During World War 2, there were countless stories that contributed to deciding who won the war. The trajectory of these stories were guided primarily by the decisions made some of which were made under the most inhuman conditions, with leaders having to decide between the devil and the deep blue sea. Under those circumstances, decisions had to be made on how to manage communications, supplies and what battles to fight next – or even to fight at all. As we know today, these decisions made the difference between life and death, between those who made it home and sadly, those who didn’t.
Why decisions are important
So much of who we are, what we do and what we become are a product of the decisions we take, and outcomes are almost guaranteed once a decision is taken. Again, this is irrespective of any supporting or contradictory circumstances. The decisions we take determine how far we go in our pursuits, however excited we were when we started. Connecting this to the world of business, decisions around hiring and letting go of talent are known to influence everything from brand perception to referrals for business.
Decision making also influences our careers
Most career counsellors would advise that one of the best ways to know what a firm is like is to ask someone who’s worked there before. This is also a reason for the popularity (in part at least) of sites as glassdoor and payscale. Still, decisions as to what markets to exploit are key in determining if a company would exist in the next ten years. Statistics on startup survival rates tend to omit this fact: they sometimes do not succeed due to an inability to make the right decisions within a given time frame. Research from McKinsey & Co. and work from the founder’s mentality by Bain & Co. show that companies able to consistently make the right decisions about the key areas of their business can expect consistent growth.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl
There are other situations in life and business where decisions are key in determining the terms under which the coming years would be lived. What to do about your customers’ pain points, how to respond when defamed, and what to wear for that special occasion. Also keep in mind that the reactions from the environment are not always easily predictable which only increases the fear of decision making.
There are fears connected to decision making, but they can be dealt with.
Taking decisions off the course of what is familiar is a source of fear and for all the talk about change and innovation (which I do support), there is the possibility of complete failure. There is never a decision without a consequence hence the need to hedge against risk, insure and the like. The importance of taking decisions correctly is so key that firms like Google invest so much in CEO pay – and with good reason too. In another light, firms like Oracle risk engaging two CEOs to possibly double their chances of making the right decisions. Taking decisions will always be better than standing still even as we see some sense in decisions being reappraised periodically as things, people and circumstances change.
Things change, so we need to decide well ahead of time.
“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”
The horse and carriage gave way to the automobile and while the horses remain elegant beasts, they can’t get us to our destination faster than cars can. Holding on to old ways of doing things is a recipe for extinction. There is also the danger of letting people contribute to the decision making process. Even though advisers, mentors and peer groups have their advantages the final decision must be taken by the individual because the consequences (whether good or bad) will be borne primarily by same.
Dealing with fears on the way to getting it right.
We must be prepared to embrace the risk of the decision going south – a price in part for getting things right. The fear of making the wrong decision is welcome when it drives further verification of facts and detailed reviews of possible consequences for every proposed line of action. Needless to say every organisation stands today because someone decided to look on the other side of fear.
To conclude, the UK recently decided to leave the EU (#Brexit) and this raised concerns all over the world. This might be because we have come to believe that decisions have to be taken with us in mind, almost like we have somehow become the centre of the system, seeing as ‘we’ depend so much on ‘them’. Now, whether this ‘dependence’ is their fault or not is subject for another conversation. As a people, the UK retains the right to decide what they want as they would ultimately bear whatever benefits or losses that may come with their decision.
Maybe the rest of us are free to do likewise.
Here’s a summary of what we looked at;
- You have to decide.
- Decisions are important.
- Decision making also influences our careers.
- Fears connected to decision making can be dealt with.
- Things change, so we need to decide well ahead of time.
- Dealing with fears on the way to getting it right.