Decision Making vs. Problem Solving

Decision Making vs. Problem Solving is an important distinction to make. But first, let’s be clear about what a decision is. A decision is a choice. The decision may be complicated and involve many steps and components but, at its essence, a decision is simply a choice.

Decision making and problem solving are similar in that they both seek the positive resolution of an issue. In life we are usually confronted with a problem and often it is unclear how to solve the problem. Decision making is a tool that can be used to solve a problem.

In general, problem solving takes a larger view and usually involves implementing a strategy. That strategy usually includes making one or more decisions. There is an overlap. However, it is generally deemed that decision making is a subset of problem solving.

Here is an example of the distinction:

The Problem: World Hunger

The Solution: Break the problem into small decisions to be made:

  • How do we raise the money to purchase the food?
  • How do we determine who will receive the food?
  • How do we transport the food to the destination?
  • How do we prevent corrupt officials from stealing the food?
  • How do we deliver the food to the recipients?

Taken together, a series of decisions can solve most problems and rare is the problem that is not solved, at least in part, by making decisions.

The important thing to remember is that when you are confronted with a problem, look for ways to break it down into discrete decisions to be made.