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Types of Decision Making

Levels, Styles, Processes

It’s not often realised that there are different types of decision making.

Although this may seem obvious it’s not always understood. And even when it is, decision types may not be fully considered when decisions are being made.

Improve your decision making by considering some important variables.

In this article we introduce our series on types of decision making. From here you can link to pages which explain how decisions are affected by such variables as:

Types of Decision Making

According to Ohio State University management professor, Paul C. Nutt, we only get about 50% of our decisions in the workplace right! Half the time they are wrong, so there is clearly plenty of scope to improve on our decision making processes. Hopefully this series of articles will help you to imrove those odds.

Perhaps the obvious place to start is to ensure a decision really needs to be made. If you haven’t done so already, you might like to read our article: Decision Making Lesson 1: Do You Need to Make One! Once you’ve done this, and you’re sure a decision needs to be made, the next thing to think about is the level of decision that needs to be made.

Types of Decisions Making: Decision Levels

The first of our types of decision making variables is the level of the decision. When faced with a decision, try asking yourself questions such as:

How complex is the decision?
How important is the decision?
How strategic is the decision?

Our article: An Initial Decision Making Technique addresses these questions and more. Use it to help you make an intial assessment of the level of decision you’re about to make. For example, the level of engagement you may need from others or the level of risk possibly associated with making the decision. It will help you to filter decision making variables before adopting an appropriate decision making process.

Types of Decision Making: Styles

Types of Decision Making: ProcessThere are various types of decision making style. These can be categorised by the degree to which other people participate in the process. There is good evidence to support the argument for involving others in decision making. However, participation can also be a time consuming activity. Again, there are questions to be asked. Such as:

To what extent should you involve others in decision making?
In what conditions might participation techniques work best?

Our article: Decision Making Styles looks at two of the best known models relating to participative decision making.

Types of Decision Making: Process

A third way to categorize decision making is by the processes used. These can vary from classical, rationalistic, decision making processes to less structured, subjective methods.

In our article: Rational Decision Making, we discuss a classical approach to decision making. This approach consists of a sequence of structured steps, designed to rationally develop a desired solution. Typically these steps progress from problem/opportunity identification to the selection of preferred alternatives.

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One of the principle assumptions of a rational decision making process is that human beings make rational decisions. However, often there is a wide range of factors which determine our decisions, many of which are not rational. In many situations, decisions have to be made with incomplete and/or insufficent information.

In this context, an understanding of intuitive decision making approaches is useful. Intuition and Decision Making introduces some recent thinking on how people make decisions. In contrast to rational processes, intuitive decision making is less structured, and places more emphasis on feelings, perceptions and judgements, rather than facts and analysis.

Perhaps though, the best solution is not “either/or”. Possibly the most practical of decision making skills is the ability to combine a rational approach with intuitive insights. If you have time, have a look at this video of Canadian thought-leader, Malcolm Gladwell. He’s at his entertaining and persuasive best in discussing the differences between rational and intuitive decision making.

Once you’ve finished with Gladwell’s take on decision making, use these articles and our great-value resources to inform your understanding and practice. Different types of decision making require different approaches, something we particularly address in our e-guide: Making Better Decisions.


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