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3 Decision Making Models of Human Decision Making Process

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Problem Solving and Decision Making (101-slide PowerPoint presentation). We make decisions and solve problems continually. We start making decisions before we even get out of bed (shall I get up now or not?). Sometimes, we will have made as many as 50 decisions by the time we leave for work. Despite all the natural decision making that goes on and the problem [read more]

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How do people make decisions?  Do they always follow a rational linear process to come to a conclusion? 

Studies have suggested that the traditional Decision Making model—commonly known as the Rational Decision Making Model—does not explain the whole ambit of Decision Making.

People, including managers of organizations, arrive at decisions using a variety of routes.  Experts suggest that there are at least 3 Decision Making Models that work in consonance to make the best decisions.  The 3 Decision Making Models are:

  1. Thinking First – Rational Decision Making
  2. Seeing First – Insight-driven Decision Making
  3. Doing First – Experimentation-based Decision Making

The latter 2 models need to supplement the 1st in order, for people in general and managers in particular, to improve the quality of Decision Making.  Developing a strong understanding of these foundational Decision Making models is recommended for any Business Leader who seeks to make better, more informed, more rational decisions.

Experts have suggested that people have the capacity to use all 3 models for arriving at a decision and so do organizations.

The 3 approaches to Decision Making draw a parallel from science, art, and craft.  People who are partial to Thinking are more into facts, those who favor Seeing appreciate ideas, and people who prefer Doing always value experiences.

Let us delve a little deeper into the details of the 3 Decision Making Models—Thinking, Seeing, Doing. 

Thinking First

More commonly known as the Rational Decision Making Model, this model has a clearly identified process.  It is linear, logical, effortless, and iterative—i.e., keeps travelling back and forth with interludes for new events, alterations for opportunities until conclusively arriving at a decision.

Thinking First Model is associated with science and is mainly verbal in nature i.e., comprising of linear words.  People leaning towards the Thinking Model prefer facts.

Usually, the Thinking First Model is used in well-founded production processes.  Thinking First succeeds when:

  • The matter is well-defined.
  • The data is trustworthy.
  • The situation is structured.
  • Thoughts can be restrained.
  • Discipline can be applied.

However real-life Decision Making exposes some limitations in the Thinking First Model as rational Decision Making is uncommon. 

Seeing First

Decisions are motivated as much by what is Seen as by what is thought.  Visualization and conceptualization of a problem or situation is the basis for the Seeing First Model.  It is usually used in creative solution finding.  Experts have identified 4 steps in creative discovery:

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Verification

An example of Seeing First Model will be Mozart’s allusion to the best part of creating his music; “when I am able to see the whole of it at a single glance in my mind.”

Seeing First Model works ideally in circumstances where:

  • Numerous elements have to be pooled into a creative solution.
  • Commitment to the solution is steadfast.
  • Communication takes place beyond boundaries.

Doing First

When stumped for a solution, diving head first and tinkering with a problem—bringing Problem Solving Mindset characteristics into play—leads to the necessary insights following trial and error.  Attempting various things, discovering which among them functions, finding meaning in that and repeating the productive behaviors while abandoning the rest is the gist of Doing First Model.

Experts have identified 3 stages of this process:

  1. Enactment
  2. Selection
  3. Retention

Doing First Model is ideal, when for example, companies are faced with disruptive technologies or unchartered territories.

Interested in learning more about the 3 Decision Making Models: Thinking, Seeing, Doing?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on Decision Making Models: Thinking, Seeing, Doing here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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25-slide PowerPoint presentation
In every organization, there is a consistent need to make timely crucial decisions at all levels. This is critical more so at the executive level. However, this isn't simple and there isn't a straight path either. Executives have to make tradeoffs, assessing different available options. In most [read more]

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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