Marketing faculty share how to make your best choices

Making decisions is as common as breathing—we do it daily. Yet, decision making never seems to get easier. And in a pandemic, it’s harder. Work and personal decisions—even ones that used to be simple—have taken on a life-or-death tone: “Should I go to the office? Should we have a staff meeting? Should my kids go to school? Should I get a haircut?”  

How do you make good decisions in difficult times? To help answer this, Daniels College of Business Marketing Associate Professors Melissa Archpru Akaka and Ali Besharat, both co-directors of the Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center, shared their thoughts in a recent webinar titled: Making Your Best Choices: Decision Making Amidst Constant Change.

Take Your Time

“We are getting bombarded with information and it’s a lot to process,” Akaka said. “It’s important to first think through how you make decisions.”

She adds that because the stakes are so high, it’s critical to take extra time to be more strategic and proactive versus reactive. “Be thoughtful about developing a plan and supporting people in their decision-making processes,” she said.

Revisit Your Values

Melissa Akaka

Both Akaka and Besharat say the pandemic has given everyone pause to reconsider their values and that can help in making big decisions.

“There are many factors that go into decisions that need to be weighed in terms of asking, ‘Who am I? What truly matters in my life? How do I want to live my life?  What do I value?’” Akaka said. “So decision-making isn’t always just logic or reason but values, too.”

Think Community

Akaka, whose parents are living with her and her family during the pandemic, suggests processing decisions collectively. That means considering and involving all stakeholders and their best interests.

“I think the more time we spend with a group of people, the more collective these decisions become,” she says. “Work to reconcile different views by considering the safety of the community.”

Besharat agrees and adds, “So it’s not like I’m wearing a mask just for my own safety, but also for others. We’re all going through the pandemic so let’s work together.”

Write Down the Risks and Rewards

Besharat encourages pragmatism. “It’s not a new idea, but it’s helpful to simply write down and look at the trade-offs of a decision,” he said. “Carefully consider the risk and rewards – examine what might you gain or lose. Ask yourself, ‘What will I get from wearing a mask or what could I lose from not wearing one?’”

Check Your Emotions

Ali Besharat

Besharat says emotions play important roles in decision making and two common ones in the pandemic are anger and sadness.

“We’re experiencing both of those at the loss of jobs, normalcy and control,” he said. “We know when people are angry, they can jump into quick decision-making and not process information. And sadness can lead people to make poor financial decisions. They try to cope by buying things, but they often overcompensate and overspend. Both emotions can lead to being irrational.”

Beware of Shortcuts

Akaka and Besharat both say it’s tempting to seek shortcuts to help with a decision. One example is confirmation bias – using information that confirms what we already believe.

“It’s comforting but it can be detrimental to your judgment because you’re often relying on a narrow range of information,” Besharat says. “It’s cherry picking information.”

Another shortcut: The status quo, basically not doing anything. “A decision can create friction and we try to avoid friction,” Besharat said.

And a third shortcut: peer pressure or doing what the crowd does.

Bottom line: decisions are often tough but they have to be made so put in the hard yards to make good ones.