Examination not justification

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates via Plato.

Everyone has a gut feeling about things; we seem to be hard wired to make snap judgements about events and things. Evolutionary biologists would probably say that this harks back to when we were hunter-gatherers and had to rapidly make a judgement as to whether something was a threat or not.

There will be people who rely wholly on their intuition to make business decisions; whether that’s around the direction of the business or whether it’s going to be the product roadmap. Sometimes, these judgements may pan out, but generally relying on just your intuition (or experience) means that you can start off down a blind alley without really realising it. Intuitively you think that the decision is the right one, and focus all your energies on proving yourself right, even to the stage of throwing good money after bad.

Equally, a decision maker that focusses on the process, and gathers evidence before making a decision may then be paralysed by indecision (because there isn’t enough evidence for or against) and misses the first mover advantage in a new product sector.

In a decision making context; we need to examine the why of it. You don’t have to justify the reason; you need to examine the reason. Once you’ve examined things in a critical context and it still holds up, then your decision is a valid one. We won’t use the words good or bad in this context, as those words implies a value judgement on the decision which is, of course, very subjective.

Making business decisions needs to harness both your intuition and the supporting evidence. In a wider context you also have to pay attention to the cultural and emotional impact of the decision on the company. Even if the evidence supports the path you’re evaluating; it’s quite possible that not doing it may be a valid decision because your organisation is structurally incapable of making it happen without killing themselves.

originally posted on medium

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