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Research & Design Strategy

Tips for making tough design decisions

June 03, 2016

No matter what your title is, a significant part of your job is making decisions and justifying them to others.

We make thousands of decisions every day, many of them with our “fast brain” – you know, the part that takes care of brushing your teeth, navigating you to the coffee maker, and getting you backed out of the driveway. You barely remember doing it every morning. They’re shortcuts, or biases, which help us preserve energy.

But when you’re thinking about bigger, more complex issues, biases can often trip you up. This is especially true if you’re going to have to justify your decision. Research has shown that just knowing you’ll have to justify your decision will impact your decision-making process. When asked to verbalize an idea or opinion, people tend to focus on attributes that are easy to describe and that can change our perceptions, too.

Making design decisions can be an especially difficult process for many businesses and organizations. Often times, there’s no clear-cut data to point the way. Choices can seem subjective. Without a solid foundation, biases can run rampant. Or a passive decision is made by simply not deciding at all.

“Fast brain” decisions or their opposite, analysis paralysis, can do lasting damage to a business.

Recognizing cognitive limitations and emotional biases and tapping into your “slow” or rational brain can help you make better decisions and effectively advocate for them. “Sounds great,” your fast brain just said. “Let’s do it!”

Ah, but how?

In this worksheet, we provide three stages to design for decision making with checklists of activities. Doing your homework ahead of time, clearly defining roles and process, making people comfortable, giving them time to think together and alone, and developing the tools to communicate the decisions made, are all part of the work.

And it is work. Work that’s worthwhile. No snap decisions here.

Innovation is risky business. Today, the term innovation is thrown around as a given in the business world. Truth is, it can be expensive and time consuming. “Fast brain” decisions or their opposite, analysis paralysis, can do lasting damage to a business. Wise decisions can open up worlds of profitable opportunities.

Even well-reasoned and researched decisions sometimes fail – the re-formulation of “new” Coke comes to mind – but laying a solid foundation for making decisions helps mitigate the risk. So happy deciding … and good luck!

To listen to the free webcast, click here.

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