Making Sound Decisions

Making Sound Decisions

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IHRSA’s 2014 33rd Annual International Convention and Trade Show offered up so much food for thought that you’re probably feeling stuffed right about now. But it’s worth really digesting what author Dan Heath had to say in a general session discussion during the event. His talk, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” took a close look at the foundation upon which all business are built: decisions. Good decisions can make you; bad ones can break you. How can you be sure you’re making sound decisions?
Heath identified four elements — or, as he calls them, “villains” — of bad decisions: (1) narrow framing, (2) confirmation bias, (3) short-term emotion, and (4) over-confidence. He also offered a strategy for countering each of these villains; he calls it the WRAP strategy.
If you’re framing out an issue too narrowly, you have blinders on; you can’t see the full picture, so you can’t make a sound decision. To counter this villain, use the “W” in “WRAP”: Widen your options. Try to see more than just the two possibilities of making the decision or not making it. If you’re working with a confirmation bias, you’re not gathering enough information before making your decision — you’re seeking reassurance about your preconceived notions rather than the truth about the issue. To counter this one, use the “R”: Reality-test your options. Find a real-world way of testing your options before you make a decision. If you’re relying on short-term emotion, you’re not taking time to think things through. The remedy? “A”: Attain distance before you decide. If you feel emotional about a decision you have to make, give yourself time, or take a step back. You can act more rationally with distance. Finally, there’s the problem of over-confidence. If you’re too confident, you think you know more about what will happen in the future than you really can know. You counter this “villain” with the “P” in “WRAP”: Prepare to be wrong. To make such preparations, you set up what Heath calls a “decision trip-wire,” something that makes you, at some future point, go back, assess the decision you made, and alter or undo it if necessary.
As a gym, health club, fitness center, or sports facility, your business relies on dozens or scores (or more!) of small decisions each day. Do you schedule a cycle class in the morning or the evening, or both? Do you hire a trainer who specializes in HIIT workouts or more of a generalist? Do you purchase Vibration Training machines? White towels or beige ones? And are you going to fire that employee who is slacking off every time you look at him? There are these and so many more, and it can be hard to know what’s right. Having a rubric that helps you know when you might be making a bad decision — and what you can do to turn it into a good one — can be immensely empowering. Heath says his scheme isn’t right for all kinds of decisions, and it might not be right for all businesses or all managers, but thinking about it can help you come up with your own plan. Then you’ll be able to make decisions with confidence (but only just the right amount of it!).

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