Decision fatigue: Keeping a clear head in all situations Premium

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Are you incapable of making choices? Do your decisions lead to chaos? Is your brain working overtime? If so, like most leaders, you probably suffer from decision fatigue. Dangerous for your performance and that of your company, fighting it requires three things: take your time, trust your intuition, and lean on those around you.

No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price … The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts.*

Is decision fatigue unavoidable? No. Three simple steps can reduce its risk, provided that leaders call into question some of their leadership assumptions!

1. Do not rush: Unless it is an emergency, if you do not think you are working at full capacity, pushing back a decision by a few hours is not an admission of weakness. It is proof of clear-sightedness. Instead of trying to be a “super calculator,” you can simplify the decision-making process by reducing the parameters of analysis.
2. Use your intuition: It is not the completeness or perfection of the available information that makes a good decision, but the ability of leaders to see the big picture of the problem. This skill comes from experience; past mistakes and successes strengthen judgment and enable leaders to intuitively interpret weak signals to consider all parts of a problem.
3. Trust the wisdom of crowds: In the face of a problem, collective decision-making involves discussing every possible option with several people. It increases the number of proposed solutions. In short, it is the way to surface THE optimal solution with minimal effort. No, leaders do not have to decide alone!

What they think and what they say

According to Dennis Cooper, former air traffic controller for the FAA, regular breaks, the ability to combine intuition and tangible information, and collaboration in the control tower enable thousands of planes to take off and land safely—be it for day-to-day choices or more strategic decisions. Meanwhile, Thierry Boiron, president of the laboratories of the same name, has learned to listen and to trust his intuition—an indispensable, but underappreciated, part of logical reasoning.

* John Tierney

Read our Focus
Decision fatigue: Keeping a clear head in all situations

Business Digest no. 221, November 2011.

A synthesis of several publications, accompanied by interviews with Dennis Cooper, former air traffic controller of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), currently a psychologist for the Department of National Defence (Canada), and Thierry Boiron, president of the Boiron group, October 2011.