Making Decisions with Incomplete Knowledge
We are always needing to make decisions without knowing the full information about the situation or what the consequences of the decision will be. We need to have a system of making decisions and reviewing such decisions when the consequences we become aware of them. We do best to also ask the deep questions.
Every day, we are faced with decisions. We may have strong storms bearing down on us. Or we may be negotiating a purchase or sale. Or we may need to protest the decision of the School Board. In every situation, we do not have full information including we do not know the motivation of the other persons. We also do not know the outcome of any decision we will make.
We do best when we have a system of making decisions. Any such system needs to include not just the rational reasons for our actions, but also acknowledge our real feelings.
One deep question that can help with any situation is to ask, "Do I really need to be the one making this decision right now?" Often, not only are other people able to make the decision, but also it may not be the right time to be making that decision.
Forbes has an article on making decisions. They suggest a hierarchy of what to base decisions on starting with knowledge, then information, then raw data, and at the end, our gut feelings. So often, we only have our gut feelings, but those can work when we have repeatedly gotten to knowledge in the past and are finding ourselves in a similar situation.
When it isn't the right time to be making a decision, it can help to be gathering as much information as possible. That can include advice from other knowledgeable people.
Forbes also suggests a number of questions to ask about the decision such as "Why does this decision have to be made?" "What would happen if we do not make a decision?" "What will be the impact when this decision is public?" And most importantly, they ask "What is the right thing to do in this situation?"
Empowering others to make these decisions can be very freeing. When other people are trained to make the decisions in the manner that we would, then we can move on to the more important issues and think strategically about what we are doing.
Add a backup plan to decisions. We want to be able to identify when we have made the wrong decision and to be able to change course.
And do it. Make the best decision you can make today. Joel Gascoigne claims that successful people make the right decision only 70% of the time. Others claim that we can profit greatly by making the correct decision just more than 50% of the time and noticing when we have made the wrong decision and correcting it. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying that "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."