Decision-Making Process: Improving Our Ability to Make Decision Facing a situation, you have to decide. For example, the fire surrounds you: What do you do? Jump through the windows and risk to kill yourself or to wait the firemen and risk to be burned to death if they come to late? Every decision that we make or don't make shapes our future. Everyone tries to make good decisions. However, it is easy to overlook an important factor, miss a desirable option, or base the decision on unreliable information. In addition, fear of making a wrong choice can cause someone to postpone decisions, leading to miss opportunities.

A businessperson must have the ability to make decisions under the pressure of time and circumstances. This ability needs a good knowledge of the decision making process. From a practical point-of-view, of the most important human skills is decision-making. Both at a personal level and in context of organizations, decision-making skill strongly affects the quality of life and success. Decision-making is the process by which a person or group recognizes a choice, gathers information, analyzes the data, and determines the best option to choose. The decision-making process employs high levels of critical thinking skills and problem-solving techniques.

Decisions are guided by several factors, primarily the significance of the issue, the impact the decision may have, and the person's or group's morals and cultural norms. For less significant decisions that have little impact, people might not invoke the higher thinking skills that theorists expect (Decision-Making 2005). Flipping a coin, hoping for a miraculous sign, following the crowd, or by passing the responsibility to someone else are all means of making decisions. For more important decisions with greater impact, people often employ more advanced thought processes like those demonstrated in decision-making models by social psychologists and behaviorists. Most theories accept the idea that decision-making consists of a number of steps or stages such as improving creativity, critical thinking skills, and problem solving techniques.

It is well recognized that routine cognitive processes such as memory, reasoning, and concept formation play a primary role in decision-making (Decision-Making 2005). Leaders know in their gut that creativity and innovation are the life blood of their organization. New ideas can lead to programs that are superior to those that are already going on or planned in the organization and which would have been divested or never initiated had a better idea or program come along. So, the mission of every leader should be to search continually for ideas and programs that are superior to the ones the organization is currently committed to. Creativity can be divided into two phases of thinking: divergent thinking and convergent thinking (Welch 2001).

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Whereas divergent thinking involved tearing a topic apart to explore its various component parts, convergent thinking involves combining or joining different ideas together based on elements these ideas have in common. Convergent thinking means putting the different pieces of a topic back together in some organized structured and understandable fashion. Whenever new solutions are needed, then creativity becomes a part of the decision making process (Welch 2001).

Critical thinking skills are essential for making sense of large amounts of information. Loosely defined, critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed. The kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. Critical thinking also involves evaluating the thinking process. The reasoning that went into the conclusion we " ve arrived at the kinds of factors considered in making a decision.

Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it focused on a desired outcome (Critical Thinking Skills 2005). Critical thinking takes a number of different forms, a few of which are described below. Validating facts of critical thinking involves judging the validity of information presented as fact. It is important to treat all untested data with suspicion, no matter how reasonable it may seen. Secondly, making generalization. Generalizations are drawn based on a limited set of observation.

Generalizations allow people to make predictions. Once this rule is known, future outcomes can be forecast with a high degree of confidence. It is important that students base their generalizations on an adequate amount of information. A generalization that is formed too quickly may be wrong or incomplete or may lead down a dead-end path. The third form of critical thinking is making decisions. Making informed decisions requires knowledge, experience, and good judgment (Critical Thinking Skills 2005).

Problem solving is the decision making process from beginning to end, from recognizing the problem to implementing and follow up. There are a number of tools and techniques that can be learned to enhance your effectiveness as a decision maker. There are three problem solving techniques that have broad applications and as a result, they are useful in wide range of circumstances. They are brainstorming, cause-effect analysis and force-field analysis (Problem Solving 2005). Brainstorming is an excellent technique to begin the problem-solving process. Brainstorming can be used to help identify problems, solutions or the consequences of the alternative solutions.

Basically, it is an idea generating technique that is employed by a group of individuals who throw out their ideas as they think of them so that each has the opportunity to build on the ideas of the others. It is an especially useful technique for creating a breakthrough whenever you are presented with a new, unusual or different situation that is not amenable to a traditional solution. The key to successful brainstorming is to do nothing that will stifle the creativity of the group. Criticism of ideas will kill them quickly. Individually, participants quickly write possible solutions, share these alternatives as a group in a non-judgmental fashion, and continue to brainstorm. A brainstorming group is a "support" group.

A circle of open minds, open to new thinking and committed to helping new ideas blossom and grow. It is not a firing squad. Therefore, criticism is not allowed. When brainstorming, free-wheeling and free thinking is encouraged, enjoyed, laughed with, rather than laughed at. The journey from brainstorming to decision making can be a challenging road to travel. With creative tools and techniques to assist in the transition, brainstorming and decision-making will work as a successful combination for everyone involved (Problem Solving 2005).

Cause-effect analysis is one of the world's most used problem solving tools. Professor Kaoru Ishikawa who was on the faculty of the University of Tokyo invented cause-effect analysis in 1950. Cause-effect analysis is a way to break down even complex problems into their component parts. By doing so, detailed analysis and concentrated problem solving can be developed. The result of this process is known as a fish diagram or the fish bone technique.

Cause and effect analysis is s systematic way to look at the effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects (Problem Solving 2005). Force field analysis is a useful way to gain an understanding of the factors influencing the problems you are considering. In force field analysis, there are two opposing sets of forces to examine. They are driving forces, those pushing you in the direction you want to go and restraining forces, those preventing you from moving in the desired direction. In organizations, such forces, even if it appears to be static, affect any situation.

To change the situation, a person must change the balance of forces. As part of the problem solving process, force-field analysis allows someone to look at the factors that may contribute to the success or failure of the proposed solution. It is also useful for identifying potential causes of problems as well as potential solutions. To apply force-field analysis to real work problems, a person must envision his or her problem as a situation held in balance by two sets of forces.

The goal is to move toward a desired future state. To reach that state a person must figure out the driving and restraining forces and decide which ones to alter (Problem Solving). Problem solving and decision-making are gaining increased attention as a focal point for the study of organizational management and are the justification for the study of business ethics. This is because decision-making is one of the most important recurring activities facing managers today. Choices must be made every day and these choices have real consequences for managers and their employers.

With few exceptions, the work performed by managers involves or is related to decision making in the organization. Problems are addressed. Choices are made. Resources are committed. Consequences are experienced. These decisions have the potential to have considerable impact on the organization and its members.

Surprisingly, managers are often unaware of how they go about making decisions. The steps taken during the decision-making process are frequently based solely on habit and are seldom subject to critical review. As a result, managers frequently have a difficult time improving their decision-making capacity. Good business decisions are the heart of a successful organization. Without a process decisions may be made by the most powerful or influential person in the group or not made at all. Good decision-making is a balance between getting the most of what we want with as little risk as possible.

It means that we include the right people and use a process that encourages participation while keeping or focus clearly on the decision at hand. This allows people to make the decision with a high degree of confidence and efficiency. References Critical Thinking Skills. (2005, March). Retrieved March 7, 2005 from the World Wide Web: web (2005, March). Retrieved March 7, 2005 from the World Wide Web: web Solving and Decision Making.

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(2001). Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective Decision Making New York State. Prometheus Books.