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Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

We’ve been told that making good decisions is all about standing our ground. It’s about being strong and deliberate. It’s about being sure of ourselves. What if we’re wrong? What if a good decision requires just the opposite? What if we need to become more open-minded?

In 1995, Psychologist Jonathan Baron coined the term “actively open-minded thinking.” According to Baron, the primary purpose of deliberate thought is to form beliefs and make decisions based on those beliefs. Actively open-minded thinking is the process of consciously considering a wide array of options when forming those beliefs and making those decisions.

It sounds nice in theory, but does actively open-minded thinking actually help you make better decisions? Wouldn’t it, instead, make you more uncertain? Won’t considering too many options cause to flounder in doubt and become indecisive? Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first consider the opposite of actively open-minded thinking. Let’s call it “actively close-minded thinking.”

The Perils of a Closed Mind

In a recent experiment, researchers from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project sought to understand how political ideologies influence our ability to make accurate judgments. To do so, they split a thousand participants into four equally sized groups, each containing more or less the same amount of liberal democrats and conservative republicans. Each group was asked to look at a chart and perform a basic mathematical calculation in order to draw a conclusion about the data.

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The first two groups were attempting to understand whether a new skin cream had caused subjects in trials to get worse or to get better. To do so, they had to calculate the ratio of the subjects who had taken the cream and gotten better to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got better (control group), to the ratio of those who had taken the cream and got worse to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got worse (control group).

For one of these groups, the data was presented favorably for the cream. For the other, the data was presented unfavorably for the cream. Though neither group demonstrated excellent quantitative abilities, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans scored equally well in each of these groups. But what if the topic was a little more politically charged? What if the issue wasn’t about skin cream? What if, instead, it was about Gun control?

For the second two groups, the researchers kept the data exactly the same, but they changed “the introduction of a skin cream” to “the introduction of a gun ban.” Then, they asked the subjects to calculate whether the gun ban led to an increase or a decrease in crime. How do you think these results came out?

Both not surprisingly and downright shockingly, the politically—charged context dramatically changed how participants answered the question—even though it was the same basic math problem. In the group with results favorable to the gun ban, conservative republicans were far more likely to get the question wrong. In the group with results unfavorable to the gun ban, liberal democrats were far more likely to get the question wrong.

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Why, in the second experiment were people more likely to make poor judgments? Because they already had their minds made up on the issue. They didn’t need to think it through, because they already knew the right answer. Or, so they thought.

It turns out that being certain doesn’t help you make better decisions; it just helps you make faster decisions.

The Profits of an Open Mind

Now, back to “actively open-minded thinking.” In a separate experiment, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, a team of researchers sought to put actively open-minded thinking to the test. The researchers first administered a standard test, measuring how prone the participants were to thinking open-mindedly. Then, they tested how well the participants could predict the outcome of a football game from a previous season (not known by the participants) in the National Football League.

On a screen, each participant was shown a home team and an away team. At the bottom of the screen, they were given two options. They could 1) ask for information or 2) make an estimate. If they requested information, they were given clues such as the teams’ win-loss records. The participants were permitted to request up to 10 pieces of information before making an estimate.

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After all the participants had made predictions on ten different games, the results were tabulated. As you might expect, the people who opted to gather more information were much more likely to make accurate predictions than those who guessed right away.

And what about that “open-mindedness” test? Yes, it turns out that those who sought out more information were also those who scored highly on the test. The takeaway: being open-minded causes you to seek out more information. And, seeking out more information causes you to make better decisions.

A Posture of Curiosity

There’s another less academic word for “actively open-minded thinking” that we use much more often in our everyday conversations. That word is “curiosity.” Everyday, we’ll encounter major decisions that will impact us for the rest of our lives. We’ll have to decide whether or not to marry our significant other. We’ll have to decide whether or not to accept a job offer. We’ll have to decide whether or not to go to graduate school. Approaching such situations with a posture of curiosity will almost always help us make better decisions.

When making these major life decisions, the closed mind will focus only on one variable. Does my mother/father approve? Is it a high enough salary? Will the degree get me a better job? The curious mind seeks out more information. What do her/his parents think? Twenty years from now, will it matter what my parents think? Is salary the only thing I should be concerned with? Will I get along with the people that currently work there? Do I just want to go to school to get a better job? Aren’t I also interested in learning more about my field and becoming a more well-rounded person?

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When you’re curious, you ask these questions. When you ask questions, you get answers. And when you get answers, you make better decisions.

The idea that the person who makes quick, forceful decisions without any doubt is somehow making better decisions—that’s a myth. As psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons point out in The Invisible Gorilla, those who are most confident in their decision-making abilities are often those who are least competent in their decision-making abilities.

If you want to make better decisions, doubt your intuitions. Test your assumptions. Seek a wider range of possibilities.

Become curious.

Featured photo credit: Pretty young woman making a decision with arrows and question mark above her head via shutterstock.com

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Published on April 25, 2019

How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

Have you ever felt limited in your abilities to do something you really wanted to pursue? Maybe it was an ambition you had, or an idea to start something. Perhaps it was an opportunity that came your way, but you weren’t able to take it because something held you back.

Often, we’re unable to progress towards our goals because such obstacles stand in the way. We let our limitations stop or overshadow our abilities to see through to a goal.

Yet, there’s one thing that we rarely think of to use when trying to overcome limitations.

Creativity.

What is Creativity?

When I say creativity, I’m not talking about an innate talent. Creativity is a much needed, but often neglected, skill that everyone has! It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input.

Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems.

Everything, including brilliant inventions, cannot come from nothing; it all derives from some sort of inspiration. Creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.

From this perspective, you can find creativity at play in many areas.

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For example, Mark Zuckerburg rapidly became successful by taking the previously existing concept of social media, and combining it with an incredibly simple interface that appealed to a much wider audience. Uber and Lyft combined the idea of a traditional taxi service with an incredibly efficient smartphone app.

Both of these examples connect different ideas, find common ground amongst the differences, and create a completely new idea out of them.

That’s creativity in a nutshell, and anyone can improve theirs.

Limitations are Actually Opportunities

The advantage of using creativity, is to help you see limitations as opportunities. Take any limitation that you may find yourself facing, is there a way to look at things differently?

Let me illustrate with an example.

On the day of my son’s 5th birthday, my wife and I arranged a party for him at a children’s adventure park. His friends and family were all invited, and the plan was to have a long, fun day out to celebrate.

However, the day didn’t go exactly as planned…

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At Lifehack, we pride ourselves on a healthy work-life balance, so I wasn’t concerned about taking the day off to celebrate. But, on the big day, a call came through to my phone.

It was a manager from Lifehack. He excitedly told me that a group of investors were quite interested in our business proposition, and were wanting to meet later that day.

This was great news! A potential investment could be coming our way. But, I was already miles away from home and the office. Plus, it was my son’s birthday…

I asked if I could call him back once we got settled into the park.

To be honest, I was pretty certain I was not going to be able to make it. Asking to reschedule would be a risky request, but there was no way that I was going to miss my son’s party.

My son could sense something was off, and he asked me what was wrong. So I let him know that I just received a call about a meeting today, but also told him not to worry as today was about celebrating his birthday.

But like all kids, he continued questioning me…

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“But daddy, is it important?”

“No, of course not,” I bluffed.

Then, with childlike intuition and creativity, he asked: “Can’t you just meet with them at the park?”

And, then it struck me! This was the idea that I was missing.

Even though my son didn’t quite understand that it would not be possible for the investors to meet me at the park, it made sense for me to simply do a video call!

I could miss 25 minutes of the party to do a quick call while the rest of the party walked through the aquarium. And, in the end, that was exactly what happened.

I called back my teammate and asked him to briefly explain to the investors why I couldn’t be there in person to meet, but would be happy to join via video. I took the call, and was able to spend the rest of the day at the park with my son.

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Not only did my son enjoy his birthday, his simple idea led to a successful investment meeting that allowed us to get funding for a new project.

This is where I was able to turn a limitation into an opportunity that enabled me to reach my success.

Creativity is One Key to Success

When you use your creative ability to turn your limitations and setbacks into opportunities, you’ll find doors opening for you in areas you may have never imagined.

Remember, your attitude is also important when it comes to achieving a goal, and tackling a setback or problem. That’s because a positive attitude transforms not just your mental state, but your physical and emotional well being. It is the key to lasting total transformation.

Check out this article to learn more about how you can tune your attitude towards positivity.

So, the next time you’re feeling limited by your abilities, setbacks or challenges, don’t give up. Really look at the situation, and see how you can leverage on your creativity to find an alternative solution.

Featured photo credit: Photo by William Iven on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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