective implementation. With a correlation between decision quality and business performance, it’s essential to understand how biased decisions can kill an innovation before it even starts.
Curious how you can improve your decision-making skills in your company’s innovation projects?
Decision-making when innovating: when does it happen?
Every innovation process has multiple stages in which tough decisions must be made.
Market insights can be a valuable resource during each phase of the decision-making process. To make the most objective and effective choices for your solution, look for tools that can quickly produce impartial analyses at each stage of innovation. The best decisions are based on clear data and with a clear mind that’s conscious of its biases.
How do we, as humans, actually make decisions?
Whether we realize it or not, we go through quite a complex mental process when problem solving. From gathering data, subjectively processing it, assigning meaning based on brain patterns and taking action with a decision, there are six different modes in which decisions are usually made:
Think: survival; fight or flight. This mode is at the DNA level, where action is taken immediately, utilizing little to no thought or reflection.
While similar to instinct-based, subconscious decisions are based on your own personal subconscious memories versus your brain’s drive to survive. There is still little rational reflection or thought, resulting in a purely emotionally charged response.
Decisions must utilize conscious beliefs to be logical. Here, thought comes before action, and time is taken to seek counsel, deliberate and discuss information objectively — pushing subconsciousness aside and utilizing past lessons.
Values-based decisions require digging deeper than logic, forming your own individual beliefs and values with which to evaluate choices. Instead of basing decisions from past experiences, values-based choices focus on the future you hope to create — whether alone or in a team.
Here, the focus is neither on evaluating past experiences nor future goals, but at the present moment — accepting what “is” and using mindfulness to evaluate a choice without the biases of beliefs, values, prior situations or future goals.
Unlike the definitive solutions found in intuition-based decisions, inspiration-based decisions represent an ongoing state of “flow” deriving from the soul itself. Values and intuitions lead to inspiration, empowering you to fulfill your purpose.
Are you aware of which mode is your default? Or which is the most beneficial for each stage of innovation? A readaptation may be necessary to make the most fruitful choices for your innovation.
Be wary of cognitive biases
Simply put, cognitive biases are the enemy of innovation. While there are many different forms of subconscious biases that infect problem solving, a few of the most common are:
- Confirmation bias: preferring knowledge that reinforces and confirms your pre-existing beliefs, resulting in close mindedness
- False causality bias: attributing coincidence to causation, creating false “evidence” that can lead to pursuing the wrong goals
- Loss aversion bias: becoming too emotionally attached to a project, even when it’s inefficient — resulting in an inability to change course
- Conformity bias: valuing the opinions of the masses over personal evaluations, resulting in “groupthink” and discarding the creativity of outside ideas
- Self-serving bias: valuing the ideas that increase your own ego over the objectively best decisions
- Authority bias: valuing the ideas of those in authority over the best ideas, regardless who they come from — detracting from true innovation
Overcoming toxic biases — and saving your innovation
The first step in conquering these poisonous prejudices is knowing they exist and acknowledging them when they occur. Next, you must be willing to question your motives behind choices and encourage an impartial decision process. In essence, you must reflect upon how you reflect — and become open to external viewpoints that may offer just the insights you’re looking for.