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To succeed in business means succeeding in making business decisions

Article-To succeed in business means succeeding in making business decisions

Key iconKey Points

  • Decision-makers often adopt an "advocacy process" (seeking to support one's position) when making decisions versus the more powerful "inquiry process" (seeking to determine and analyze options).

While a cosmetic surgery practice is a different animal than a Fortune 500 company — or from a mom-and-pop shop — each of these ventures has something in common. In order to succeed in their businesses, their leaders first need to succeed in the business of decision-making.

Regardless of the size of the operation, the genesis of the decisions that make it or break it is complex, often unconscious — and susceptible to counter-productivity.

ANATOMY OF A DECISION According to articles in the Harvard Business Review , most leaders see decision-making as a singular occurrence. Garvin and Roberto note, "In reality, though, decision-making is a process fraught with power plays, politics, personal nuances and institutional history." This makes decision-makers more likely to adopt an "advocacy process" (seeking to support one's position) when making decisions, as opposed to the much more powerful "inquiry process" (seeking to determine and analyze options).

Switching from the more common advocacy to the more successful inquiry process "requires careful attention to three critical factors: fostering constructive, rather than personal, conflict; making sure everyone knows that their viewpoints are given serious consideration even if they are not ultimately accepted; and knowing when to bring deliberations to a close."

Andrew Campbell, B.A., M.A., M.B.A., a director of the London-based Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, and co-author of numerous publications on leadership, adds to that. "Modern neuroscience teaches us that two hard-wired processes in the brain — pattern recognition and emotional tagging — are critical to decision-making." Quite simply, pattern recognition consists of using prior experiences to make assumptions pertaining to new situations. Emotional tagging is the association of emotional information with experiences stored in the memory.

Both of these factors can be detrimental to effective decision-making for surgeons. "The basic problem is that these two processes happen in the subconscious," Mr. Campbell tells Cosmetic Surgery Times . "We form judgments without being aware of how it happened. So physicians need to be aware that emotions triggered by the situation may be guiding their judgments more than their rational analysis."

Mr. Campbell explains that physicians should be most alert when they are making decisions based on something with which they are partly unfamiliar. "If it is completely unfamiliar, they will be fully alert. The problems occur when the situation is only partly unfamiliar. So, whenever physicians are making a diagnostic or a judgment, they should ask themselves, 'is this situation one that I have lots of experience with or are there some aspects that are unfamiliar?' If there are unfamiliar aspects, the next question is 'are there any red flags?'"

RECOGNIZING RED FLAGS Red flags are characteristics that should alert surgeons to the potential for making bad decisions. Inappropriate self-interest is one of three red flags. The presence of distorting attachments (to people, places or things) and misleading memories (which may seem relevant but, in fact, are not) are the other two red flags.

"Self-interest is a particular problem for cosmetic surgeons, as well as for other physicians," Mr. Campbell notes. "Because the individual physician may not know when self-interest is affecting his or her judgment, the only protection is to involve someone in the decision process who does not have the same self-interest."

One solution is to work with someone to debate the assessment. "If the physician has a regular decision partner, then he or she must select someone who recognizes that his or her role is to help the lead physician avoid self-interest," Mr. Campbell explains.

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