Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

When planning for a year, plant corn.
When planning
for a decade, plant a tree. When planning for life, train and educate (yourself).
Guanzi 管子, 720-645 BCE
Chinese encyclopedia

Problem solving series

Adaptive Decision Making

Adaptive techniques for solving problems are a combination of logic and common sense, and while not precise, can produce satisfactory solutions.

If you cannot follow the complete problem solving process, use these techniques when you

  • have little time for research
  • don't need exhaustive analysis
  • can accept the risks
  • can make reversible decisions

Strategies toward adaptive decision making:

Managing by exception: exercise
Managing by exception: text

Work on matters critical to you; leave off matters that are not. Strategizing and prioritizing

Example: You tutor a child in math. You become aware that the family situation is troubled, but you haven't the skills to help. You inform the case manager for their action, but continue to focus on the supporting the child with his/her homework

Decision staggering
Make incremental decisions to achieve an objective and avoid total commitment to a decision you cannot change.

Example: Before installing air-conditioning, try screens, shades, and fans. These alone may do the job. If not, these improvements will still have helped cool the building and increase air-conditioning efficiency if later installed.

Use information available to probe for a solution.
Exploring is a modified trial-and-error strategy to manage risk. Unlike a throw of dice, however, it requires a firm sense of purpose and direction. Use this technique to move cautiously in small steps toward a solution.

Example: Doctors avoid committing to a single, incomplete diagnosis of an illness. Through tentative but precise exploration, they determine the cause of an illness and its cure.

Spread risk by avoiding decisions that lock you into a single choice if you are not prepared to commit.

Example: astute investors don't "put all their eggs in one basket." They spread risks with a balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds, and cash.

Create options based on your experience, values, and emotions (your gut feelings and your heart)! While often able to arrive at the truth through intuition, don't rely on it exclusively. It can trigger snap judgments and rash decisions. Use logic first, then your intuition to make the decision "feel" right

Go slow and/or postpone committing yourself to a course of action
if an immediate decision isn't necessary and there's time to develop options.
Sometimes doing nothing is the best decision; the problem will either go away, conditions will change, the path may become clearer as you reflect on it, or events will change the problem itself.

Delegating decision-making or action to another person or group
Sometimes we take on problems that are not ours,
or that the problem can be solved better by someone else.
One strategy towards delegation is to identify stakeholders of the problem. A stakeholders is a person or group that interest in, or will be affected by, resolution of the problem. (This is a good practice for all decision-making!)
Another consideration for "out-sourcing" a problem's resolution is to consider if your resources will be adequate to the task. Resources are time, money, skills, confidence, etc.

Focus on the future to uncover hidden opportunities and options that may resolve the problem.
With options, we make better decisions. Without them, decisions become forced choices.
By finding tomorrow's opportunities and developing options, you can make enduring, quality decisions.

Barriers to effective decision-making

Avoiding decisions to escape the unpleasant aspects of risk, fear, and anxiety

Refusing to face the issue; obsessive gathering of endless facts

Letting a situation spin out of control; letting emotions take control

Reversing decisions; half-heartedly committing to a course of action

Half measures
Muddling through. Making the safest decision to avoid controversy but not dealing with the whole problem

Meeting challenges:

Problem solving overview | Defining the problem | Gathering information |
Developing/weighing alternatives | Implementing decisions |
Graphic overview of process | Adaptive decision making | Brainstorming |
Managing by exception | Managing stress | Motivating yourself |
Problem based learning | Using analogies in creative problem solving