Nine Aspects of Good Decisions

L. Douglas Mault

December 2007

In last month’s article, we examined several aspects of bad decisions and strategies. Here are five considerations or as-pects which will help lead you to making better decisions. And, while we’re at it, we’ll learn some Latin.

Number One: Use Several Metaphors
Don’t focus on the first one to come to mind or the one that just seems most apt. For example, are business schools finish-ing schools where students are matured before entering the business world? Are they military academies where students prepare for economic warfare? Or are they job shops where students are trained to do one specific task? How many ways can you look at your company?

Number Two: Look For More Than One Clue
Just because things are related, they are not necessarily cause-and-effect related. Correlation does not always imply causa-tion, nor does causation always imply correlation.

Number Three: Once in a While, Disregard the Clue
When searching for an explanation for a complex situation, do not assume that the clue or solution must be equally com-plex. In the 14th century, an English logician, William of Ockham, said, "Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessi-tatem.” This is often called Ockham’s Razor and loosely translated and paraphrased it says, "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.”

Number Four: Avoid "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc” Reasoning
In the law, and in logic, this is often reduced to post/propter. Translated the phrase means, "after this, therefore because of this,” The classic is, "The rooster crows and the sun comes up.” We know the rooster didn’t cause the sun to come up, but sometimes we are faced with what appears to be "logical” when in fact it is just a latter day rooster/sun situation. By the way, there is no proof in physics that the crowing of roosters doesn’t make the sun come up! Hmmm.

Number Five: Get Rid of Outdated Theories
Most people think diagnostically but that can lead to superstitions or legends that hold sway for long periods of time. The history of medicine holds one key example: bloodletting as a sound and scientific cure was used until relatively recent times. Is it possible that what we hold as economic and business truths will prove to be as obsolete and damaging as bloodletting?

Number Six: Focus on the Future
The past is prologue; yesterday is gone and tomorrow is nigh. The past rarely predicts the future with accuracy. All it gives us is baseline data. As mentioned in earlier articles, look forward.

Number Seven: Devil’s Advocacy
Be your own devil’s advocate and try to find the flaws in your own premises, plans and programs. Encourage others to be the devil’s advocate by having them challenge assumptions, data and conclusions. Number Eight: Go Deeper
Get deeply into critical analysis and problem solving, not just forecasting or the usual way of doing things. As companies grow in size and complexity, owners and senior managers have to keep up.

Number Nine: Stakeholders
Involve stakeholders whom you might have excluded in the past such as customers, vendors, allies, strategic partners, etc. Don’t let yourself be isolated from them and the market.

About the Author
L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. EAI can be contacted by calling (888) 428.3331.