I heard these questions on ABC Radio (that is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) recently. How are these for three great questions you can ask to help you make a decision?

1. What are my options?
2. What is the chance this will benefit me?
3. What is the chance this will harm me?

These were attributed by Dr Norman Swan of the Health Report to some research his partner and others were doing. The research showed that these three questions to your doctor result in much better outcomes. The theory is they make the doctor think about the options, consider the likelihood of benefits and consider the likelihood of harm – more so than they otherwise would have.

I take this concept a step further when I teach my MCI Decision Model (Motivation, Clarification, Implementation). I ask you to consider the range of outcomes for each significant option and decide which one looks most like the BEST curve in the diagram below.

BB13 IllustrationThe BEST curve has the highest likelihood of a great outcome with a very low likelihood of a disastrous outcome. This allows you to compare the full range of outcomes for each option. If there are options that could result in disaster and others that could not, this may lead to you choosing one that could not end in disaster even though the upside is not as promising. Alternatively you may choose to take a bigger risk.

Of course, it would be best to quantify and model frequency distribution curves for all our decisions, however, that is simply not practical. I find my MCI Model approach a great proxy. Running through MCI will often lead to a decision to do some more research and may lead to risk modelling for the more critical decisions to get a better estimate for each option.

Your thoughts? Better still, what are your best “three questions” to ask when you are making a decision?

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