How I prefer to make big (important) decisions
How I prefer to make big (important) decisions
First let me define a big decision as a decision which would potentially effect a lot of people (stakeholders). The greater the potential impact of the decision the greater the risks and the bigger it is.
In this post I will provide a glimpse into how I prefer to make these sorts of decisions. I will first highlight some principles I like to follow while I also will admit I may not necessarily have the resources available to follow them. It should be taken that in the ideal situation where i have the resources available this is how i would choose to make the big decisions.
Principle #1 Do Not Make Important Decisions Alone
One of the big mistakes or vulnerabilities to future regret is to make decisions alone. Making decisions alone is to make a decision on your own knowledge, feelings, intuitions, without the input, advice, or knowledge from others. There are only so many perspectives I can experience (I cannot know all sides or see from all angles), and there is only so much I can have expertise in or know a lot about (I cannot be knowledgeable in everything), and most importantly i am not immune from bias. In other words for the big important decisions I prefer to rely on a brain trust.
A brain trust is a trusted group of peer advisers who are experts or very knowledgeable in a particular area valuable to your decision process. In a situation where I have unlimited resources then my brain trust could be as large as necessary to make sure that I arrive at the right decision most of the time. This brain trust would also act as a sort of check and balance in the situation where my brain is not functioning at it's best, such as if i'm running low on sleep, high on stress, or in situations where i'm biased and cannot see myself.
Principle #2 Consider All Stakeholders
I prefer to take the diplomatic approach to important decisions. I don't think my opinion has more weight than the opinions of the other stakeholders unless it's a decision which primarily affects my happiness. This is an area where in my opinion utilitarianism becomes practical because the decision process of utilitarianism inherently considers the impact on the happiness of all stakeholders.
In the corporate sense we call them shareholders and we can consider a decision "good" if it's a decision which can be shown to increase shareholder value. In the political context it could be constituencies of voters and we consider the interests of these voting demographics. In my current opinion, the best decisions are made when all stakeholders are considers. This means not just the shareholders (who must be given priority because they are investors), but also the customers, the not yet born, etc. We have to do our best in my opinion to consider as many stakeholders as we can while also prioritizing the stakeholders who we have greatest responsibility to.
Principle #3 Apply Data Driven Decision Processes
Both decision making and decision analysis can be data driven processes. In my current opinion I think the data driven process is the best way to arrive at high quality decisions. The decision making ability has to scale in my opinion with the impact of the decision itself and the rigor of the process has to scale with the level of risk involved. In a data driven decision making process I can always explain why I made a particular choice or decision in a coherent and rational way other than (because I felt like it). It is true that my feelings are data, but my feelings are more qualitative rather than something easily quantifiable, and also my feelings are subjective.
My happiness for example is subjective and not easily quantified but must be considered in the data driven process, just as the happiness of all involved in my opinion must be considered, but in order to consider it we would have to rely on some structured way to learn what the preferences of all involved are. A survey, a poll, a sentiment data set, all can help with this data driven process. Utilitarianism allows for decisions to be made which consider the preferences of the people involved and the Vickrey Groves Clarke mechanism which I'll elaborate on in a future post proves mathematically that a socially-optimal solution can be achieved.
Principle #4 Document The Process And Study The Result
Keeping a log of all the decisions, a diary, a journal, or map of the decisions made previously, can help both create a document for historical purposes but also allow for future analysis and learning from previous decisions. If my decision process were flawed in some way, or if something were to fail, there would alwayds be something to learn and improve on in the process. This documentation is how I can make sure that my decision process for making big decisions is always up for continuous improvement over time.
This summarizes the basic principles
- Don't decide alone.
- Consider all stakeholders (and prioritize them appropriately).
- Apply data driven processes.
- Document and improve the process over time.
The post here illustrates how I would make decisions in the best case scenario where I have the resources I need to develop best practices and improve on them indefinitely. The post assumes that I have the resources to acquire a brain trust which could help me to arrive at the right conclusions. The real world is very different from ideal but the point is that decision making has to scale with the weight or impact of the decision and it is my intention to scale my decision making capacity according to the impact.
Announcing my intentions can also make it known that if I currently make not the best decisions it is because I'm not able to scale rather than unwilling. Finally it is my opinion that all stakeholders who decide someone should make the official decision also have a responsibility to provide that someone with the means to effectively arrive at the best possible decisions.