Ask a Decision Engineer

Michelle Florendo

Even the smartest people can get tied into knots when deciding what to do next in life. Get the tools to move through decisions with less stress and more clarity. Join Stanford Decision Engineer and Coach Michelle Florendo for a comprehensive and systematic way of untangling every decision - no matter how big or small.

Ask a Decision Engineer - Trailer 1
Trailer 52 sec

All Episodes

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May 2019

52 sec

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May 2019

19 min 8 sec

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May 2019

15 min 18 sec

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May 2019

21 min 32 sec

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Jun 2019

22 min 51 sec

For more resources on decision making, or to ask Michelle a question, head over to 

Jun 2019

12 min 49 sec

After launching my first pilot season in 2019 right before my baby was born, I'm back at it with new episodes.

May 2020

1 min 53 sec

Hear decision engineer Michelle Florendo talk about what's wrong with decision making today and what you can do about it.

Jun 2020

7 min 22 sec

In this episode, Michelle talks about what a decision is and what it is not, while dispelling some commonly held misconceptions about decisions.Summary:Decisions are actions you take to influence the future.Decisions are not:- just about picking, they are also about process- about what is outside of your control, they are about where you have agency- about the past, they are forward looking- one and done, they occur over time, in sequence

Jun 2020

13 min 40 sec

In this episode Michelle shares what's at the root of decision paralysis and offers up tips on how to save time and energy in the decision making process Resources mentioned in this episode:Srinivas Rao's Unmistakable Creative TribeThinking Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanThe Paradox of Choice by Barry SchwartzCatching the Next Wave PodcastSummary:- The quality of a decision is separate and distinct from the quality of the outcome- You have two different systems for decision making: System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow); reserve System 2 for decisions that really warrant it- You have a finite reservoir of energy for System 2. Decision fatigue occurs when you exhaust it.- Even though you've been socialized to want to maximize every decision, the incremental ROI (return on investment) of time and energy isn't always worth it.- Identify which decisions deserve to be processed with System 1, then for others, decide in advance, use rule-based heuristics, or delegate decision making

Jun 2020

15 min 5 sec

There's a ton that Michelle would love to share about how to make decisions with less stress and more clarity. Yet, if she could only share one tip, it'd be this.

Jun 2020

11 min 51 sec

In this "Ask Me Anything" Episode, Michelle responds to a question from a listener about how organizations should approach decision making in the wake of renewed visibility of structural racism.

Jul 2020

14 min 32 sec

Every decision starts with what you want in the end. Listen to Michelle explain what objectives are, why they are important, and how you can use objectives to improve your decision making.

Jul 2020

12 min 33 sec

In this Ask Me Anything episode, Michelle answers the question "How do I distinguish what I want from what others want?"

Jul 2020

12 min 25 sec

Making a decision is just choosing among options, right? There's more to it than that. Michelle dives into the options piece of decision making: why that piece is important, what mistakes people typically make, and what you can do about it.

Jul 2020

13 min 59 sec

Information. It's the third component of any decision, and the trickiest one to deal with. Learn more about why this piece causes so much stress, what common mistakes people make in this area, and what questions you can ask yourself to improve this area of your decision making.

Jul 2020

11 min 21 sec

When facing big decisions, even the smartest people can get tied into knots. But it doesn't have to be that way. Hi, I'm Michelle Florendo. I studied decision engineering at Stanford and over the past 15 years, I've helped hundreds of people navigate complex decisions in their professional and personal lives. In season three of my podcast, Ask a Decision Engineer, we'll be tackling ALL THE FEELS. You know, when you wish you could just make a rational decision, but can't.     The truth is, if you want to feel confident in your decision, don't ignore your emotions. Examine them.This season, I'll teach you about the types of emotions that may arise in decision-making, what to do about them, and how to use them as data so that you can move forward with less stress and more clarity.New episodes drop in mid may. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.

May 6

1 min 17 sec

We need to stop thinking that the best decisions are ones made in an emotional vacuum. There's a cost to ignoring how we feel. At best we leave useful data on the table. But at worst, - we waste time beholden to emotions that do have a powerful hold over us- we make decisions that deliver on the opposite of what we actually want- we exhaust ourselves by only using a portion of the brainpower that we could possibly be using.The more we can get curious about what is the feeling that's coming up and what is it telling us about our process, the more useful it can become in moving forward with a good decision.If you have feelings come up, take a step back, not to ignore, but to observe. Take an engineering lens and try to get at what is the data, ask yourself: How can I learn more about these inputs for the decision problem I'm trying to solve? Where's that coming from? Why is this feeling coming up? Is it because there's a particular objective or value that is not being acknowledged? Is it because I feel constrained in my options? Do I have a sense of knowing my intuition and summary of past experiences? Is this a feeling stemming from a discomfort with not knowing? Perhaps it's simply the discomfort of not having reached a resolution yet.

May 31

15 min 26 sec

If you have already decided what course of action to take, but are having a hard time actually acting on it, explore:what emotions are arising as you think about taking action?where are those emotions coming from?if one of those emotions is fear or dread, what is on the other side of that?if what you fear were to come to fruition, what will you decide to do then?how might you keep the positive benefits of the course of action you chose top of mind?

Jun 7

21 min 44 sec

Today's episode touches on a number of different feelings: the excitement of a new path and the doubts around whether it will pan out the questioning around how much our desires are a result of the culture we've been surrounded by, or if deep down inside, we actually want something else. When we feel like we are swimming in an ocean of thoughts and feelings, it can be extremely useful to get those thoughts down on paper in a structured way. Consider doing a brain dump and categorizing things into the three components, objectives, options, and informationIf you are having a hard time articulating what you want, imagine how you want to feel in the futureA decision matrix can be a useful tool to organize what comes to mind with those three componentsPerhaps try to map out different options and scenarios onto a decision tree so that you can make sure you are exploring all branches, fairlyStructure can help you make better sense of all the inputs you have so that you can see things more clearly.

Jun 16

33 min 46 sec

Key topics we cover in this episode:03:47 - What to do when your intellect says one thing and your intuition says another07:21 - Breaking big decisions into smaller microdecisions07:57 - Unpacking feelings about money and deciding to invest in one's business14:05 - What's keeping her awake at night17:17 - Clarifying her objectives19:12 - What it means when there is an option you're not willing to entertain20:40 - What to do about information gaps28:03 - Determining the value of information29:29 - How to deal with the desire to just make a decision alreadyThere are three key things that I hope you take away from this episode. If you find yourself torn between your intellect and your intuition, bring your intuition and feelings into the light. In other words, leaned in and determine what data your intuition and feelings can provide to your intellect so that you can get all parts of you on the same page.If you find that there's a particular objective that triggers an emotional reaction that may overshadow your rational thinking such as feelings about money. Set that objective aside to look at the decision with a clear lens and then bring it back into consideration later.If you have information gaps examine, ask yourself what is the value of gathering additional information and whether it is actually worth making that investment. If it is worth it to make that investment, explore how you can get comfortable with the tension that you'll experience until you're able to resolve some of those unknown.Your head and your heart need not battle it out. When you make space to bring both types of thinking into the picture, you'll leave with a much clearer picture of how to move forward.

Jun 23

38 min 33 sec

How do you figure out what to do after you graduate from college? In this episode, I show a college student how to clarify what she wants, reduce the stress of finding the perfect job, and avoid getting overwhelmed by uncertainties.Key topics we cover:2:27 - How to reframe "I don't know what I want"5:58 - How to use the "Happiness Pyramid" to clarify what you want8:48 - What to do with advice that tells you to follow your passion13:50 - Why feelings can be super useful in the process of clarifying what you want14:40 - How to shift your thinking so that it's easier to recognize the options you have16:24 - How to think about options18:33 - How you should approach generating new options if things don't work out21:05 - Why it's critical to learn how to deal with uncertainty25:26 - How to design exercises that make the job search less overwhelming 

Jun 30

39 min 42 sec

Sometimes there are decisions that are so overwhelming and emotionally draining that what we decide to do to stay mentally and emotionally fit enough to make the decision is as important as the decision process itself. In today's episode, you'll hear from a guest client facing a difficult decision regarding care for her aging mother with a mental health condition. Learn strategies for working through tough decisions involving others.Key topics we cover:1:58 - What's key to consider in emotionally difficult decisions2:30 - Constraints in decision making8:31 - How Covey's Circle of Influence is a tool that can be used to identify where to focus your efforts15:11 - The importance of identifying where you have control and where you don't have as much17:22 - Divergent vs Convergent thinking in exploring options22:05 - How constraints can sometimes be helpful26:04 - How to deal with feelings that seem like an obstacle29:45 - The importance of identifying what it will take to resource yourselfResources if you are impacted by mental - National Alliance on Mental IllnessNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1 (800) 273-8255

Jul 14

37 min 34 sec

In this Ask Me Anything (AMA) episode, I answer a question from a listener about how to approach decisions so that she can move past overwhelm and feel more confident in her decision making. Listen in as I discuss four key steps for her to tackle decisions with more ease.Key topics covered in this episode:1:23 - Process orientation vs. outcome orientation2:32 - Improving confidence by discarding unrealistic bars for decision quality5:32 - Knowing where to focus by using the Covey's Circles tool8:39 - Breaking decisions down into bite-sized pieces using the 3 Components framework10:41 - Key questions to ask to drive toward clarity in each component17:44 - Other ways you can use the 3 Components framework19:19 - The critical last step in any decision making process

Jul 21

23 min 21 sec

In this Ask Me Anything (AMA) episode, I answer a question from a listener about how to tell whether the decisions he has made were the best ones. Listen in as I discuss how to reduce doubt after making a decision.Key topics covered in this episode:1:55 - what this listener is really asking4:02 - the short answer to the question5:23 - what would be more helpful when facing this question6:13 - the feeling that prompts this question and why you feel it7:58 - the surprising truth about wanting to maximize your outcomes9:25 - the first step in feeling better about your decisions10:23 - the power of choosing contentment over conditioning11:33 - how to get clear with your objectives12:47 - the importance of committing to staying present

Aug 4

15 min 9 sec