Good enough or perfect decision?

What you need to know:

  • Trust that you selected good decision criteria and that you rated the choices good enough.
  • You may never find an option that meets or exceeds your expectations on every single potential criterion in existence.

As we circumnavigate our professional careers, we will run into two different types of decision-makers. We will encounter both maximisers and satisficers. Maximisers are perfectionists about decision making and they take loads and loads of time to make optimal decisions.

The Myers and Briggs Foundation claims that 45 percent fall into some form of maximiser. Then the concept of satisficing is a mix of the word satisfy and suffice. It incorporates those people who do not over-stress over decision-making.

Fascinating research 20 years ago by Barry Schwartz, Andrew Ward, John Monterosso, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Katherine White, and Darrin Lehman found that maximisers experience lower happiness, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction levels all while having more perfectionism and higher regret.

So, sadly, as people spend time trying to make better and better decisions, they actually regret the decisions they make and suffer negative consequences as a result.

In a separate study, Sheena Iyengar, Rachael Wells, and Barry Schwartz discovered that maximisers who put in significantly more effort and ruminated over and over again on their decisions were able to secure outcomes that were 20 percent better than satisficing individuals who spent less time investigating, applying, pushing, and struggling to make their decisions and gathering information.

However, the maximisers even with their 20 percent higher results actually end up less happy with their outcomes. So, is all the extra stress and effort that comes with trying to maximise on decisions worth the 20 percent improvement in decision making?

In other words, should maximisers become comfortable with having decisions that are good enough and accept that they might not be perfect?

Dalia Diab, Michael Gillespie, and Scott Highhouse disagree with the severity of negative effects that maximisers face, and they, therefore, propose the following scale to determine whether someone is indeed a maximiser.

So please read the below and use the following maximisation scale to ascertain where you fall in terms of maximisation or satisficing.

Respond to each of the nine statements individually as either you strongly disagree, then give it a one (1) value, if you disagree, then assign it a two (2) value, neutral a three (3), agree a four (4), and if you strongly agree with a statement, then give that a statement a five (5).

No matter what it takes, I always try to choose the best thing. I do not like having to settle for “good enough”. I am a maximiser. No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself. I will wait for the best option, no matter how long it takes. I never settle for second best.

I am uncomfortable making decisions before I know all of my options. Whenever I am faced with a choice, I try to imagine what all the other possibilities are, even ones that are not present at the moment. I never settle.

Now, proceed to total up all your responses. If you score above 32, then you struggle as a maximiser.

If you score between 26 and 32, then you fall into the middle ground between maximisers and satisficers.

Lastly, if your total is under 26, then you comfortably thrive as a satisficer. You make quicker decisions and tend to be happier with your choices and life.

Famed psychology researcher Eva Krockow advises that maximisers can learn to behave more like satisficers that would allow them to make almost excellent decisions instead of perfect decisions.

They can aim to improve their efficiency by selecting decision options that are “good enough” rather than flawless.

First, learning satisficing entails the maximiser to sit down and intentionally identify a few criteria that they will use to make their decision.

As an example, if trying to select a university for your son or daughter, then perhaps decide to rate prospective campuses on their price, quality, lack of lost grades, and beautiful buildings.

Second, then select the option that scores the highest on your criteria among the choices you have before you.

Adding emotions

Continuing the university selection example, if in totalling all your criteria rating, maybe USIU-Africa scores a 15, Strathmore University a 14, University of Nairobi a 12, KCA University a 10, and Mount Kenya University a 7, then proceed and choose USIU-Africa without adding in emotions or extra up and down thoughts.

Trust that you selected good decision criteria and that you rated the choices good enough.

You may never find an option that meets or exceeds your expectations on every single potential criterion in existence.

In summary, if you scored that you are a maximiser or in the middle ground in the earlier self-assessment, then learning the skills of satisficing to act more like a satisficer can help you to be comfortable with good enough choices, reduce decision regret, and leave you feeling happier.

[email protected] Twitter: @ScottProfessor

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.