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Blog : Decisions, decisions...


Decisions, decisions...

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A recently aired programme and the Huffington post blog ‘It’s actually pretty much impossible to quit Amazon’ have both highlighted the global domination enjoyed by the ‘everything shop’. The documentary showcased the slightly crazy CEO, Jeff Bezos and how he has overcome some serious hurdles to lead a business that turned over $17billion in 2013.

In the ‘80s Bezos couldn't get over the fact that the Internet was growing at a rate of 2400% per year and decided it was here he needed to focus his efforts. A huge risk at the time to leave his well-paid, corporate job, but he decided he'd rather try and fail at a start-up than never try at all.

Making big, life changing decisions is surely a key trait of great leadership, especially in a world where time is at a premium and things move so quickly but what is worse making a wrong decision or not making one at all?

Be it a big purchase, recruitment decision or choice of socks, you’ll know some people you work with who make decisions in an instant and others who like to mull things over, seek input from others or some who openly admit the idea of making a decision fills them with fear.

In the period leading up to making a significant decision some people are anxious and concerned about making the right one, for fear of a less favourable outcome. In my eyes it’s this anxiousness that can sometimes lead us to overemphasise the decision which can lead to paralysis. There’s nothing worse than spending so much time debating a decision that the options are taken away as the ship sails.

Stanford professor Baba Shiv, an expert in the neuroscience of decision-making suggests that rational thought will get us closer to a decision but won’t result in a definitive choice because our options involve ranking potential outcomes. One of the key findings from his research is that successful decisions are those in which the decision-maker remains committed to their choice. I’d argue that often, more success is had from making a decision and revisiting/reviewing it, rather than not making any decision at all.

You can see a real commitment in Jeff Bezos’s decisions to build Amazon, in spite of it never making a profit and it being a real marmite quandary for investors and market commentators. But I do really admire his ability to make a decision, sticking to his gut instinct and I’d like to think if we all spent less time and energy worrying about making the right decision and spent much more time and energy ensuring that any decision we make turns out right we’d flourish.

How do you go about making decisions in your organisation? Could you achieve some more success by removing the temptation to procrastinate?

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