Striking the right balance

How do you make decisions?

You start by gathering data (usually it is data, rather than information) and you analyse what you’ve learnt. From the analysis you can make your judgement and usually your decision.

Sometimes though the data you have is insufficient. You can’t decide, you are not sure.

This will happen where it is a new situation – one you have not had to deal with before – and you don’t have past experience to guide you.

The first thing to do is to try to improve the data that you have. Often, a second round of data gathering will reveal the crucial facts that were missed out the first time around, and the decision becomes easy.

There will still be occasions where you just don’t know enough, and that’s when you can fall into the trap of Analysis Paralysis.

When that happens, you don’t make a decision and the opportunity passes you by. Maybe it was that big contract but you didn’t feel you had enough information to bid, or perhaps it was a potential recruit – you didn’t make an offer in time, so they took another job.

With every decision you make, there is a balance to be struck between gathering perfect information and making a timely decision, but the more important balance is that of risk and reward.

Some businesses leaders espouse the JFDI methodology (Just F*****g Do It) which works brilliantly for the little decisions, with low reward and low risk profile.

I doubt that many of them would espouse the same methodology when the risk is big enough.

That’s the point at which you should ask for help. What is difficult for you, and something you haven’t experienced before, might be something that one of your friends or advisors has seen before. Perhaps just a second pair of eyes looking through the data will see something that you have not.

The chances are you will never have perfect information. You still have to make a decision, and the risk is still high, so all you can do is gather as much data as possible in a reasonable time, but then.

Get someone else to take a look – two heads are better than one.


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