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Steer clear of the hazards of black and white decision-making with these 6 strategies

Posted by Celene Robert

October 19, 2021

Entrepreneurs make decisions every day, sometimes under serious time constraints and with not much information to go on. The danger is that these conditions are conducive to pushing people into the binary decision-making trap. This is a type of black and white thinking where people classify everything as either right or wrong, good or bad, yes or no, overlooking the alternatives and potential grey areas and precipitating hasty, poorly conceived decisions.

Humans fall into making binary decisions because it requires less upfront effort, information and time. Binary thinking circumvents the need to weigh different perspectives or others’ feedback, which in the short term leads to quick, seemingly efficient decisions. But as the situation unfolds, that hasty decision may have to be revisited. 

It goes without saying that following a binary decision-making approach in the workplace can lead to negative outcomes. Some decisions are just too important to be made without visiting all the facts from the outset. And every poor business decision, whether related to HR, finance, taxes or marketing, can affect the growth of your company.  

Six steps for avoiding binary decisions

Here are six steps, culled from the findings of psychological researchers, that can help entrepreneurs overcome the pressure to make insufficiently formed binary decisions. 

1. Assess all pertinent information

Informed decisions lead to better business outcomes. The bigger the decision, the more information you’ll need to assess.

Every significant business decision entails gathering, filtering and analyzing information. You need to evaluate facets such as what is at stake, the potential timeline, business requirements, challenges, availability of resources, level of complexity and the decision’s potential impact on the company at large. 

2. Map possibilities 

When employing a binary decision-making approach, you might ignore in-between or hybrid options. To avoid this, frame the problem or situation as nonbinary; consider the interest of stakeholders and find alternative to proceed and create multiple possible paths forward.

3. Consider alternatives 

For similar decisions that you have to make frequently, create guidelines or conditions to follow. You can rely on past experiences or look at the current situation from multiple angles to get a broader perspective.

4. Apply a nonbinary decision-making approach

Nonbinary decisions are reasoned choices that we make after analyzing all applicable information. The factors that influence your decision-making approach should be related to the larger goals you’re trying to achieve. Critical thinking that considers all the necessary information lets you make a logical judgment, rather than one that is merely expedient.

5. Ask the right questions

Close-ended questions limit your range of answers to yes/no and right/wrong. Open-ended questions should precipitate data and insights that improve your decision-making ability. They supply the who, what, where, when, why and how pertaining to the decision at hand. Do your research so you can ask the proper questions to elicit the information you need. 

6. Change perspectives

Consider how your decision may affect the business in weeks or months to come. This informs your decision by forcing you to change your perspective with an eye to the future. You may need to revise your decision accordingly. 


Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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