Oli Paterson

Decision-Making for Small Business Owners – Part 2

Welcome back to our series where we decode the complex world of decision-making for small business owners. If Part 1 was about understanding the ‘why’, Part 2 is all about the ‘how’. The journey of decision-making in small businesses is nuanced, requiring more than just intuition. It demands a structured, analytical approach that’s both reflective and data-driven. Let’s dive into how insights from leading thinkers can be practically applied to the everyday challenges faced by small businesses.

Data-Driven Decisions: More Than Just a Buzzword

Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano, in their piece on learning from success, shed light on the critical need for reflection and analysis in decision-making. In my experience, this couldn’t be truer for small businesses. Data isn’t just numbers and charts. It’s the lifeblood of strategic planning. It tells us where we’ve been successful and where we’ve stumbled, offering a roadmap for future decisions. Integrating a data-driven approach means moving beyond gut feelings, making decisions grounded in reality—a necessity in the unpredictable world of small business.

The Battle Against Bias

Gleb Tsipursky’s work, both in his book and his podcast appearance, is a stark reminder of the traps of cognitive biases. Small businesses, with their limited resources, can ill-afford the luxury of decisions clouded by bias. Structured thinking, as Tsipursky advocates, isn’t about removing intuition from the equation. It’s about ensuring our gut instincts are informed, checked, and balanced by rational analysis. This approach has been helpful in my decision-making process, offering a safeguard against the blind spots that can derail even the most promising small businesses.

Every Decision a Learning Opportunity

Matthew Syed’s notion of a ‘black box’ for businesses resonates deeply with the ethos of continuous improvement. In small business, where each decision can have disproportionate impacts, viewing every outcome as a learning opportunity is invaluable. It’s about building a culture where success is celebrated, and failure is dissected for insights, not shamed. This mindset has transformed how I view decisions, turning each into a stepping stone towards greater understanding and better results.

Reflection: The Unsung Hero of Decision-Making

Drawing on Kahneman and Klein’s exploration of intuitive expertise, it’s clear that reflection is the unsung hero of decision-making. Developing a keen intuitive sense for business doesn’t happen overnight; it’s the product of meticulous analysis, reflection, and adaptation. For small businesses, where every decision carries weight, fostering this reflective practice can be the difference between thriving and merely surviving. It has empowered me to make decisions that are not just reactive, but proactive, paving the way for sustainable growth and innovation.

Integrating these principles into your small business’s decision-making fabric can significantly enhance your strategic planning and execution. The journey from data collection to reflective practice is not just about avoiding pitfalls. It’s about setting a course for informed, resilient growth. As we continue to navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship, let these insights guide us towards making decisions that are as informed as they are inspired.


  • Gino, F., & Pisano, G. (2011). “Why leaders don’t learn from success.” Harvard Business Review, 89(4), 68-74.
  • Tsipursky, G. (2019). “Never go with your gut: How pioneering leaders make the best decisions and avoid business disasters.” Career Press.
  • Strategy and Leadership Podcast. (2020, March 12). “How to avoid bad business decisions: Interview with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky.”
  • TEDx. (2016, May 31). “Why you should have your own black box | Matthew Syed | TEDxLondonBusinessSchool.”
  • Kahneman, D., & Klein, G. (2009). “Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree.” American Psychologist, 64(6), 515–526.

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