Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Fighting Decision Fatigue

Source: Discover Magazine

Rachel Feintzeig has written a Wall Street Journal article this week titled "Decision Fatigue is Real: Here's How to Beat it This Year."  The article notes that many people are feeling overwhelmed during the pandemic by the sheer number of seemingly consequential decisions they must make, both personally and professionally.   Scholars describe a phenomenon called anticipatory regret, in which people look ahead to why they might be unsatisfied with the choice they are about to make, and as a result, they find themselves unable to act now.  

What can we do to overcome decision fatigue?  I was reminded of a research study from many years ago, conducted by Stanford Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt.  She studied the speed of strategic decision making in what she called "high velocity environments" - contexts in which conditions were changing quickly and unpredictably.   Eisenhardt found that the CEOs who could overcome hesitancy and make faster decisions tended to consult frequently with "experienced counselors" or "confidantes" during the decision-making process.  These individuals served as vital sounding boards, and they helped the CEOs overcome their hesitation about moving forward.  The confidantes can leverage their own experience and knowledge to help the CEO sift through alternatives and assess risk.   They can offer an objective assessment when perhaps others are only advocating for their preferred course of action.  Finally, Eisenhardt found that consulting with a experienced confidante can help boost the confidence of the CEO in the face of high uncertainty and ambiguity.  They can help leaders overcome analysis paralysis.  

So, who then will serve as your experienced and trustworthy confidante?  Can they be an effective sounding board for you, so that you can overcome decision fatigue, make timely choices, and move forward?   I would note that this confidante need not always be on your team.  The individual may be outside your team or organization, yet willing to lend an ear when you need advice and a sounding board on a tough decision. Their outside status may be helpful, because they won't have all the biases and allegiances that may shape the perspective being offered by team members.  

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