"To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions. " Benjamin Franklin
I just returned from a visit to a client company where I am assisting them through a restructuring of the business. During the last twelve months, the restructuring process has required two non-profitable operations of the five total operations to be shut down, expenses trimmed dramatically, and half the management team be replaced based on their failure to meet performance standards—and all of these difficult decisions were done based on data that fully supported each of those decisions. So, after having worked for a year with the owners and management team to establish a decision making process that required sufficient supporting data before a decision was made, I was surprised, when in a meeting to determine the purchase of an expensive piece of equipment, the decision was not being made based on any data but rather based on the conclusion that if the company purchased the equipment it would be able to generate the business required to support the decision to expend the resources required to purchase the equipment. I immediately called a time out and explained for the twelfth time in twelve months that "hope is never a solution" and the "if you build it they will come" attitude means "they" will be coming to the company's liquidation sale! Everyone looked properly abashed and the proponents of buying the equipment promised to have the supporting data available by our next meeting.
This example highlights the propensity to jump to a conclusion to justify a decision. This is the easiest way to get what we want without having to go to the trouble of showing any rational reason for the decision—it is the "I want it because I want it!" method of decision making. And it is one of the quickest ways for a company to self-destruct.
Companies can avoid the "jumping to a conclusion" method of decision making by:
- Realizing intuition does count when making a decision—but only if there is sufficient experience with similar situations to support the intuition—and that intuition works best in a stable environment and not in changing environment.
- Encouraging dissent in the decision making process.
- Avoiding "group think" by having a diverse and competent collective intelligence involved in the decision making process.
- Avoiding decision making when emotions (stress, anger, fear, anxiety) are running high.
- Realizing the most obvious choice is often the right choice.
- Ensuring the incentives that may be produced by the decision are not influencing the decision making process.
The difference between "making a decision" and "jumping to a conclusion" is that making a decision requires you have the appropriate accurate data to support the decision while jumping to a conclusion has nothing to do with data and everything to do with emotions. And no company survives in the WorkQuake(tm) of the Knowledge Economy for long solely on its emotions!