Hard Decisions?

We know from the Heath Bros. (Decisive) that humans are not that great at decision making. Dan Kahneman et al give us some clues about why this is so. Boiling it all down, we are rather easily biased. And this was why Bob Cialdini made such a splash with his book “Influence“, where he lays out exactly the types of biases that can be exploited by manipulators.

So it should be no huge surprise that in situations where decision making is critical and our biases are most active, humans will produce less than stellar results. Welcome to the world of start up businesses. Good decision making is needed to take ideas to market. But biases are intense. Why? One reason is that start up groups seek to prolong working together rather than make hard choices to stop when data shows that they should. And of course, who wants to kill the baby?

So accelerators can help — if they force start up teams to make hard choices. That is the latest from the great minds at MIT. And incubators (helping start ups survive longer with lower costs structures and support) don’t work.

This poses an interesting question. If pushing people to make hard choices helps them, why don’t we see more of this type of service around? Perhaps we will.

Oh … and not to be overly alarmist here. But as we work on our decision making skills, we might keep in mind that over the next 50 years or so, societal disruption might become more severe than one might expect.  I do not think things will collapse. But I do think that stagnation in certain sectors of the economy will be prolonged and growth opportunities less widespread than we expect right now.  In other words, we would do well to anticipate the type of future that we are likely to see rather than believe the future will be the same as today.

Ooops! But as Chip and Dan Heath make abundantly clear, this touches on the biases that humans suffer from. We are poor at predicting the future and loathe to give up what we have. So we are pleased to restrict our choices and shocked when the restriction becomes uncomfortable.


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