Be Better at Making Decisions—and Sticking to Them

To err is human—and struggling to make up your mind is, too. “We all wrestle with making decisions, particularly when they have short-term costs and long-term benefits,” says Francesca Gino, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan.

People who seem to make executive calls with ease don’t have faster or bigger brains. They probably just know their brains better than the rest of us.

“Most of us have no trouble acknowledging that we do not know how our kidneys or other body parts work, and we are open to learning more about them, especially when we are sick,” Gino explains. “Too often, however, we assume that we know exactly what’s going on in our minds when we face and make decisions.”

She says that there are real forces that divert us, such as emotions, social bonds and irrelevant information. As a result, “even when we are fully committed to following our best intentions and behaving in ways that are consistent with our self-image of being competent, effective and honest people, we often reach outcomes that bear little resemblance to our initial goal,” Gino says. “Our decisions veer off course and lead to poor outcomes.”

Gino has a new book out, Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, and will be speaking at the 2018 MA Conference for Women in December. In the meantime, here are her three steps to making and sticking to your decisions:

#1. Recognize that our mind has bugs like computer software that make it difficult for us to stick to our plans.

#2. Make plans that spell out what you need to do to follow through. Research shows that mapping out the details in advance—when, where, how—will increase the likelihood that you will adhere to your decision.

#3. Check on your progress. Only by tracking things throughout the process, can you make needed adjustments—and stay on course.

Francesca Gino will be leading a workshop on being a maverick at the 2018 MA Conference for Women.


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