What is your decision default setting?

I don’t think there is any doubt that we want to make good decisions, but many of us fail to do so because we have a ‘decision default’ setting.

A decision default setting is basically the way we naturally lean when it comes to decision-making, and businesses, like people have their preference.

For example, some businesses hate rocking the boat, so their decision default is to take the option that follows the crowd or sticks to the status quo. Other businesses have a preference for the easiest or fastest decision – they are fast movers and just want to ‘get on with it’ whatever ‘it’ is. And then there are the businesses that don’t like conflict with their major competitors – in making their decisions they automatically avoid the one that would take them into the path of their toughest competitor.

As with many other human characteristics we tend to assume that everyone shares the same decision default setting as we do, but of course that’s simply not true. If you need corroboration of that then take a quick look at how your nearest and dearest approach the vexing decisions surrounding Christmas gift giving.

At one end of the spectrum are the data driven analytical types who spend what seems like forever deciding on the perfect gift, while over at the other end are the Christmas Eve shoppers for whom pretty much any gift that can be purchased speedily will do.

Decision default settings are nature’s way of helping us save time – if we laboured over everything we’d never get anything done. But it’s useful to acknowledge our own decision default settings so that we can challenge them in times of important decision-making.

It’s not hard to do this. Over the next couple of months stand back and look at the way you approach decisions and ask yourself:

  • Am I fully considering the range of alternatives?
  • Am I being pulled, magnet-like, in any one direction?
  • Why do I favour that direction?
  • Is there a pattern to my decision-making?

This is particularly important for CEOs of small- and medium-sized businesses because, not surprisingly, the businesses tend to mirror the decision default setting of the CEO. Without realising it, you could be ‘training’ your employees to make decisions according to your default setting, a culture which as it becomes embedded is hard to change.

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses:Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of “How to Bake a Business”  and was previously a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has a degree in economics from The London School of Economics (London University).


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