By: Adebayo B. Olanrewaju

Decision making and workable ideas are the hearts of a business endeavour. They determine the extent to which a business enterprise can go in terms of achieving its goals and objectives. This article outlines some time-tested techniques for making sound decisions, conceptualizing and implementing workable ideas for an overall business success and life. 

  • Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an intentionally uninterrupted technique for generating creative ideas when the best solution is not obvious. The brainstorming technique is widely used to generate ideas when using the fishbone (cause-and-effect) diagram. The following are some practices and conditions that favorably influence good brainstorming sessions. 

  1. Generating a large number of ideas: Don’t inhibit anyone. Just let the ideas out. The important thing to watch out here is quantity. Each idea should be recorded one at a time.
  2. Free-wheeling is encouraged: Never look down on any idea. Even though an idea may be half-baked or silly, it has value. It may provoke thoughts from others.
  3. Don’t criticize: There will be ample time after the session to sift through the ideas for the good ones. During the session, do not criticize ideas because that might inhibit others.
  4. Encouraging everyone to participate: Everyone thinks and has ideas. Everyone should be given an opportunity to speak out their opinion.
  5. Recording all the ideas generated: Appoint a recorder to write down everything suggested. Don’t edit the ideas; just jot them down as they are mentioned. Keep a permanent record that can be read later.
  6. Let ideas incubate: One must free the subconscious mind to be creative. Let it do its work by giving it time. Don’t discontinue brainstorming sessions too soon. Consider adding to the list at another meeting.
  7. Selecting an appropriate meeting place: A place that is comfortable, casual and the right size will greatly enhance a brainstorming session.
  8. Group size: The ideal group size is best around 4-10 people. Brainstorming, just like the cause-and-effect diagram, does not necessarily solve problems or create a corrective action plan. It can be effectively used with other techniques such as multivoting to arrive at a consensus as to an appropriate course of action. It is a participative method to help work teams achieve their goals and objectives.

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  • Team Consensus

 Unlike majority rule, there is no team vote with consensus. Consensus implies that the proposed action has general team support. The decision may not be every team member’s first choice. It is a course of action that all can live with and not die over. There is ample opportunity for team members to express opinions prior to the final decision. Note that the following multivoting and nominal group techniques (although voting is used) have elements of consensus built into them. 

  • Nominal Group Technique

 This technique brings people together to solve problems but limits initial interaction among them. The aim of the concept is to prevent social pressures from influencing the generation of ideas. The term “nominal” is used to describe the limiting of communications. To conduct an NGT problem solving meeting: 

  1. A facilitator or moderator leads the discussion
  2. A group of five to nine individuals are assembled for idea generation
  3. A problem is presented
  4. Before any discussion, all members create ideas silently and individually
  5. The facilitator then requests an idea from each member in sequence
  6. Each idea is recorded until ideas are exhausted
  7. Like brainstorming, no discussion is allowed at this point
  8. The clarification and evaluation of ideas is then permitted
  9. Expanding on the ideas of others is encouraged
  10. Voting for the best solution idea is then conducted (by some priority)
  11. Several rounds of voting may be needed

 The facilitator should allow about 60 to 90 minutes for a problem solving session. As with brainstorming sessions, the facilitator should avoid trying to influence the problem solving process. The chief advantage of this technique is that the group meets formally, and yet encourages independent thinking. 

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  • Voting

 In voting, only one vote is permitted per team member. Voting can result in majority or unanimous decisions. In some immature team environments, voting can lead to conflict. This is why consensus decisions are usually preferred. 

  • Multivoting

 Multivoting is a popular way to select the most popular or potentially most important items from a previously generated list. A list of ideas or potential causes can be generated by brainstorming. Having a list of ideas does not translate to action. Often, there are too many items for a team to work on at a single time. It may be worthwhile to narrow the field to a few items worthy of immediate attention. Multivoting is useful for this objective and consists of the following steps, which include: 

  1. Generating and numbering a list of items.
  2. Combining similar items, if the group agrees.
  3. If necessary, renumbering the list.
  4. Allowing members to choose several items that they feel are most important.
  5. Members may make their initial choices silently
  6. Then tallying the votes.
  7. To reduce the list, eliminate those items with the fewest votes

 In this case, members normally have a number of choices equal to one-third of the listed items. Voting can be conducted by a show of hands as each item is announced. The items receiving the largest number of votes are usually worked on or implemented first. Group size will affect the results. Items receiving 0 – 4 votes might be eliminated altogether. The original list should be saved for future reference and/or action. 

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  • Effort/Impact

 One of the most viable methods of deciding on an acceptable course of action is by determining and comparing the impact of that action with the effort (or expense) required in accomplishing the required results. Usually some form of a matrix or modified Johari window is used. The only difficulty with this approach is getting the objective data to complete the matrix or getting the concerned parties to subjectively agree on the appropriate classifications. 

  • Force Field Analysis

Another tool often used for problem identification and resolution is the force field analysis. Force field analysis may be performed as follows: 

  1. Building a desire to understand the forces acting on a problem to be resolved.
  2. Determining the forces favoring the desired goal (driving forces).
  3. Determining the opposing forces to the desired goal (restraining forces).
  4. Add to the driving forces to overwhelm the restraining forces, or
  5. Removing or weakening the restraining forces, or
  6. Do both (strengthen driving forces and weaken restraining forces).

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