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This Strategy Leads to the Best Decisions

Research offers a simple approach to tough choices.

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Life sometimes feels a never-ending series of decisions: Which laptop to buy, which candidate to hire and even what to make for dinner. Many of us choose to think through our options one at a time, but a recent study highlighted in the Harvard Business Review found that we’re 22 percent more likely, on average, to select the best option when we compare all of our choices at once.

The study, which was published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, included seven experiments. A total of 2,783 participants were asked to make decisions of varying complexity by either comparing options one by one or all at once.

One experiment within the study examined which laptop individuals would buy based on their strategy of comparing options. Of the 201 participants involved in the experiment, researchers found that those who surveyed their options all at once were 84 percent more likely to select the best-value laptop than those who considered their choices separately.

You might think that being presented with many options at once would actually lead to information overload and poorer decision-making, but the authors of the study, Shankha Basu, an assistant professor of marketing at Leeds University, and Krishna Savani, an associate professor of strategy, management and organization at Nanyang Business School, explained in the Harvard Business Review that viewing options together leads people to compare their choices more thoroughly and with greater thought. In contrast, when comparing options one by one, individuals “form an overall judgment about each option and then have to go back and compare,” they wrote in the Harvard Business Review article.

Whether you’re in the market for the latest tech device or knee-deep in resumes for an open position at your company, consider examining all of your options at once even if it’s not your usual method. You might be better off for it.

Read more about decision making in the Harvard Business Review. 

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