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Making decisions is hard

Perhaps we need to talk more about what it’s like to do that?

I’m talking decisions about what to do when it’s just not obvious what is the best thing to do.

Really, that’s what a decision is. After all, when things are certain, there’s nothing to make a decision about. It’s only when there are possible ways that things might be that it makes sense to decide one way or other.

Recently I worked with a client on a report for, and about, a sector where the decisions people make have critical consequences. I’m talking about emergency departments and urgent care centres in Victoria’s health sector.

The report focussed on how to remove the barriers clinical practitioners face when they’re making decisions, and also how to make it easier for them, the decision makers at the point in time where it makes a critical difference.

Making decisions is hard.

Clinical practitioners work in critical situations so they can’t dodge the issue. But we all have something to learn and reflect on here.

“Surgery Workshop 2012” by Monash University is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Procedures, when they’re based on evidence and clear about what needs to be accomplished, are effective and have other virtues too.

But we are talking about events (decisions) that go on in people heads, which are shared, mostly, though language.

These decisions are ‘private’ in the sense that they happen in people’s heads but also ‘public’ in the sense that most cognition is a social event in ways that we maybe don’t fully acknowledge.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that they are events. They happen at a point in time, they depend on other events, and they have consequences.

Can we make all that less mysterious?

Can we show how to make decisions by focussing on specific events in a realistic way?

I think that could help. Telling a story about what it is like to make decisions in situations of uncertainty would bring out into the open.

It would show that

  • You don’t have to work it all out yourself.
  • It’s a unique event specific to the circumstances in which it is made.
  • It takes time and resources.
  • We can give reasons.
  • We can analyse it and get better at it.
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