How to design decisions

How to design decisions

Ahead of your next project, spend time thinking about how big decisions will be made.

June 13, 2018

No matter what your title is, your job is to make, facilitate, and justify decisions for yourself and others.

Therefore, everyone needs to consider the decision-making process to be more effective, says Stephanie Norvaisas of Design Concepts, at the How to Conference by CU Water Cooler in Madison, Wis.

Here’s how:


When asked to reflect on a choice, people often opt to choose the one that they can talk about best, maybe not the one they actually like the best. This is called a verbalization bias.

To overcome this, Norvaisas says, make it easy for people to accurately and vividly talk about a subject.

Decision-making is intensive, and it’s easy to take the easiest path toward a decision. But don’t rely on either the fast brain (emotional response) or the slow brain (rational response) too much.

Pay attention to your gut, but slow down, Norvaisas says.

Avoid choice overload. Too many choices can lead to bad selections or dissatisfaction in the final decision. Limit your options.

Beware of group think. Groups tend to minimize conflict by going along with decisions. Give people a chance to develop thoughts individually before opening up group discussion.


You must assign roles to team members. It’s human nature to want to contribute and to want make a difference. But, “if people don’t have a role it gets crazy,” Norvaisas says. Everyone must understand how the ultimate decision is going to be made and who is going to be the “decider.”

Develop a shared point of view. Frame the problem for everyone and develop a common language. Make a problem statement and revisit it every time your group meets. Furthermore, get an agreement on what success requires ahead of time.


Set the environment for decision-making. When people are comfortable it's easier to make choices. This can mean simple things like providing snacks and a pleasant meeting setting.

Equip people to verbalize matters that are hard to articulate. Start with, “do you love it, or do you hate it?” Then go into the details of why. Give them a worksheet to fill out.

Get buy-in and avoid tribalism in the office. Include people in the process early on. Make sure voices are heard early. Give people a sense of ownership.

“It is about knowing your audience and knowing what will help them decide,” says Norvaisas.