Fast Company

2 Tools To Help You Make Smarter, Faster Decisions On The Fly

Think back to the pivotal decisions of your life, the ones that defined your life and career today. For me they include approaching my wife at a party in college, and accepting a professor's challenge to write a book (despite having been a poor English student).

Now think about how much thought you spent on those choices. Likely, less than a few minutes. You had no boardroom or whiteboard, no decision-making algorithm. Instead you spun through an unconscious process of information-gathering and pattern application that spit out a recommendation: say "hello," say "yes."

The split-second choices you make each day chart your life's trajectory.

Your company's future depends more heavily on unconscious thought. Every day your employees are making hundreds, thousands, of small decisions that will help or hurt you, grow or shrink your profits.

How can you make sure you make the right choices?

I want to share two tools with you that could help. One I developed. The other, I wish I had.

Making a good decision depends on getting the right information, processing it, and then making the best choice you can. To help make sure you and your people get the right information, consider JackBe, a company I first encountered a year ago that is doing cutting-edge work arming executives with the data they need where and when they need it. I got a chance last week to speak with Rick Pitts, John Crupi, and Elizabeth Edwards, respectively the CEO, CTO, and CMO of JackBe, and get an update on the company's progress.

In simple terms, JackBe allows your people to assemble a set of iPhone-like apps that mash together information from disparate sources in real-time. Think of a highly customized mobile Bloomberg terminal that might show on one screen sales figures pulled from SAP, customer complaints on Twitter, and shipment statuses from UPS. By assembling all of these into one screen, you can more easily and quickly spot trouble and opportunity.

JackBe’s clients include Qualcomm, GE Energy, and Random House, which arm their people with information to make smarter, quicker decisions. To further enhance JackBe’s solutions, they even enable you to share customized apps that produce the insight you need. At Random House, for example, JackBe was able to mash up keyword searches from Google and Amazon.com with content of Random House's titles. This way, sales and marketing people can better match books with emerging reader interest, and thereby make smarter decisions regarding how to spend marketing dollars and which books to bring to market.

Once you've armed yourself with the right information, you want to make the right decision. Here is where my new tool comes into play. I've just completed a very rough proof-of-concept and have my first large enterprise clients interested in funding development. Go to http://stratagem.apperfy.com. Please consider that it's a rough proof of concept as you play with it, but here is how it works (think “POP”):

1)Problem: Albert Einstein said that if he had 60 minutes to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes figuring what question to ask. Think carefully about what question to propose.

2)Options: My tool will ask you four questions and then calculate 10 strategic patterns you should apply to your question. If you do this, you will come up with a bunch of ideas. I suggest you come up with about ten.

3)Priorities: Finally, you sort through your ideas by grabbing and slotting them into a matrix. This will help you make a smarter choice about what to do and what not to do.

The directions for how to do this are found in my book, Outthink the Competition. Look at the chapters covering "Imagine," "Expand" and "Analyze." If you use this today, and tomorrow, and each day this week, walking through “POP” (problems, options, and priorities) each time, you will begin seeing and seizing opportunities others overlook. You can see a short instruction video by going to kaihan.net, then “insight and ideas,” then “video blog.” Then click on “the Outthinker Digital Tool.”

I’d love your feedback on this initial proof-of-concept. Go to http://stratagem.apperfy.com. Enter your name and email (there is no charge). You'll need to use the latest Internet Explorer or Chrome. It doesn't yet work on the iPad. Please email me with any ideas or suggestions. Over the next three months we will begin building out this tool with a team of user experience experts, designers, and developers.

[Image: Flickr user Aldo Risolvo]

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