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Easy Decisions


Explanations > Decisions > Easy Decisions

Complete | Cost-Benefit | Criteria | Little adverse | Low risk | No dependency | Good investment | Reversible | So what


Sometimes decisions are easy and obvious. At other times they are complex and difficult. Unsurprisingly, most people prefer easy decisions. This can be important in changing minds where easing their decision process is often very helpful.

Below are key factors that make decisions easier:

Complete yet limited information

Decisions are not made in a void. They need information on which the decision will be based. To be useful, this information must be complete, covering all the points which are important to the decider and not holding anything back that may influence the decision.

Yet the decision can be hard if there is a lot of complex information to wade through. Hence an easy decision not only needs complete information, it needs that information to be relatively little and easy to understand.

Clear cost and benefits

The benefits that may be gained, as compared with the true cost, indicates the real value and shows a basic 'Return on Investment' assessment. These are not always clear, for example true cost of products can include maintenance and other operational costs as well as price. Likewise, while desired benefits may be known, there may be additional benefits, including for other people, that the person is not considering. When costs and benefits are clear, then the decision is easier.

Clear choice criteria

When people choose, they assess the alternatives against a set of criteria such as ease of use, portability, strength and so on. If these are unclear, they may struggle to select the best option. They may also think they have adequate criteria and make a poor choice.

No significant adverse effects

While focusing on benefits is a good thing, the attention to this draws the mind away from negative outcomes such as damage to the environment or reduction in communication capability. When people want something they tend to ignore or forget negative factors. And when they are not convinced they exaggerate or invent these reasons not to choose certain options.

When making a serious decision, we tend to become more averse such negative effects and may well pay attention to this. If there are no adverse effects that we can see then the decision is easier. If there are possible problems, then more effort is needed in the decision, including working out how we may handle these effects.

No significant risks

People in general are terrible at estimating probabilities and also rather bad at generally looking into the future. Like other factors, risks will be exaggerated or downplayed based more on bias than fact, perhaps even more so. Risks can cause anxiety and delay, and it makes life a lot easier if there are no big risks to derail the decision.

As with adverse effects, risks become more important when the investment and benefits are greater, and consequently are likely to gain more attention. When perceived risks are low, then the decision is made more easily.

Do not need the involvement of others

When one person makes a decision it is relatively straightforward. But when others get involved, the complexity of choosing is often multiplies as a host of social factors come into play. Not only might people want different things, they may take their relationships into account. Even if you ask one person to make a decision and they think others need to be considered, it makes their job harder.

The decision is also harder if the result of the decision will impact more people. If we are deciding just for ourselves, then the choice is easy. If our decision will impact others, especially those about who we care, then we must be more careful in deciding.

Do not require significant investment before benefits are gained

Some things take a while to get into practice, such as a kitchen that needs construction and installation, or getting used to a new piece of software that has a steep or long learning curve. As benefits drift into the future their present benefit is mentally reduced, thus complicating the decision as return-on-investment perceptions are changed. Things with immediate benefit make decisions much easier.

Can be reversed if they turn out to be wrong

Sometimes decisions are reversible, such as the ability to return unwanted goods to a supplier. Even if there is some cost in returning the goods, it makes the initial decision easier as the risk of making the wrong decision is reduced.

So what?

When you are asking another person to make a decision, use the above notes to help make their choice easier. If their decision will be harder, then be ready with encouragement and information to persuade as needed.

See also

Decision Criteria


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