The Art (and Science) of Decision Making

Before making a decision, the right state of mind, and the right state of the organization must prevail. We often make decisions irrationally. Those that we do make with some level of thought, we do so with a focus on the wrong things. We propose three elements that you, or your organization, must have to reach the point of decision making. It is part art and part science. These elements guide decision making. They arrest the bad and invoke the good.

They are:

  • Set emotions aside each and every time

We are too emotional, too sentimental. Having these qualities are fine until we let them get the best of us. The first thing needed to reach the reach a state of careful decision making is to set aside emotion. This does not mean that one should not care. In fact, it means the exact opposite. It means that one should put one’s actions before one’s emotion. What will be needed to solve the problem? When will the action need to be taken? Why are we taking the action?

The action will not always lead to an outcome that everyone finds favorable. On the battlefield of life and work, we have to accomplish many things. We have to help many of our fellow human beings. However, we cannot let emotion stand in the way of clear thinking and reasonable decision making. It is imperative that one set aside emotion before making a decision.

  • Elevate thyself to the level of witness and trustee

In a recent conversation with a very close relative, we struck up a discussion about one’s role as witness to and trustee for an organization, whether that organization is a company, a community, or a family. Allow us to explain. As a witness to what is going on, you are neither completely in a situation nor completely out of a situation. Well, we’re sure you’re asking yourself, “How can I act?” or “How can I truly make a decision?” Fair enough.

That brings in the second point of this section: Your role as a trustee. As a trustee, you own everything, but yet you own nothing. You are administering on behalf of someone for the stated goal of fulfilling a purpose, acting as a dutiful agent. You must proceed down this path without the desire to serve yourself.  Invoking the witness/trustee role provides the second key component in one’s decision-making process.

  • Integrate the concepts of concentration, consistency, and cooperation

In our quest to integrate the intellectual aspects of business leadership with the intelligence-gathering components of business management, we came across* some very fundamental concepts that we believe should be integrated into one’s decision making process. These three concepts – concentration, consistency, and cooperation – serve as filters for how one makes decisions.


As humans, we have a tendency to let our minds wander. When a decision maker focuses on the now, without being burdened by the past and captivated by the future, he will ensure a higher level of concentration. This does not mean one should not plan and/or learn from his or her mistakes. One should not let the past or present get under your skin. Concentrate, leaders, concentrate!


Mission. We talk about it. We poke fun at it. It’s the bane of strategic planning sessions the world over. However, it cannot be something a leader sets aside. Consistent devotion to the fulfillment of mission must be part of the decision making process in your organization. Does this decision lead us down the path to mission realization? Are we jeopardizing the mission by making this decision before us? Consistency of mission is key.


The term “Kumbaya” really has taken on an alter ego in our modern vernacular. It has become a joke. We have relegated the cooperation between human beings to the trash heap of off-sites and rock climbing exploits. Cooperation is more than just team building. In decision making, leaders must understand whether or not the outcome of their actions will instill a sense of cooperation or drive a wedge between themselves and their customers, or between the customers themselves.

Gaining teamwork within an organization is, we believe, fairly easy. Forging cooperation in families, communities, markets, and countries is an entirely different level of achievement.  It is a level of achievement for which we should all strive.

It is not easy to make decisions when leading a company, a family, or a nation for that matter.  Internal conflicts, politics, resource management, and fatigue, among other obstacles, can hinder good decision making. Don’t let these obstacles stand in your way to making sound decisions.


* Parthasarathy, A. The Fall of the Human Intellect. Mumbai: Vakil & Sons, 2008. Print.