Many of us approach decision making from the same perspective over and over. We use the same tools and habits every time, even if the decisions are vastly different. But following the same strategy for every problem limits your abilities. To make better decisions, you need to break out of these patterns and see things differently, even if it is uncomfortable.

When facing a difficult decision, we often unconsciously set expectations — for ourselves and for others — about both the decision-making process and the outcome. Embedded in our expectations are our biases, which are always part of our thinking, so can be very hard to bring to light.

The first step is to understand your own decision-making strengths and your blind spots. You must identify the mental mistakes or cognitive biases that tend to get in your way. Once you do that, you can better check and challenge those biases, adjust your approach, and bring out a more holistic understanding of a situation, better ensuring that you are solving the whole problem.

Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, founder and CEO of Decisive (a decision sciences company using her AREA Method decision-making system) and an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and Cornell University has developed a BIAS framework designed to assist with the decision-making process. This framework asks you to consider your decisions from four vantage points:

Behavior – The first step in challenging expectations is to confront your assumptions about your own behavior, as well as the behavior of anyone else involved in your decision-making. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a behavior around your upcoming decision that may impact your ability to see the situation more objectively?
  • How are past decisions driving your behavior? And how is this decision different from past decisions?
  • How do you expect the other stakeholders to behave?

Information – The next step is to understand your expectations around the information you need and want to make your decision. Ask yourself:

  • How is this decision like others you’ve made in the past and how is it different?
  • What are the expectations you have about the kind of information you will be able to gather?
  • What information do you expect the other decision stakeholders will contribute?

Analysis – The way we analyze information can also introduce bias into our decision-making process. Ask yourself:

  • What analysis do you typically conduct? Is that relevant for this decision?
  • What are your expectations about your ability to synthesize and understand the information related to the decision you currently face?
  • What can the other decision stakeholders contribute to the analysis process?

Structure – The final step is to examine the structure, or environment around you as you make your decision. Ask yourself:

  • What are the opportunities and limitations of the decision you are about to make?
  • Is there a time deadline?
  • Might the decision be flexible or constrained by money or other external pressures?
  • Are the other stakeholders under any constraints?

More dynamic decision making begins with sidestepping potential bias to gain new perspectives about a problem. While it’s not always easy to think outside your own box, remember that you’re building both strength and flexibility in the decision-making muscles you need to make your big decisions better.


Harvard Business Review (2022, April 26) Cheryl Strauss Einhorn: Make Better Decisions by Challenging Your Expectations
Harvard Business Review (2022, August 9) Cheryl Strauss Einhorn: What are Your Decision-Making Strengths and Blind Spots?