How do you decide?

Whether in our personal or professional lives, there is a drive to choose the correct course of action. Everyone wants to make good decisions, but the path to those decisions is difficult to navigate. After decisions are made, measuring their success can be equally complex. New studies and insights from psychologists, behavioral economists, neuroscientists, and other experts abound in this field. But of course, even deciding which advice to follow means confronting the same obstacles.

In his new book, Frank Partnoy synthesizes much of this current research to conclude that the best decisions are made by those who take their time. Delaying decision making, he argues, provides time to gather and analyze information. Partnoy proposes that we focus on the quality of the decision being made, which might often be independent from the speed with which it is reached.

Partnoy quotes the psychologist Robert Sternberg, “The essence of intelligence would seem to be in knowing when to think and act quickly, and knowing when to think and act slowly.” This statement echoes the title of Daniel Kahneman’s recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which outlines “the machinery of the mind” and its role in decision making. This machinery, he proposes, operates in two systems: one intuitive and reactive, the other methodical and deliberate. Kahneman’s aim is to “improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgment and choice, in others and eventually in ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them.”

If determining the proper route to good decision making is based in discussion, then what can we add to the conversation taking place in higher education?

Colleges and universities are constantly inundated with demands for the information needed to support decision making at every level. The environment is complex and multiple stakeholders require access to reliable and comprehensive data in order to improve institutional performance and increase student success rates. The decisions required to achieve these goals are both long-term strategic ones as well as immediate, day-to-day judgements.

For ZogoTech, determining the data that inform decision making is an everyday pursuit. An initial step is bringing together the sources of information that give executives, administrators, and researchers a complete picture of what’s happening on campus. In nearly ten years of experience with community colleges and other institutions, we’ve worked closely with clients to understand their precise needs. The collaborative nature of our work ensures that the right information reaches the right people. As more people in an institution have access to data, the discussion around the best way forward can grow.

What tools do you use to make decisions? What resources inform how you think about decision making? What data do you rely on to better understand what’s happening on your campus and what can be done to improve?

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