On the popular executive gift site Leeds World there are some telling executive desk gifts. One is a pair of action dice, which you can toss to receive one of 36 different phrases like “right away,” “be sincere,” or “share an idea.” Or perhaps you would prefer the decision-making dartboard with such choices as “reinvent,” “maybe,” or “innovate.”
Although these gifts are meant as a joke for the stressed-out executive, they may not be too far from the reality of business decision making. The business world has become so complex that good decisions seem almost beyond our reach.
However, some of our top business minds have come to the aid of information-overloaded executives with classic titles that offer principles for making effective decisions. One of the most well-known is Malcolm Gladwell with his book Blink. Sub-titled The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, this bestseller offers a look inside the minds of those who are experts at what we refer to as hunches, gut feelings or snap decisions. Gladwell describes the art of “thin-slicing” – filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables. It is his contention that this is not an art for the gifted few but that through training and practice we all can improve our ability to make these snap decisions successfully.
Another challenge for top executives is being surrounded by “yes-men,” subordinates who are afraid to deliver bad news or offer an opposing view on an issue. In Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Michael Roberto shows readers how to stimulate honest, constructive dissent, use it to improve decisions, and then align the organization around those decisions. He also uses examples to show how the decision process unfolds throughout an organization.
Other related decision-making books include Confidence by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, The Third Opinion by Dr. Saj-nicole A. Joni, The Power of Impossible Thinking by Jerry Wind and Why Decisions Fail by Paul Nutt. These are all available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and the Decision Making Collection of the summaries of all seven titles mentioned is available through Soundview at www.summary.com.
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