My wife’s car is approaching its last legs. It has been a part of our lives for twelve years. Our children have grown up being driven in that car. We have loved that car. It has looked after us and we have looked after it. It was in for a check-up last week and we were waiting for the call to say it was ready. That wasn’t the call. Apparently the engine could seize up for good (well bad) at any moment…
We had to go looking for a new car on Saturday. Whenever we have looked at cars before it has been planned. This search wasn’t planned. We had no plan. We came up with a plan on the way. Go to every showroom and trust my wife’s instinct.
I have thought a great deal about decision making over the years and I have concluded that I am (more) instinctive about my decision making. Instinctive decision making combined with subsequent rationalisation of the correctness of my decision.
One such scenario was the decision on our first new car. The moment we saw it standing in the sunlight outside the showroom we both knew we were going to buy it – even down to the choice of colour. We then spent a couple of weeks convincing ourselves that we would all fit into it, that the fuel consumption was OK, and that we could afford it. But we had already decided…instinctively.
So our current impromptu car searching strategy was based entirely on this experience. I knew my wife would know her next car when she saw it. I would know which car it was by her response. And she did. And I did.
There is much published theory on decision making but my sense is that we fall into two camps – those who have to satisfy some pre-set criteria (instinctive maybe)…and those who look to maximise (and examine every) selection criteria.
Those who need to be satisfied establish pre-determined criteria (which can be very high) but as soon as these criteria are achieved, the decision is made and everyone moves on.
The converse applies to those who seek to maximise…individuals who inherently want to make the best decision possible – the best possible choice in any given situation. Even when enough information is apparently available to allow a decision, no decision can be made (or action taken) until every conceivable option has been examined (often requiring more data). And yes, this will inevitably make decision making for such individuals into a daunting task.
Fortunately the theory holds that it is rare for any of us to make our decisions entirely in one mode or the other. We all tend to have decisions where we seek to maximize. And others where we need only satisfy. But as with many behavioural traits it is helpful to be aware, to acknowledge and above all to be happy with how we make choices.
In our industry there are some decisions that are simple to get right. An unsafe compound should always be stopped; an active and clean asset that achieves Proof of Concept should always be advanced. But if all our decisions were that straightforward then our work would be easy…and not as enjoyable. Its moments when some, but not all, of our target criteria are met that provoke more debate and where opinions diverge.
All of which is why I involve others when I am making important decisions (personal or professional). Easy decisions are easy. Hard decisions can be made easier with insights, observations or context from family, friends or colleagues who are a step or two further away.