In my first book, DECIDE: How to manage the risk in your decision making, I made the statement “…in my experience, an acceptance of mediocrity and an acceptance that projects (and decision making) are difficult are the norm in the vast majority of organisations.”
In the simplest terms, when you are advising you are influencing a decision. Every one of us has been frustrated when someone has chosen not to take our advice. Whether we are a parent, a salesperson or an internal adviser to a business leader, we criticise them as impudent, misguided or arrogant. Or we defend our failure to get them to listen and act on our advice.
Much research has been conducted in recent years into the psychology of decision making. We know a great deal about the reasons people do or don’t take advice. And we know each of us has deep-seated psychological biases — some genetic, some learned in our formative years and some a response to particular events in our lives. These biases influence our decision making in positive and negative ways, and represent both barriers and opportunities for those who are seeking to influence us.
We can no longer accept mediocrity in decision making. We won’t be able to get every decision right but we sure as hell can improve on the status quo. The tools to do so are available. You just need to seek them out and use them. If you do nothing else, anytime you are trying to influence someone use an analogy. Explain how it is like something they are familiar with. How about this one I heard recently in relation to the Royal Commission into misconduct in the Australian financial sector.
“If you want to get rid of the ants, take away the sugar!”
(Apologies to whomever said it first, I heard it second hand)