Skip to site content
Insights and Trends

Debunking 11 decision-making myths: A Harvard Business Review Report

When faced with a complicated decision, many of us fall into counterproductive behaviors that can hinder our ability to make well-informed choices. Hear from Harvard Business Review leader, Cheryl Einhorn, as she dispels 11 myths about decision-making, and provides tips on how to avoid making these common mistakes in the future.

Myth #1: You need to be efficient.

Although many believe being efficient is “jumping right in and making a decision,” it is not always the case. Understanding the objective of the decision and making an informed decision helps avoid regret and details falling through the cracks down the road.

Myth #2: Not having adequate time to make a decision.

Einhorn notes, “Putting off a decision is a decision in and of itself.” By slowing down your critical thinking process you will get a better picture of what you are solving for and therefore save time later and circumvent revisiting the decision.

Myth #3: You just need to solve the present problem.

Our problems sit in the context, meaning if you have a narrow focus during your decision-making process you could potentially solve the wrong problem.

Myth #4: Not feeling the need to involve others.

As the popular phrase goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.” When a decision-maker does not consider the thoughts and opinions of other stakeholders, critical information could be overlooked and therefore cause you to revisit the problem in the future.

Myth #5: You know the right answer, you just need data to back it up.

The HBR report cites various infamous examples of confirmation bias that were used in a decision-making process, including the Bay of Pigs, the subprime loan market implosion, the NASA Challenger explosion and the Deepwater Horizon environmental catastrophe. Conducting research online or with other thought leaders to gauge possibilities and outcomes is a critical step to making the right decision for you and your organization.

Myth #6: Trust your instincts.

When you rely on your gut, most times it is influenced by personal bias and faulty memory. By inviting new thoughts and perspectives into your mind you can be better equipped to tackle the challenge at hand.

Myth #7: Decision-making is linear.

Getting from point “A” to point “B” in the decision-making process is not a straight line. Maintaining a loop of feedback from colleagues, supervisors and other leaders helps identify gaps in the decision.

Myth #8: You can keep your ideas organized in your head.

Keeping regular records of meetings and conversations pertaining to an upcoming decision is important. Solely relying on one’s memory can result in certain aspects being forgotten or a perspective being shifted due to personal bias.

Myth #9: You have all of the necessary information.

“While we may want to forge ahead, we can improve our decisions — and our satisfaction — by investing in a little bit of research and confronting assumptions with evidence,” stated Einhorn.

Myth #10: You're able to make a rational decision.

It has been found that humans ultimately struggle to make a purely rational decision. Receiving feedback from different leaders in the industry, or conducting research outside of your organization, can aid in producing a more rational decision.

Myth #11: There is only one way to do this.

There is not a one-size-fits all approach to a decision. Although it is easy to get in the rhythm of routine and decision-making, it is important to acknowledge and implement ideas and perspectives outside of your own.

Read the full HBR report