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Eileen McClelland

When Faced with a Big Decision, Don’t Just Go with Your Gut

Sometimes you need to take a breath and hit pause.

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IF YOU’RE THE kind of leader who always “trusts your gut,” you might want to read “Outsmart Your Biases,” one of the highly useful articles featured in the book “HBR’s 10 Must Reads: The definitive management ideas of the year from the Harvard Business Review.”

Why?

Relying too heavily on automatic judgments often backfires. Intuition can lead us astray.

Sure, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making snap decisions – as a retailer, you face time pressures, exhaustion, and other stressors.

Still, take a breath and hit pause before you make your next hire, introduce your next jewelry line, or decide to remodel your space.

Instead of seeking closure on an important decision too quickly, be prepared to ask yourself tough questions about possible scenarios and seek advice from others, too.

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And instead of asking yourself yes or no questions, outline your objectives, options and alternatives.

First, make a list of your own objectives. What do you hope to achieve?

Then consider all of your options, and ask trusted advisers to draw up a list of options, too. Once you have a comprehensive list, narrow it down to at least two, but ideally three to five, the authors recommend.

But don’t stop there. Assume you can’t choose any of those options and have to come up with another one. Ask yourself, “What else could I do?” a question which should generate even more alternatives.

As a rule of thumb, the authors say, it’s good to anticipate three possible futures, establish three key objectives and generate three viable options for each decision scenario. This general approach will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by endless possibilities, which can be every bit as debilitating as seeing to few.

They write: “Even the smartest people exhibit biases in their judgments and choices. It’s foolhardy to think we can overcome them through sheer will. But we can anticipate and outsmart them by nudging ourselves in the right direction when it’s time to make a call.”

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(“Outsmart Your Own Biases” by Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman and John W. Payne was originally published in May 2015.)

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