Decision vs. Precision

I love Seth Godin’s blog. Its technology aware but focuses people, which is why we have this technology, right?

Anyway, he makes the point in his latest post titeld “I need more time” that more time doesn’t necessarily lead to better decisions.

This is something I’ve tried to implement in my life, and I think it boils down to “decision versus precision”. Basically, precision is required sometimes, and the need for it will usually delay a decision. But at some point you lose value in the decision by working too hard on making a perfect measurement.

These two things are tangent to one another. The “sweet spot” for any decision is where they meet.. the right amount of precision, with a good firm decision, will generally produce better results. Making choices without accuracy is “wild ass guessing.” However, obsessing over the details is likesitting at home reading books about the museums of Venice, the culture of Venice, even learning the language of Venice, to the point where you know the routes of the canals better than the gondoliers themselves. The problem is, it might mean you never actually *get* to Venice. Of course, you might actually hasten your decision on when to go, if during your reading you learn that the city is, in fact, sinking into the sea.

Likewise, wild ass guessing can be fun, but you might miss something great. Any good negotiator knows not to take the first offer, that its just to be used as information to help you understand the other party’s position.

I think ultimately, its better to make decisions as soon as you have enough information to satisfy a few criteria. One is risk tolerance, and another is urgency. These really boil down to an examination of your goals. If your goal is to get a man on the moon, you need a lot of precision before you can throw a fishbowl over his head and run him up the ladder into the rocket. You are risking at least one person’s life. Getting there isn’t really that urgent (though it was for NASA in the 60′s..). On the other hand, if your goal is to capture the latest media market craze, you *must* take risks, and if you don’t capture it soon, someone else may do it. The iPhone is a great example of this, where Apple took the time to do the smart web enabled phone concept right, but still took some big risks in releasing it without GPS or Copy & Paste ability.

For me, I struggle with precision more than decision. Often times I end up changing my mind a bit too much because I set off in one direction without all of the facts. If this sounds like you, then you might need to rethink your process, and get into the habit of gathing a little more information. However, I think most people fall into the category that Seth talks about in the linked article. If you find yourself researching, and not really “doing”, maybe swallow your reservations once in a while, and make a wild ass guess. You never know, it might be fun!

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