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10 Oct 2011

Best Decision as Myth

Many people agonize over decisions. A primary reason is belief in a “best” decision. Consequently, people run endlessly through their options when often there isn’t much qualitative difference among them.

I first became aware of this when discussing start-up businesses with an accountant. He made this observation: eighty percent of his clients ended up in businesses quite different from their initial plans. For example, one client began a retail operation in a specialty food product. One day, a grocer asked to carry the product. Soon, others did the same. Thus, the client was “forced” to shift from retailing a food product to manufacturing it.

However, the consistent quality in these start-ups was the ability to adapt quickly. So many times, organizations strive to research and plan their decisions then build consensuses around them. As a result, they turn decision making into a torturous process thus fulfilling the myth of the best decision: if it takes that long to make a decision then an outstanding is necessary. Thus, it’s hard to imagine an adaptive organization with an elongated decision-making process.

Yet, in our early school years, teachers grade us on right and wrong answers. Thus, our educational systems condition us to look for the best decision. Ironically, this conditioning is so strong that even a good decision is not satisfactory if it’s perceived as not being the best one.

Accelerating our decision-making allows us the luxury of correcting bad decisions more quickly. Thus, the fear of making bad decisions wanes if we have confidence in our groups’ abilities to learn, to correct its mistakes and to adapt a new direction. This is true for individuals too.

Even in hindsight, the best decision is not clear. We assume so because we make the false assumption that nothing else would have changed.


1 Response

  1. Absolutely great advice. Not correct / incorrect (don’t know what is correct); not good / better (based upon what, using how many resources, effects of non-repeatable situation). I suggest the appropriate assessment is USEFUL / NOT USEFUL (does it help address the current situation)??? Later, can do some reflection and documentation for future reference – when the tension and stress level permit!!!

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