Making the right decisions in life and business can be extremely difficult, often times resulting in paralysis of analysis. We share a great message from Mike Maddock that can help with the decision making process.
Have a tough decision to make? Maybe the problem isn’t as hard to figure out as you thought.
Mike Maddock is the founder and CEO of Chicago-based innovation consultants Maddock Douglas, and a self-described “idea monkey.” He specializes in helping people see the solutions that are sometimes so close that you can’t see them yourself.
In a recent article for Forbes.com, Maddock offers three questions to ask yourself when you’re struggling with a tough decision. Whenever he has asked other business leaders for advice, he says, he’s been amazed how simple their solutions were. So now he’s sharing that lesson with the rest of us.
Here are three questions to ask yourself the next time you feel stuck. “Whether you are trying to change your industry, your company or your personal life,” he says, “I promise you it will work.”
Question Number 1: What’s the outcome I want?
Fussing over any problem can be frustrating – especially when the problem starts to consume you. Reverse the situation, Maddock suggests: Focus on your objective instead of letting the problem direct your thinking. “Being energized by problems is a recipe for inaction.”
“Asking the question ‘what is the outcome I want?’ forces the mind to focus on the final destination, not the current bumps in the road,” says Maddock. Once you place yourself firmly back in the “creator” mindset, you’ll see your way clearly to the next big question.
Question Number 2: What stands in my way?
“The best leaders are masters at identifying and prioritizing obstacles that are between them and the outcome they want,” says Maddock. “Then they brainstorm ways to eliminate, avoid or neutralize the obstacles.”
Question Number 3: Who has figured it out already?
Once you’ve prioritized a list of obstacles and identified ways to overcome each one, you have a choice: you can spring into action, or you can pause and steal ideas that have already been proven to work. (If you don’t like the phrase “steal,” Maddock suggests you call it “parallel engineering.”)
He offers an example from his own career. In the mid ’90s, Maddock Douglas had grown to about 25 people, and had dozens of projects happening at once. Needing a more efficient way to manage this complexity, Maddock decided to build a software system to track and manage each account. “After spending roughly $185,000 and hundreds of hours in time, we scrapped the project,” says Maddock. “Three phone calls later we bought an off-the-shelf system that did 90% of the things we were trying to build into our own custom solution.”
He quotes the aphorism, “Intelligence is learning from your mistakes; wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” Pausing to learning from people who have faced similar roadblocks is not just wiser, but usually a lot cheaper.