Four Steps for Better Decision-Making

The Keynote speaker on day 1 here at the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Executive Institute (follow on Twitter #MASSUPTEI18) was Dan Heath. You have probably heard of Dan and his brother Chip and their four best-selling books (Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments).  Their most recent book, The Power of Moments, is a great summer read for educators.  Whether you are an administrator or a classroom teacher, finding ways to “create experiences that have an extraordinary impact” is a constant goal. The book contains a number of examples from teachers and administrators who have found success altering routines and have created “elevated” experiences for learners.

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Getting back to yesterday’s keynote, Dan shared a 4-step process for better decision-making.

  1. Widen options – Heath cited a couple of studies that showed that both individuals and organizations often limit their decision-making to an either/or scenario where there are only two options. He noted that adding just one additional option increased the chances of success significantly. (One expert he cited was Paul Nutt from Ohio State)
  2. Reality Test Your Assumptions – This one is also known as confirmation bias. When we believe something to be true, often times we only look for research that supports our point of view.  He encouraged school leaders to check with colleagues who have had similar experiences before making a final decision on something significant. We really don’t do this enough.
  3. Attain Some Distance – “Trusting your gut” is not the best option sometimes according to Heath. Sometimes we need to take some time and ask ourselves some of the following questions to break out of the complacent or comfortable path we might be on.
    • What would our successors do?
    • What would our successors wish we had done?
  4. Prepare to be wrong – Heath noted that getting a decision wrong is not as important as the process by which you got to the decision. If people are happy with the process that you utilized to get to a decision, then they are usually accepting of the outcome even if it is lousy.

While this four-steps seem like common sense, I am again reminded of Voltaire’s quote “Common sense is not so common.”

On to Day two of #MASSUPTEI18!



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