…which basically means if you sort out a problem in a timely manner it will save extra work later (or it will maximize the benefit or minimize the damage etc.).
Let’s park that thought and talk about decisions (that are a precursor to actions). Here is a quick fact: we make over 220 decisions each day on food alone (Cornell University study), and probably thousands more on other matters. So, in trying to understand decisions a bit more let’s see how many types of decisions are there. In an over-simplified world, I think there are really three types (and a few variations in between):
At one end of the spectrum is in-decision which leads to in-action. At first look it may appear to be an anti of a decision, but if we look closely it is in fact a decision. A decision to not decide or to not take any action. Remember Nokia? At the advent of smart phone era, Nokia decided to not do anything. That decision (or in-decision) saw them go from being a market leader to the brink of extinction. So, the cost of not deciding or not doing anything can be excessive.
Next is what could be called a bad decision. Ill informed, sticking a finger in the air, a bad hunch, acting hastily or in isolation, lack of proper due diligence – all of these can lead to a bad decision. Excite turning down the offer to buy Google for $750K in 1999 (now worth over $750B), or Apple’s founder Ronald Wayne selling 10% shares for $800 (now worth over $80B) are examples of some bad decisions. Clearly, bad decisions cost too, revenue, market share, competitiveness, development costs etc. Still, bad decisions are often better than in-action or in-decision as lessons can be learned and future decisions can be improved.
At the other end of spectrum? The good decisions. These can range from good enough (got some of what we wanted, didn’t get some, maybe left some money on the table), to optimal decisions (properly considered decisions that give optimal results, essentially sets apart the best from the rest). Google buying the little-known Android in 2005 (which now holds over 80% share of smartphone market), or Facebook’s decision to buy Instagram, essentially booting out a potential future threat and consolidating its own mobile presence. These are examples of some smart decisions.
So, what makes a decision great?
Meaningful and timely insights, vision and foresight, due collaboration with stakeholders, proper due diligence, and a good understanding of the environment – all contribute to the quality of a good decision. However, sometimes moving too far towards this end of the spectrum can push us right back to the other side (in-decision, in-action, or analysis paralysis), so another key ingredient here is to use one’s experience and intuition to act when it feels right. Science says trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain and makes you feel out of control.
To sum this up, ‘a good decision now is better than a perfect decision in two days’, or a stitch in time saves nine, but to know when is ‘the time’ often differentiates a great decision from a bad one. More on that later.