Yes or No: The Clarification Process - Questions to ask yourself return to index
Decisions are difficult to make at times. Particularly when
all of the factors which impinge on the subject are unclear
or are not readily accessible.
The listing below may be of help in that process. However,
it cannot provide the definitive yes or no to any problem
or decision making process. This is principally due to the fact
that there are always other factors involved
which can not be fully covered in a single listing.
That said, there is some value in evaluating several aspects
of any process which might not come readily to mind.
Questions you should ask yourself in the decision making process
Will the decision limit the way in which you or others
will proceed in the future?
What are the consequences of letting the decision ride
for a while until there is greater clarity?
Are there other things which could be done to change or delay
the decision making process for right now?
What is the process that you have to go through to let
things go on the way they are?
Have all of the relevant aspects of the decision making process
been fully assessed?
Is a modified yes or no answer available which would not
be so drastic?
How many individuals will this decision effect?
What are the opinions of others who are involved?
What are the opinions of others who are not involved but have
some familiarity with the problem?
Who else have you asked for advice and input?
You may take no one's advice in the end but at least get their input.
A new angle on the problem may be surprisingly helpful in solidifying the decision
or at least the way to go about making the decision work for you.
What is the possibility that you will change your mind in
What do you really want to do?
How sure are you that you want to do it?
What are the positive consequences of a yes answer?
What are the negative consequences of a yes answer?
What are the positive consequences of a no answer?
What are the negative consequences of a no answer?
Or put another way, what will be the good that comes out of making a yes decision?
What will be the negatives that come out of making a yes decision?
If you make no decision, what will be the consequences?
What is the right thing to do?
What is the legal thing to do?
What is the correct thing to do?
If things were different regarding the situation,
what decision would you make - or would there
even be a question of making a decision?
What would have to be different for that to happen?
What could you do to change the conditions right now?
What could be done in general to change the conditions?
Does this reason for making the decision justify the making of a crucial decision?
Is there another way of handling the problem that has not
Why are you making a decision? List all of the reasons.
Why are you making a decision right now?
What are you trying to show or prove by making the decision?
How much time do you have to make the decision?
Have you gathered all of the necessary information for making an informed decision?
What information are you lacking to enable a free and well informed choice?
What could you do which would have significant bearing on the choice made?
By the way - what is your goal? Is it realistic? Is it right for you?
Will it enhance you and others involved?
What are the steps to take to make it a reality?
Is there anything which is holding up the process?
Is there anything which makes it difficult to formulate the best decision?
Are there other ways to fulfill your goal(s)? Are they more relevant, more
possible than the path you have chosen or will choose? Is the decision
tied to one of these paths?
What are all of the different ways in which the means for fulfilling the
demands which are causing the problem, be accomplished? Have you tried any
one of them?
Given all of the above, should you change what is at the present time?
yes maybe yes maybe no no
If you said anything but yes, don't do it.
Or, as my grandmother used to say, "If in doubt, don't".
And then of course there is the old standby: What would your mother,
father, uncle, aunt, mentor, anybody, etc. have you do (unless of course
they were always wrong)?
Enough beating around the bush. You know by now what you have to do.
So do it.
Sometimes, the problems leading to the current decision are no longer problems
once the goals, demands, and alternatives open are clarified.
Decision Between Alternatives return to index
Many of the tools developed as guides to the decision making process are
tools for deciding between alternative options. A yes or no answer often does not fit the needs of the situation.
Further, case studies are often used to illustrate the successes and failures of specific problems. However,
case studies are valuable as examples of possible alternatives but can not be generalized to provide an answer to another situation with its particular variables.
Aside from many of the questions above in the yes-no paradigm, the following questions relate specifically to multi-option situations.
Some of the questions to ask in evaluating different options:
Which option gives the closest approximation to the professed and operational goals of the group?
Which will cause the least amount of restructuring?
Which will create the greatest return on the effort or resources to be expended?
Which will make the fullest use of the talents and abilities of the permanent members of the group?
Which has the highest probability of creating the desired effect?
Which will cause more problems in the end, or will mean extra unnecessary effort to finally attain your goal?
What are the steps to completing each of the possible decisions?
What are the pluses and minuses of each possibility?
Which one best fulfills the purpose you hope to attain in the end?
What are all of the problems faced and how does each of the alternatives deal with these problems?
Build different scenarios for each of the options or possible decisions and answer the yes/no questions regarding each.
Realistic Assessment Method - What forces are really operating return to index
Many of the methods used to determine decision points and to assess
the best way to proceed (see sources below) are generally cognizant of the economic aspects,
utility, speed, efficiency and efficacy of a process. What is often overlooked are the factors which in the end cause changes
in directions in small ways, of adjustments, and the addition of resources, funding, etc. and finally, in many cases, totally
change the way in which any decision is implemented and in some cases the decision itself. These are the forces of
individual predilection, juxtaposition of competing allegiances, habitual actions,
belief structures, line of least resistance, entrenched positions, power alignments,
individual and group biases, informal group dynamics, the good for particular individuals,
and in the best circumstances: justice, balance, fairness, sense of duty, equality,
and the good for the greatest number.
In order to make any decision which has any hope of being realized,
these factors must be taken into consideration, or rather, will be
taken into consideration by the process itself and will dominate any changes on the ground.
To the degree to which these are identified and added to the mix, the
more successful the realization of the larger goals of the individual or group.
The following parameters or listings usually involve an intimate knowledge of
the group or the individuals involved although an approximation may be achieved
from an overall assessment of the interactions within a group, reactions toward the external environment, and some knowledge
of its history. Other tools which can be helpful are smart questionnaires, astute observation
of the group in action, interaction analysis by individuals at different levels of an organization,
and outside assessments by knowledgeable observers.
Parameters or Listings:
predilections and habits of key players
motivating goals of individual or group - short and long term
underlying goals which may not coincide with the above goals
perceived self image of the individuals and of the group
overall altruistic goals as juxtaposed to growth and survival goals
forces currently acting: economic, environmental, inter-group, supply, demand
inertial forces at play in the situation
interplay of dynamic interactions - fairness, support, allegiances and other balancing factors both positive and negative at work between individuals and groups involved
pay back forces at work - negative and positive
paradigms of power in operation
justification scenarios for faults, inadequacies, failure to attain goals which have been used in the past and possibly of use in the future
limitations - both perceived and actual
assessment of resources - both ideal and actual and the interactive allocation of
those resources to accomplish the minimum allowable goals even if not the desired goals
impeding or blocking forces at work - individual, group and environmental/situational
personal debt structures (both monitory and non monitory) in operation
Negative Thinking return index
The old adage to "think positively" is a standard regardless of the
situation. This is particularly true when things are not going so well.
Thinking negatively is what often got us into the problem in the
first place. But solving a problem by 1) backtracking, or by 2)
error assessment, or 3) assessing possible
negative consequences all give new perspectives on what in fact
should be done to solve a problem, and is sometimes the most
positive way forward.
What must be undone or stopped in order to go forward?
What are 10 things that have to be changed to realize the goal?
What are the possible mistakes which can be made?
Who will be effected negatively?
How can errors best be avoided?
What is the best way not to make the same errors or mistakes made in the past?
What are all the reasons for mistakes made in the past?
Assuming that the goal is realized. Work backwards from the goal detailing each step you might have to make to realize it.
What are the negative aspects of this decision?
What are the negative consequences of each possibility?
How can I prepare for and reduce the effects of negative consequences which will occur due to the decision?
Thinking negatively, what happens if the goal is not achieved?
How can you best protect yourself against the fallout of not achieving the goal?
What options will be closed to you if that happens?
What is the next best alternative?
What will happen if the changes are not made?
Which decision will cause the least amount of damage or problems?
Selected Web Sources for Decision Making, Help & Clarification return index
Selected sites giving methods and help in the decision making process. Some commercial sites are listed when they
provide thought provoking material or actual methods for problem solving online as part of their presentation.
The Institute for Strategic Clarity
The institute "...is a non-profit scientific research and educational
organization that seeks to increase the clarity with which decision
makers, in any organization, understand, determine, and
communicate the organization's strategic direction."
As part of the site, there is an excellent treatment of decision making techniques.
Techniques for effective decision making giving 8 different techniques plus additional resources for decision making.
Module Overview for Problem Solving
Within an overall treatment of Teamwork: Skills for Overall Collaboration, provides some straightforward tools and advice on problem solving using team dynamics.
* Lesson 1: Problem Identification
* Lesson 2: Reflective Problem-Solving
* Lesson 3: Conflict-Based Problem-Solving
* Lesson 4: Creative Problem-Solving
Includes a Problem Solving WWWebliography
A Google List of Problem Based Learning
Problem-based learning (PBL) "...a curriculum development and instructional approach [which]
simultaneously develops problem solving strategies, disciplinary knowledge bases, and skills."
Problem-based learning does this "by placing students in the active role of problem-solvers confronted with an ill-structured problem which mirrors real-world problems." Presented by the Center for Problem-based Learning of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, it provides full support and resources for using the method in the learning environment.
List by dmoz of problem-based learning sites
ThoughtPath Links to other creative and problem solving sites
The Global Ideas Bank Institute for Social Inventions. A Global Suggestion Box for socially innovative non-technological ideas and projects, with £1,000 awards annually for the best ideas or projects submitted.
Marketplace of Ideas/Marketplace for Kids
A nonprofit group. "The Marketplace of Ideas section will introduce you to the wonderful world of economic development through new ideas."
Marketplace for Kids Learning Guide
"This Learning Guide contains more ideas than most teachers, youth leaders and parents will want to use. Select the ideas that are best suited to your situation and students' interests and abilities."
NASA SCI FILES: Instructional Tools
Excellent resource. "Learning is demonstrated in a variety of ways and on multiple occasions, so we have provided these sample tools and general recommendations."
Provides the tools for group teaching, learning, evaluation, and the processing of problem solving.
Inquiry and Problem Solving by ENC "Provides articles giving the following information:
Inquiry & Problem Solving
Inquiry and problem solving are central to standards-based teaching of mathematics and science. Articles on this theme show how classroom teachers encourage their students to become inquirers and problem solvers. Related materials from the ENC collection have been selected to help teachers do this important work.
Framing the Context
This section provides information on how this topic relates to the concerns of educators.
Beyond School Walls
Read about these inquiry and problem solving activities that take place outside the classroom in the field.
Read about activities that teachers have implemented in their classrooms to promote inquiry and problem solving.
Guidance for Teachers
Advice for teachers on how to implement inquiry and problem solving activities with students.
Via the Internet
Learn about inquiry and problem solving activities that take place via the World Wide Web.
ENC's collection contains a wealth of educational materials.
Mission & Background
ENC's mission is to identify effective curriculum resources, create high-quality professional development materials, and disseminate useful information and products to improve K-12 mathematics and science teaching and learning."
Decision Making and Problem Solving
by Herbert A. Simon and Associates. A synthesis of general decision making and problem solving theory and studies.
Top Story Goddard Space Flight Center
Children compete in an odyssey to solve a problem sponsored by NASA
Every year, children from all over the world gather together and compete in a creative problem-solving competition called “Odyssey of the Mind World Finals,” which challenges students to solve long-term problems in topics ranging from science and technology to the creative arts.
The Business Innovation Tool. Try the demo.
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