Want better decisions? Open your notebook and your smartphone

Corporate managers focus on a lot of skills: sales, presentations, leadership,…

However, I see that there is one area that is often just taken for granted and that doesn’t receive special attention: decision making.

But decision making is not only important – it is also both a process that can be optimized as well as a skill that can be improved.

One technique that I have now practiced for years is idea mapping with pen and paper. I love writing and mapping out a decisions, including consequences, ideas etc. to really get a holistic overview of your decision.

The big benefit of this exercise is that you not only get a better picture of the decision but also that you have a better chance at avoiding psychological pitfalls (read also this FastCompany article in which Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman also advocates the pen & paper exercises)

Here a picture of this in action in a café:


I like to combine this with a second technique, one that is inspired by management thinker Peter Drucker.

Peter suggests us to frequently review our decisions in order to get better at it. That’s why you see on this picture also my laptop.

What I regularly do for major decisions is to write down the key assumptions of my decisions, so to speak the gist of the mapping exercise. I put these into my electronic calendar usually 6 and 12 months into the future.

What happens then is that 6 months from now a reminder will pop up – and in a couple of minutes I can review what happened with the decision and if my process and my assumptions were good ones in hindsights.

A 5-minute exercises like this can help you sharpen your decision making saw and get over time better and better at this crucial skill.

Which decisions tools/strategies do you use?

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