Deep understanding of the decision making process can enhance the way an organisation addresses the pain points of their customers and stakeholders.

Here are three key lessons we have learned in our work researching how people make difficult decisions, especially long term decisions like whether or not to retire, or whether to invest in a self-managed super fund.

1. Complex decisions are like snowflakes

Every complex or long term decision you make is like a snowflake - different from all the others. 

2. Some people make poor decisions

Usually in research we segment people in a non-judgmental way as personas or segments for target marketing. With complex decision-making the real issue is the strategies people use to make the decision. A good strategy draws on multiple factors. People who make poor decisions generally focus on one factor to the exclusion of others. Just watch House Hunters International if you want to see how this is done.

3. Projection of 'Future Selves' is important

As our work in sensemaking shows us over and over again: before making some life-changing decision, people mull things over imagining various possible futures, and spend time figuring things out and trying things out. What futures did they imagine?  What 'future selves' did they envisage and what impact did that have on their behaviour? 

How to research complex decisions

Upfront exploratory qualitative research is essential.  Do not assume that all decisions can be reduced to a Max Diff question*, or a nudge. In our sensemaking research, we find out how people framed the decision, what strategies they used, and how they figured things out. 

Contact us for more information on how to make sense of how people make complex decisions.


* See

Thanks to see Steve Johnson and his book for the 'decsions are like snowflakes' simile.





Tags: Market Research, Qualitative Research , Making sense, sense-making