Introduction to Decision Making

Approach provides a framework for engaging others in common work. Without clarity about approach, mutual work becomes impossible. Convergent decision-making eliminates and prioritizes options in a limited time frame to promote a sense of progress. Divergent decision-makers create more satisfaction by coming up with new ideas and testing everything possible to find the best one. Convergent decision-making maximizes results in a timeframe; divergent decision-making maximizes results based on a spatial framework of inter-related ideas. The more we understand Convergent and Divergent approaches, the greater our capacity to separate ourselves from our personal preferences and actually accomplish what is needed based on the best approach given the current problem.

Convergent Decision-Makers reduce the scope of the project so that they can take action quickly. This is an incremental approach that allows Convergent individuals to feel that they are always making progress. Our natural focus is to scope out what can be done now, so we can implement cleanly and build on incremental results. Since our focus is to quickly eliminate options that do not fit our criteria, we tend to distrust outside input that seems to have no immediately apparent contribution. We measure our performance more by how fast we produce results rather than whether or not the results are the best. We like to get all the details quickly and will immediately act if the details satisfy the criteria we have for the decision. Usually we test others as to their effectiveness in supporting our decision-making process by giving them tasks where we measure the effectiveness of their response. What we are seeking is consistent, fast turn around and task oriented results. This means we want to eliminate the unpredictability of extraneous people in the process. We appreciate it when others can help us reduce options because we seek to get to the bottom line quickly. Usually if we are not ready to make a decision, we want to know how quickly we can have the purchase when we are ready. This is because time is important to us and we will hold others accountable to the time frames they give us.

Divergent Decision-Makers explore all the options, waiting until they know that they have found the best choice. This is an all-or-nothing approach that allows Divergent individuals to organize their energy and effort around a worthy choice. We are seeking the ultimate best decision because we do not want to deal with short-term incremental approaches that minimize the big picture. We measure our effectiveness by how completely we have defined what we really need, so we do not have to revisit the situation soon. Naturally we love decision-making processes when we have an open timeframe that allows us to expand our scope to make the best choices overall. It is difficult for us to imagine that others will understand our criteria for the decision and therefore be able to respond to us in a clean, supportive way. This does not keep us from asking our friends, business associates or partners for their input or ideas to make sure we are not missing something in the decision-making process. It does keep us from making the choice blindly based on the word of someone with no stake in the decision. In such a situation we would rather not make a decision than to make the wrong decision. For us to take action everything has to line up. We love researching choices. We also enjoy making sure the choice will make a positive impact on our life. While we may be seen by others as being procrastinators and “time-wasters,” when we make a choice, we are actually totally committed to it.

When individuals have the same Approach, decision-making can be easy for them. Unfortunately, many people make decisions on a Content sensitive basis. In other words, they develop confidence about making decisions in certain ways in certain situations. What makes this even more difficult is that many of us are trained to do our decision-making the way our parents wanted us to do it. This creates confusion when what we believe is the right way to make a decision is always frustrating. Until we get to a point where we can honor our own choices and get in flow with ourselves, it is impossible to align with others in a decision-making process. We keep falling into the trap of believing what we should do, which may really be compromising our ability to be ourselves fully and to engage others fully. The more we understand different decision-making Approaches, the more quickly we can neutralize our differences and Co-Create common solutions.

Divergent Decision-Making Imprinting mandates that we should be open and flexible in all decision-making processes. Sometimes it can be taken to extremes by not being willing to discuss options until everyone is present or until we are all in consensus. While we are frustrated when others do not perceive that we are attempting to work with them, we appreciate that this gives us more time to figure out what we want. Since we are fearful about losing our passion if we over-organize things, we want others to appreciate how we try to keep our options open to be more inclusive of them. In this way we try to be a mediator or peacekeeper so that the decision-making process is open and available to others. What we seek is for others to acknowledge that we have their interest at heart and that we want to create the most powerful solution for all. We are most satisfied when others believe the process is fair, which ironically usually means compromised equally for everyone.

We also could have Variable Decision-Making Imprinting, particularly when we needed to be peacemakers between different decision-making style parents. Variable Decision-Making Imprinting mandates that we should have an optimum mix of both convergent and divergent decision-making practices. Therefore, we try to balance our focused, “eliminate as many options upfront” approach with the unfocused, “give ourselves as much time as we need” approach. This makes us extremely sensitive to the expectations and beliefs of others. As a result, we end up over-negotiating and including others even when it is not necessary. What we seek is for others to appreciate our flexibility and capability in making things happen in a way that serves everyone. We are satisfied when decisions are made without a lot of pressure, force or anxiety. Ironically, it puts a lot of pressure on us, and results in inner anxiety.

Our decision-making approach is how we structure problem-solving. Some individuals focus, prioritize   and make decisions within a pre-established timeframe for immediate action - we call this Convergent. Others, at the opposite end, want to reflect, explore options without a pre-established structure for long-term results - we call this Divergent. Still others like an optimum balance between Convergent and Divergent approaches. They let circumstance dictate the approach – we call this Switchable.

The potential for decision-making effectiveness is significantly expanded when we all realize that Convergent and Divergent approaches are equally powerful and valid. Problems occur when people do not have an understanding of the full range of natural decision-making approaches that can work in the situation. In other words, they become focused on their way of doing things (being right) and do not accept that others could accomplish things just as effectively by doing them differently.

When we insist others make decisions the way we do, despite their natural process, we create distrust and stress. By denying the other’s legitimate point of view, we intensify the conflict with them. We create situations where people are not heard or recognized for their perspective. This ultimately encourages avoidance behavior.

When others do not appreciate the unique approaches of their associates, they spend energy positioning and arguing about the way to solve problems rather than co-creating as a group. Individuals feel frustrated and stressed – they become cynical about group gatherings and lose confidence in their own and other’s ability to produce the desired results. When this happens, individuals find other ways to get what they want – usually by more covert and political means.

While this factor can show up differently in various parts of our life, we are usually naturally Convergent (meaning focused or prioritized toward immediate action), Divergent (meaning unfocused and open to exploring all options until the best become obvious) or Switchable (meaning we respond or react based on what others do or expect). For some, this compatibility factor is difficult to identify within ourselves because of contradictory beliefs set in place by imprinting.

Fortunately, it is possible to develop appreciation for decision-making approaches – both our own natural approach and the approach of others. This provides the context for mutual contribution and expanded creativity. Team members experience fulfillment and accomplishment because of their work together – and solutions are far better than any one individual could have developed on their own. This would be called a win-win decision-making process.

Summary : The Decision-making Approach provides a framework for engaging others in common work; without clarity about approach, mutual work and problem-solving becomes impossible and stagnation or unilateral actions result. Decision-Making Approach reflects a choice on the continuum between being Divergent or researching options to find the best, long-term solution, and being Convergent or taking immediate action to get something done. The more conscious we are about decision-making approach, the more we take other’s patterns and the situation itself into account before define how we will decide something.

Decision-Making Approach, reflects the choice between taking immediate action to get something done or researching options to find the best, long-term solution. While this factor is Context sensitive, meaning that it can show up differently in various parts of our life (work, relationships, individual creative focus) we are usually either naturally Convergent or Divergent. Some individuals can be both which we define as either Open Ended, Variable or Switchable. A Closed Down person is impaired in their ability to make decisions. For some, this Compatibility Factor is difficult to identify within ourselves because of contradictory beliefs set in place by parental Imprinting. The more effectively we can identify our Decision-Making Approach and others’, the more supportive we can be in facilitating mutual decisions. A brief summary of each Approach is below:

CONVERGENT OR FOCUSED ENERGY:

Deals with specifics

•   Directed, purposeful, productive, concentrated, serial in time
•   Goal-oriented with specific timeframes for each step
•   Afraid to be overwhelmed by too much at one time
•   Likes clear straight lines and shiny, striking, provocative materials
•   Does not like to be interrupted; feels it is inefficient

DIVERGENT OR UNFOCUSED ENERGY:

Loves generalities

•   Primal, explosive, creative, expansive, multi-leveled, not serial in time
•   Wants to identify underlying principles
•   Afraid that premature activity will make things worse
•   Likes rounded, diffused patterns and soft natural materials
•   Likes to be interrupted; feels it will improve the discussion

OPEN ENDED

Conscious choice

•   Flexible, flowing, congruent, open, easy
•   Consensual Decision Making with trust
•   Responds to the circumstances at hand
•   Consciously chooses Convergent and/or Divergent
•   Reduces anxiety and stress in group Decision Making situations

VARIABLE

Semi-conscious choice

•   Flexible, reflective, fluid, aware, growing
•   Learning to understand the value of our Convergent and Divergent options
•   Becoming fluid and able to see what’s needed for each situation
•   Self awareness of what works, leads to congruence with others
•   Growing in our ability to meet others

SWITCHABLE

Reactive

•   Unpredictable, hyper-vigilant, incongruent, guarded, challenging
•   A result of having one strong Convergent parent and one strong Divergent parent
•   Unconsciously detecting and reacting to others
•   Automatically responds with opposite point of view
•   Hyper-sensitive to the differences in others

CLOSED DOWN

Stuck “under control”

•   Afraid, reluctant, confused, traumatized, secretive
•   Avoid making decisions
•   Handicapped by fear of being wrong
•   Extremely independent and do not need others, or
•   Go along with others just to make it easy

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© Copyright 2016, Larry Byram. All Rights Reserved.

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