How to Make Smarter Decisions in Times of Change

December 17, 2018

Learn how to make smarter decisions in times of change.

You’ve probably heard before (more than once) that times are changing faster than ever today. Well, that’s because its true – virtually every stat shows that business is indeed changing faster than ever today.

Great. But there’s an aspect to that many people neglect – how to make decisions in these times of change. Because, it's significantly more difficult to make a decision in a time of change (i.e. today) than during times of stability, because in times of stability you can lean more on previous experiences.

In times of change, often those previous experiences don’t apply as much, as the situation and landscape have changed.

“One rule for navigating changing uncertain circumstances is that you really shouldn't jump on the first solution that occurs to you,” LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark said. “That's fine to do when things are operating the way they always have. Yeah, two plus two equals four. Of course! But when conditions are changing, relying on the same assumptions or action plans can be a damaging mistake.”

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark outlines a framework for making smart decisions during times of change.

A Framework For Making Smarter Decisions in Times of Change

In her course Cultivating Mental Agility, Clark gave a framework for making smarter decisions in times of change. Specifically, Clark recommends asking yourself these three questions, before making a decision in a time of change:

    1. What worked before?

I know what you are thinking: Paul, you started this article by saying don’t do this. That’s not quite true – you should definitely consider what has worked before.

But, the key is, not stopping only after this question.

“This is the one that your mind most often would naturally default to, and it may still be the right one,” Clark said in her course. “But the crucial thing here is to put this answer into context. It's not the only solution out there, it's one possibility to consider.”

    2. What has changed from before?

Something might have worked very well previously. But, you need to ask yourself – what has changed within yourself, your organization and the market that’s different from when it worked previously?

Asking this question leads to innovation that keeps you ahead of the competition, Clark said.

An example – before the days of widespread Internet usage, having people come to a video store to rent a movie makes a lot of sense. But, once people had Internet, delivering video content on-demand via the Internet, so people can save a trip, makes a lot more sense.

    3. What solutions have others found to related problems?

You can often use the innovations of others to innovate yourself. For example, airlines have routinely charged different prices, based on the demand for rides. Cabs never did this; it wasn’t until Uber came around where demand-based pricing was used in the taxi business.

So, don’t just focus on just your specific market. By looking at related markets and even completely unrelated markets, you can often learn new, better ways to approach old problems.

“The more data you can find about what people tried and what worked and what didn't, the better,” Clark said. “Consider it a palette of options from which you can draw and find what will work best for you.”

The Takeaway: Experience Still Matters, But Push Yourself to Innovate

If left alone, us humans tend to stick to the comfortable. And that means making the same or similar decisions over and over again – a strategy that can lead to antiquation.

That doesn’t mean experience is worthless and you should reinvent the wheel every time you make a new decision. But, you should always push yourself to innovate beyond what was already successful, particularly today when times are so quickly changing.

“Decisions become critical when times are changing rapidly,” Clark said. “To make better ones, we can't default to what's always been done or just go with the first option without considering alternatives. By asking these questions, we can illuminate other possibilities that will help us make the right choice.”

Want to learn more? Watch Dorie Clark’s full course, Cultivating Mental Agility.

Other LinkedIn Learning courses from Clark you might be interested in are: