Perfectionism vs. pragmatism in decision-making

Learn which decision-making strategy is used for which team decisions. And what type of decision-maker you are.

When making decisions, people use different strategies to navigate through the complex landscape of possibilities. Two approaches are maximization and satisficing (portmanteau consisting of satisfcation and suffice). These contrasting approaches reflect different priorities and tradeoffs in decision outcomes.

Maximization is a decision-making strategy characterized by the relentless search for the best possible outcome. Carefully, in extreme measures already pedantically, maximizing individuals weigh pros and cons and select the option that promises the highest degree of satisfaction or success. Maximizers:in assume that there is an optimal choice that can be identified through comprehensive evaluation. The underlying idea of maximization: perfectionism. 

People with a maximizing mindset have a higher potential for superior outcomes: they increase the chance of identifying the most advantageous of all choices with their accuracy and comprehensive analyses. 

But... maximizers can be paralyzed by the sheer infinity of thought. After all, if you keep looking long enough, you'll always find more data to analyze, there's always a better choice that's just a little bit better than the one you've already found! Maximization can be frustrating. You decide more thoroughly than everyone else, but you're never really satisfied with the decision.

Satisficing is about making a choice that meets a satisfactory threshold rather than aiming for the absolute best outcome. Satisficers:in set criteria for acceptability and try to find the first option that meets those criteria, keeping the decision process as efficient and fast as possible. Satisficers have fewer regrets because she or he focuses on finding an acceptable option rather than striving for perfection. This strategy can prevent some stress. The underlying idea of satisficing: good is "good enough." 

But...This strategy offers some potential for suboptimal results: By settling for only satisfactory options rather than the best, satisficers miss out on potentially better alternatives. The trade-off for efficiency and lower effort is the acceptance of a potentially worse outcome.

What type and approach are ideal in the team

Whether the satisficer or the maximizer is better when it comes to making decisions in a team depends on several factors, including the nature of the decision, the team dynamics, and the team's goals. Here at Agree, we can offer the following rule of thumb:

In complex or significant decision-making situations, satisficers may overlook important details or even deliberately hide them. An affront to team members with maximizing demands! They may feel that their opinions are not sufficiently heard if decisions are made too quickly in their opinion. A maximizing decision-making approach should be chosen when it is central that all available information must be considered. So you could say that the more important and "unchangeable" a decision is, the more profitable a maximizing approach to a team decision is. (Maximizing types are often sensitive to the opinions and concerns of all team members and can help ensure that all aspects are considered).

If a collective decision must or may be made quickly, the tables turn: Maximizers may delay decisions because they want to spend (too) much time analyzing, which can be problematic in fast-paced, agile teams. Their pursuit of perfection can lead to conflict, as there are disagreements about the definition of "perfect" in any team. Accordingly, the benefits of Satisficer:ins then come into play: they can help make decisions smoother and more efficient:they generally make decisions faster. (Satisficers tend to be less prone to decision regret: they are also quite certain, in retrospect, that they made the right decision).

‍And now?

For joint decision making, it can be helpful to know the basic attitudes and preferences of the co-decision makers. There is a lot of literature and research on this type distinction. You can also search pop quizzes to get a sense of how the Maximization scale is measured in psychology. Our favorite test question from the abbreviated Maximizing Scale: "I treat relationships like clothing: I expect to try on a lot before finding the perfectfit."

Published in
September 2023