i10 Bitesize: Decision-Making
Inspired by a post by a post on LinkedIn, in response to an article by Dr Radha Modgil, here’s a couple of thoughts on decisions and decision-making.
Decision-making is a vital skill for everyone in all walks of life. But one which all-too-often creates inertia as people are worried in case they make the wrong decision.
As Richard Bach, the American author said "Bad things are not the worst things that can happen to us. Nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us!”
The irony is that good decisions come from experience. And experience comes from bad decisions! You may lose an opportunity but you gain an experience. And there is merit in both. In other words, we either win or we learn (a phrase I first heard from Martin Coburn, Founder of Natural Direction): both are good outcomes.
Clearly some decisions have a greater impact on your life or business than others. And Dr Modgil rightly points out that you need to be in the right frame of mind before making them. She offers some advice:
keep your bandwidth clear
have the right sort of fuel inside you
and never be afraid to phone a friend who wants what’s best for you.
This is sage advice. To my mind there are a couple of elements to point 1: don’t sweat the small stuff (as espoused by Richard Carlson in his book by the same name) and make time to think by giving yourself bandwidth for the really important choices. Dr Modgil explains that it’s all to do with removing the small choices in life so that your brain can focus on the bigger ones: “When he was in office, Barack Obama removed one decision from his daily life: what to wear. It was always a grey or blue suit and white shirt, because he knew the science behind decision-making, and that by wearing a kind of uniform, he’d save bandwidth for the really important choices.”
Simon Wardley does something similar - he has two wardrobes: one called ‘hot’ which contains about 15 short sleeved shirts, the other ‘cold’ which contains about 15 long sleeved shirts. All with an identical design. Whether Obama copied Wardley or Wardley copied Obama I couldn’t say!
Having created the bandwidth, my advice is to take the time to understand the landscape (Wardley calls this ‘situational awareness’ and uses pioneering technique Wardley Mapping to make sense of the landscape). Situational awareness is critical to effective strategic decision-making, but it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as having perfect information - all anyone can do is make the best decision they can with the information available to them at the time. And that’s fine.
On Modgil’s final point is essentially about bouncing thoughts and ideas around. She suggests speaking to a friend who isn’t afraid to tell you what they really think: “An objective friend can help you identify the best decision because they’re not weighed down by the fear of what could be lost. In the end, the decision is always yours, but it helps to seek this kind of advice.”
In the business context, this is where the use of an Advisor, who may have the experience you’re lacking, or a Coach, who can help you to come to your own conclusion, can really help.
Walt Disney once said “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”
It is critical to understand that bad decisions are fine - indeed I would argue that they are better than no decisions (remember the worst thing that can happen is nothing). The issue comes in doggedly sticking to a bad decision. Instead you need to be self-aware enough to recognise when things aren’t working, be brave enough to change course and adapt so you can quickly turn a ‘bad decision’ into a ‘good decision’.
There really is nothing to lose! You’ll either win or you’ll learn!
Mark Hastings is Founder and Director at i10 Limited, providers of Personal and Professional Transformation Services.
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