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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

3 Strategies for Making Better, More Informed Decisions

Francesca Gina
Harvard Business Review
Originally published 25 May 23

Here is an excerpt:

Think counterfactually about previous decisions you’ve made.

Counterfactual thinking invites you to consider different courses of action you could have taken to gain a better understanding of the factors that influenced your choice. For example, if you missed a big deadline on a work project, you might reflect on how working harder, asking for help, or renegotiating the deadline could have affected the outcome. This reflection can help you recognize which factors played a significant role in your decision-making process — for example, valuing getting the project done on your own versus getting it done on time — and identify changes you might want to make when it comes to future decisions.

The 1998 movie Sliding Doors offers a great example of how counterfactual thinking can help us understand the forces that shape our decisions. The film explores two alternate storylines for the main character, Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), based on whether she catches an upcoming subway train or misses it. While watching both storylines unfold, we gain insight into different factors that influence Helen’s life choices.

Similarly, engaging in counterfactual thinking can help you think through choices you’ve made by helping you expand your focus to consider multiple frames of reference beyond the present outcome. This type of reflection encourages you to take note of different perspectives and reach a more balanced view of your choices. By thinking counterfactually, you can ensure you are looking at existing data in a more unbiased way.

Challenge your assumptions.

You can also fight self-serving biases by actively seeking out information that challenges your beliefs and assumptions. This can be uncomfortable, as it could threaten your identity and worldview, but it’s a key step in developing a more nuanced and informed perspective.

One way to do this is to purposely expose yourself to different perspectives in order to broaden your understanding of an issue. Take Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. When he assumed the role in 2014, he recognized that the company’s focus on Windows and Office was limiting its growth potential. Not only did the company need a new strategy, he recognized that the culture needed to evolve as well.

In order to expand the company’s horizons, Nadella sought out talent from different backgrounds and industries, who brought with them a diverse range of perspectives. He also encouraged Microsoft employees to experiment and take risks, even if it meant failing along the way. By purposefully exposing himself and his team to different perspectives and new ideas, Nadella was able to transform Microsoft into a more innovative and customer-focused company, with a renewed focus on cloud computing and artificial intelligence.