Decision Making Is A Learned Skill
To make no decision is still a decision. To decide to do nothing is different. You can analyze the decision to do nothing and can find evidence to support it. To not decide is a decision with no evidence. That cannot always work for you.
People do not like to make decisions because to make a decision is also a decision to not do a long list of other competing possibilities. The fear of error in the decision you make is more likely a fear of missing out (FOMO) on something you chose against. You cannot do everything.
People who are good decision makers do some things others do not. .
- They expect some of their decisions to be wrong. Perfection in decision making is a very high standard and leads to procrastination and inevitable paralysis.
- Because they expect some decisions to be wrong, they check the decisions against their expectations. Every variance is new information and they use that to improve.
- Because they expect some decisions to be wrong, they pay a little more to build in flexibility. A decision you can repair later has no risk if you can afford the change.
- They make decisions sooner, because they don’t require perfection. Sometimes not even close. They might make a decision when 40% of the useful information is available. They see these as “Candidate Solutions.” They might work, but they don’t expect them to. They expect them to provide very real world experience, often experience they can achieve in no other way. Testing a prototype airplane will produce much more information than thinking about it.
- They store the information they acquire even if it might not fit anything they know now. Who knows when a connection will appear?
- They know when to stop. They never try to reach perfection. They know you can solve part of a problem more inexpensively than the whole thing. The rule of thumb is if you can solve 90% of a problem for $N then, you can solve 90% of what remains for $2N more, 99% solved. The next 90% of the remainder will cost $4N to solve, 99.9% solved. And so on. To get to 99.999% solved costs a total of $31N. To go from 99.9% to 99.999% solved, costs an extra $24N. There is never a 100% solution. Good decision makers think that last $24N might be spent better on other problems that are presently 0% solved. Governments have the tendency to over-solve problems.
- Good decisions makers do not fall in love with a particular problem or opportunity. They have learned the inventory of opportunities and unsolved problems is quite large. It is more fun to put a good solution in place, check on it once in a while, but be working on another.
Problem solving is an interesting field, but it is useless until there is a decision to act. Learn to decide, to act, to record outcomes and decide again. You learn meaning by doing not so much by thinking.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
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