Decision-Making & Problem Solving

We all make decisions every day at home and work. We are faced with countless choices and problems, large and small. Many decisions are so small that we may not even notice them. What do you do when you face an important decision? Do you turn to experts? Dig up data? Ask friends, or go with your gut?

Decision-making and problem-solving are similar and distinctly different. They both help you navigate a variety of situations that arise.

First, you need to understand the differences.

Problem-SolvingDecision Making
Problem-solving is the analytical method of identifying solutions by asking questions, brainstorming solutions, and gathering facts.Decision-making is choosing a solution based on judgment, situation, facts, and knowledge.

Some of the essential skills needed for problem-solving and decision-making include:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Research

Often when we make a decision, they are small and quick. Other times we need to put more thought and weigh options. Here are four steps to guide you with problem-solving and decision-making skills

  1. Define the Issue

When our mental gas tank runs low on fuel, we conserve energy by avoiding decisions or rushing to solutions before fully understanding the problem.

Once you have identified the issue, analyze it, and ask the following questions:

  • What factors are contributing to the problem?
  • Whom are the people involved?
  • When is this occurring?
  • Where is the issue taking?
  • Brainstorm

After defining the issue, brainstorm different approaches to resolve it. 

Seek feedback from mentors and others involved with the situation.

  • Do a SWOT analysis or mind mapping to outline the pros, cons, and solution options.
  • Encourage high-quality interaction with team members. By seeking good conversation within a safe culture that promotes sharing ideas, the safety to share ideas fuels creativity and good problem-solving.
  • Make your decision
  • Implement your decision

Being an effective decision-maker is only sometimes jumping right in to make a decision. Making good decisions is being clear on what we are solving. Rushing can lead you to make a decision based on the wrong factors. Remember that avoiding or delaying a decision is still a decision. Taking the time to research will help you make better decisions.

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director & CEO, MBA