“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
― Peter F. Drucker #MondayMorningWakeUpCall
Better decision making is directly linked to better productivity. Duh!
We don’t need anyone to tell us or even remind us that indecisiveness and consistent poor decisions can not only effect professional growth but also impact personal life undesirably.
However, we could do with a couple of tips, backed by scientific research, on how we can learn to make better decisions.
In his new book Smarter Better Faster, Charles Duhigg just does that (apart from talking about seven other ideas linked to productivity, book summary coming soon). Here are excerpts from his research and conclusions on better decision making.
To make better decisions…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…
- Envision multiple futures (probabilistic thinking):
Probabilistic thinking is thinking of the future not as what’s going to happen, but rather as a series of possibilities that might occur, holding contradictory scenarios in our mind simultaneously. Then add probabilities of each of these future outcomes and take an average. By pushing ourselves to imagine various possibilities, some of which may be contradictory, we’re better equipped to make wise choices
Warning: We’re not accustomed to thinking about multiple futures since we live in only one reality, so it takes a bit of conscious effort (it can also be unsettling for people because it forces us to think about things that may not come true or we don’t want to envisage)
- Develop our Bayesian instincts (intuition)
We can develop our Bayesian instincts (intuition) by studying statistics, playing games like poker, thinking through life’s potential pitfalls and successes et al, fundamentally, seeking out different experiences, perspectives, and other people’s ideas. By finding information and then letting ourselves sit with it, options become clearer
Warning: Making good predictions relies on realistic assumptions, and those are based on our experiences.
So how do we get the right assumptions? – By making sure we are exposed to a full spectrum of experiences. Our assumptions are based on what we’ve encountered in life, but our experiences often draw on biased samples. In particular, we are much more likely to remember our successes and forget about our failures (We hardly notice empty restaurants, don’t experience empty cinema halls and more likely to read about the success of a unicorn startup, etc). However, accurate forecasting requires exposing ourselves to as many successes and disappointments as possible. Many successful people spend an enormous amount of time seeking out information on failures. If we pay attention only to good news or only to bad news, we’re handicapping ourselves
The people who make the best choices are the ones who work hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through, and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are more likely and why?
And of course, you’ve got the option of not making a decision. After all, not making a decision is also a decision.