Some useful advice from Ed Batista about the difference between ‘good decision-making’ and ‘making the right decision’.
I believe the path to getting unstuck when faced with a daunting, possibly paralyzing decision… involves a fundamental re-orientation of our mindset: Focusing on the choice minimizes the effort that will inevitably be required to make any option succeed and diminishes our sense of agency and ownership. In contrast, focusing on the effort that will be required after our decision not only helps us see the means by which any choice might succeed, it also restores our sense of agency and reminds us that while randomness plays a role in every outcome, our locus of control resides in our day-to-day activities more than in our one-time decisions.
So while I support using available data to rank our options in some rough sense, ultimately we’re best served by avoiding paralysis-by-analysis and moving forward by:
- paying close attention to the feelings and emotions that accompany the decision we’re facing,
- assessing how motivated we are to work toward the success of any given option, and
- recognizing that no matter what option we choose, our efforts to support its success will be more important than the initial guesswork that led to our choice.
This view is consistent with the work of Stanford professor Baba Shiv, an expert in the neuroscience of decision-making. Shiv notes that in the case of complex decisions, rational analysis will get us closer to a decision but won’t result in a definitive choice because our options involve trading one set of appealing outcomes for another, and the complexity of each scenario makes it impossible to determine in advance which outcome will be optimal.