Decision making is not always an easy task. There are many personal and situational factors that can serve as barriers to analyzing problems effectively, things like our comfort zones, perceptions, and paradigms. Paradigms are our typical or common responses to situations or problems.

To help your students become good decision makers, they must understand their own barriers to good decision making. Here are the five topics we will cover in this post:

  1. Comfort zones
  2. Perceptions or paradigms
  3. Design barriers
  4. Contextual barriers
  5. Attitudinal barriers

woman thinking

Comfort zones

The first barrier to decision making is something that everyone has: a personal comfort zone. Comfort zones are beliefs, attitudes, feelings, opinions, and external factors that match your self-image or picture of acceptability. These are self-regulating mechanisms within which you are kept at ease. When you feel “out of your comfort zone,” anxiety occurs to get you back in it. Everyone has a comfort zone. People get comfortable in their daily routines and stick to them. As long as problems arise that are within their comfort zones, they feel they can handle them. But when something occurs that they are not used to they become hesitant about acting or making a decision. As a result, they  try to avoid things that make them anxious.

So, how can you make decisions when you are outside of your personal comfort zone? This is not always an easy task. You must reach “outside of the box” and use  the resources available to you (i.e. other people, informational sources, or your own creativity) in order to find solutions to problems. Ask your students to identify a time they were asked to reach outside their comfort zones, and reflect on how they reacted to the experience.

barriers to decisions

Perceptions or paradigms

Two additional barriers that we face in decision making come from our own perceptions or paradigms.

  • Perceptions, or the way you “see” things, are very important in decision making. People tend to hold onto their ways of thinking and lock everything else out. This freezes your ability to make good decisions.
  • Paradigms are sets of rules or regulations you have set up to help you make sense of your world. They help save you time because applying a rule to a new situation is usually easy. But paradigms can sometimes be wrong when applied to new situations. They affect judgment and they filter incoming experiences. Paradigms can also lock your vision and blind you to new opportunities or ways of thinking.

Ask your students to name a time when their own perceptions or paradigms affected their decisions. Remind them to not let perceptions or paradigms get in the way of good decision making.

Design barriers

Design barriers are formal or structural barriers present in all organizations. Unreasonable reliance on established rules, regulations, stipulations and conditions sometimes prevents people from using their creative talents to come up with new and innovative ideas.

authority figure

Contextual barriers

Contextual barriers are ways in which the organization itself reacts to problems. Groups love to brainstorm to come up with ideas about what to do. This sometimes provides too much information. Too many people working on a problem can result in ineffective problem solving because of the unwillingness of group members to evaluate one another’s ideas in a critical manner.

Attitudinal barriers

Attitudinal barriers are very similar to the personal barriers mentioned earlier that deal with comfort zones, perceptions and paradigms. One person’s attitude may cause negative feelings in others that will lead to negative action on the part of the group. One person can also intimidate others into accepting information without questioning. Some people may be so set in their ways they try to solve all problems in the same way.

Thank you for tuning into our series on decision making. If you would like to learn more about teaching success skills to your students, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.