Should I marry Susan or Karen, should I buy this house or that, should I take up this job or the other one, should I buy Google stock or Amazon, should I take a vacation this summer in Sicily or in Corsica, should I rent a BMW X5 or Audi Q5, should I take the highway or stay on the country roads to get to my destination faster…. Should I hire John or Sandra, should we partner with Microsoft or with Apple, should I outsource assembly to India or to China, should we target a broad customer base or focus on a special high margin segment? We are perpetually making decisions about a desired future outcome in all walks of our lives.
Making better decisions is the key to success?—?both in personal and in business life. A better decision means choosing the option that is considered the best from all angles, is the fastest, and the most accurate. As humans we have always tried to figure out the best way to arrive at a better decision. At the core, faced with uncertainty, decision-making is really about predicting the best option.
So how do we make better decisions? Most decisions were (are even now) made based on an amalgamation of personal experience, asking opinion of trusted friends, and gut feel. The emergence of digital technologies, especially the Internet, made decision-making more professional and easier?—?at least, at first. We now have unprecedented access to reports, opinions, research, comparisons, social media, and an expanse of additional data?—?allowing us to make data-based decisions. This is when it started becoming difficult again. The human brain has a fairly limited capacity for processing information from multiple inputs and becomes overwhelmed with too much data, resulting in decision-making paralysis. This is where many of us find ourselves today when we have to make a decision. Either we do not decide at all, or we decide based on just 3–5 factors (often ignoring the significant ones), or just surrender to our gut feel.
The benefit of data is that it provides objectivity in decision-making and forces us to look at various aspects and angles. However, too much of it overwhelms our decision-making abilities. There is much talk of being buried in data. For example, with thousands of new papers published on medical research every year, no medical professional can be expected to read and digest every new insight and use them in their daily job. It is not just a matter of available time, but also the capacity of our brain for inputs, actively using them, and making a sense of them for a decision. This is true for most professions?—?lawyers, tax consultants, and engineers. Is there a way to objectively make decisions, always factoring in all available information?