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Decision-Making: When You Get Stuck

decision making innovation Aug 31, 2022

With the many decisions leaders make every day, some decisions are left hanging. Most of the time more information is needed or the timing is not quite right. Sometimes, though, the unmade decisions are left lingering and for teams working toward a purpose this can be frustrating or even de-motivating.

"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." ~Theodore Levitt

Getting stuck in decision making slows down innovation and hinders creativity. This blog series is focused on the innovation to decision making cycle. It’s worth a moment to pause and acknowledge leaders can get stuck at this transition point and never move into trying an experiment or taking action.

Why We Get Stuck

Some decisions we make happen naturally. These are straightforward and the options appear obvious. Other decisions are more complex. They may involve competing priorities, impact multiple functions across the organization or introduce a new way of thinking and doing things.

Rarely do we get stuck in straightforward decisions. It’s the more complex ones that contain obstacles or uncertainties that can bog us down. We spin our wheels and go nowhere wondering how we got there and how we can get out. 

If you want to get moving again, you’ll need to know WHEN you’re stuck and then HOW to get unstuck.

WHEN You Know You’re Stuck

If you keep circling around the same decision over and over, you’ll probably notice one or more of these:

  • It’s unclear who is responsible to make the decision 
  • Too many ideas to sort through keep the group stuck in discussion 
  • Hesitation festers without steps to reduce doubt or mitigate risks
  • Fatigue sets in due to lack the bandwidth for complex decisions
  • Ambiguity leads to overwhelm and faulty thinking that no idea is possible

“The encouraging and surprising truth is that it's okay to be stuck. Being stuck can be a mark that you are doing important things, because important things are often hard. And when things are hard, we are likely to get stuck.”

HOW to Get Unstuck

If you’ve navigated your way to making a decision and start noticing the signs that you’re stuck, then try one of these to get the decision moving again. 

Define Roles

Not every decision can be achieved through consensus. So, then, how will the decision be made? Who will make the decision? What contribution are you expecting from others in the process? It can help to start this conversation before you get started, however, if you notice decisions are being left unmade, then step back and define your team’ framework for making decisions.

Think Simpler

If the team is experiencing fatigue, overwhelm or ambiguity then getting unstuck is about breaking it down into smaller steps. It can also be focusing the criteria for the idea you choose on the simplest way to contribute low effort and achieve high impact. 

Go Backwards

Sometimes we move too quickly though ideating and evaluating thinking that the path will just become clear. When it doesn’t and your team is stuck, it’s okay to back up and ideate some more, review ideas you discarded before, re-evaluate ideas with more focused criteria. 

"Not making a decision means forgoing an opportunity." ~Auliq Ice

Next Steps

Getting unstuck sets you and your team up to flourish. It’s beyond just resolving the current situation. It’s also about overcoming and learning from the experience so that you can teach others to do the same in future situations. That’s real-time leadership development that helps individuals and the collective team grow and flourish together.  

Moving forward, in our next blog, let’s get back to how innovation is moving us from ideating into making the decision that positions us to be able to take action.  We’ll look at testing out our ideas to see if they will fly.  We won’t invest a lot, yet we will learn a lot about whether we truly are on the right path.

In closing, I’d love to hear about what have you tried to help your team when they are stuck in a decision? What new things might you try in the future if you sense your team is getting bogged down? Share your thoughts below or email me a question!






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