I am certain that I have on more than one occasion mentioned how important it is to consciously make decisions. Because analytics is the art of making better decisions using data, this involves both having the data and appreciating that a decision needs to be made. I do not say this to be flippant, but to call out that this is not a given. Just consider how many daily decisions you make on autopilot.

The decision making process means recognising that in a particular situation, you are seeking the best possible outcome through a choice. Do you do something, or not? Out of a range of actions, which do you choose? With the knowledge you possess, what additional information do you require to make this decision? There is a realisation, perhaps subconscious, that the default choice is not obviously the best one.

Sometimes it can feel like you do not really have a choice, but is that true? Photo by Cam Adams.

So when deciding to decide (how delightfully meta) what are three things to watch for?

1. Faster is not Always Better

Occasionally speed is truly of the essence. If a crisis is unfolding, a shipment is in transit, or a customer is on the phone, there is a small window to both make and enact a decision. In these types of scenarios, there is little or no time to deliberate and reflect. However, in most other situations there is enough time to analyse the data and carefully make a choice. It enables you to seek out opinions other than your own, which can be invaluable in countering biases you might hold.

2. Your Emotional State is a Factor Too

My wife and I just came back from holiday. A decision we made at the start was to leave our phones in the hotel safe, meaning we were truly able to disconnect. Though it was only a week I can feel the increased clarity of my thoughts. While it is easy to ignore, emotional state is a key element both in the manner in which you make decisions, as well as in the effectiveness of those decisions. A good night's sleep helps!

3. Do Not Underestimate the Power of Intuition

Debating the merits of models and datasets is a worthy pursuit, but it is worth paying heed to our intuition as well. While careful analysis and deliberation is a powerful approach, humans have an impressive ability to, at times, make accurate decisions based on limited data. Some of you will likely have read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, which gives numerous powerful examples. Suffice to say that if you truly feel you are not yet ready to make a decision, you might be right. Do not let yourself be rushed.

I am just going to go stare at this board for a while until I feel better. Photo by Brandon Lopez.

We tend to like people who are decisive and know how to take charge of a situation. However, it is simultaneously important to acknowledge that there is no point in making a decision if it is unlikely to lead to an optimal outcome. If you feel like you are being unnecessarily rushed, if you are tired and have difficulty focusing, or if it simply does not feel like you should be making a decision right now, take your time. Have a nap, have a chat, do more research. Whatever it takes you to feel empowered.

Hopefully this will not be construed as an excuse for tardiness or indolence, because without decisions — well, there is no prospect of better decisions either. Yet, we tend to at times get so caught up in the need to make a decision that a little bit of mindfulness, reflecting on whether we are ready to make that decision, can make a surprising difference in the quality of our decision. After all, that is the real goal.

— Ryan