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Dimensions of Decision-Making

By using the elements of thought as our guide, we can identify at least nine dimensions of decision-making that represent potential problems for thought. These dimensions do not define a procedure that can be followed mindlessly or mechanically. They presuppose good judgment and sound thinking in every dimension.

To be an effective and rational decision-maker:

  1. Figure out, and regularly re-articulate, your most fundamental goals, purposes, and needs. Your decisions should help you to remove obstacles and create opportunities to reach your goals, achieve your purposes, and satisfy your needs.

  2. Whenever possible, take problems and decisions one by one. State the situation and formulate the alternatives as clearly and precisely as you can.

  3. Study the circumstances surrounding the alternative possible decisions to make clear the kind of decision you are dealing with. Figure out what implications follow from the various possible alternatives before you. Differentiate decisions over which you have some control and decisions that seem forced on you. Concentrate your efforts on the most important decisions and those on which you can have the most impact.

  4. Figure out the information you need, and actively seek that information.

  5. Carefully analyze and interpret the information you collect, drawing what reasonable inferences you can.

  6. Figure out your options for action. What can you do in the short term? In the long term? Recognize explicitly your limitations in money, time, and power.

  7. Evaluate your options in the situation, taking into account their advantages and disadvantages.

  8. Adopt a strategic approach to the decision, and follow through on that strategy. This may involve direct action or a carefully thought-through wait-and-see strategy.

  9. When you act, monitor the implications of your action as they begin to emerge. Be ready to revise your strategy at a moment's notice if the situation requires. Be prepared to shift your strategy or your analysis or statement of the kind of decision, or all three, as more information about the decision becomes available to you.

Here we will elaborate on only the first of these dimensions, to illustrate how they might be thought-through.

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