3 Common Errors in Business Judgment

​SUCCESS IN BUSINESS or any worthwhile endeavor depends largely on the quality of decisions made per time.

In this  brief report, I wish to present vividly 3 common orientations that are inimical to effective business judgment. These are very subtle subjects so I encourage us to try as much as possible to read in between the lines. 

1. The Action-first Orientation.

We seem to have a workplace norm that constantly drums into our ears “Don’t think – Just Act! This way individuals who pause to question actions are often considered as “hesitant to take charge”.

The action-first orientation is dictated in part by our need to draw instant conclusions about the world around us and how it works. An attitude that’s deeply rooted in the erroneous idea that everything in our world follows a predefined sequence which is applicable in all situations.

We call it being logical. 

One of my most profound discoveries i recent times is the fact that while it is true that the rules of logic does exist, they rarely apply in every circumstance.

For instance, seemingly, a ship constructed out of steel, or carved out of a rock, should not be able to float. An aircraft weighing 200 hundred tons should not be able to fly. An ant should not be able to lift 5 times its body weight. Clear water should not look blue. 

These are consistent with the rules of logic, yet all of them occur, proving that everything does not depend on the rules of logic.

Our world, particularly the world of business is basically full of seeming inconsistencies, contradictions, unknowns and/or significant gaps in knowledge.

The rules of logic does not tolerate these realities. And this forms the basis for the action-first orientation which renders critical and strategic thinking of no repute. 

Even then, it is not action itself that brings the expected result. It is “thoughtful action”. Thoughtful action is action that hits your business objectives, thus provoking the best results.

And so beyond the need to take action, we must encourage the essentiality of constantly asking the appropriate questions needed to provoke thoughtful action.

2. The Speed Orientation

Speed of implentation has been underscored as one of the prevailing attitudes of successful people.

While this is true, it appears that the general notion it gives is that speed of action is all that truly counts, that success in everything is decided by how quickly you act in any given situation.

This orientation paints a picture in the mind that typically says, “fast is good, and slow is bad.” It creates a falsified scenario where a fast but plausible interpretation is often regarded over a slow but certain one.

It is important to note carefully that fast and slow are only but neutral descriptions until they are considered within the context of a specific situation.

It is not exactly the speed of action per se that makes successful people reach their goal, it is the balance between the rate of action and inaction. It is the ability to determine the rate or speed of action required for a given situation.

Blanket rules such as “do it now,” may sound appealing to the senses, but it does not preclude the fact that speed without direction ends in frustration. 

Speed on its own is not a business virtue. It is not even a prerequisite for effective decision-making. It is choosing the appropriate speed for a given situation that is one of the most essential components for business/career success.

Most business leaders in the bid to act fast have incurred upon themselves and their organizations irreparable damages.

Making a quick decision when the situation calls for it is essential. However, taking more time to collect useful data and asking the right question is even more than necessary.

Thus, it is not the speed of action that counts in the long run but the ability to determine the speed of action required for a particular situation. Yes, speed is always a factor, but how quickly you act should always depend on the circumstances. 

3. The Connectionism Orientation

The problem with the human mind is that more often than not it thrives on imperfect data. 

Our minds can instantly access information from previous knowledge or experience that seems relevant to the problem at hand. It has the tendency to fill in missing parts from its large reservoir of worldly or familiar knowledge, make plausible assumptions, and be satisfied with fast and approximate solutions.

This forms the basis for our habit of generalizing things. 

The connectionism orientation typically explains how our instant application of knowledge tricks us into believing that we have an immediate answer for a particular problem, that if one answer worked in a previous situation, it should definitely work in a current one.  

This way, we rarely have the time to consider alternative answers, even when we should. Previous knowledge or experience becomes our substitute for critical thinking, as our minds recognize already-made answers to problems rather than deduce them from obvious facts.

In predictable environments or situations, like reading for an exam or coupling machine parts, the connectionism orientation may work superbly. But in unpredictable environments, such as today’s increasingly complex global economy, it can cause us to make serious mistakes during decision-making that will have negative long term effects on our business. 

The inevitable weakness of this orientation is that it trains us to constantly manufacture patterns, fill in the gaps, and make assumptions that are highly inaccurate or completely untrue.

There are 3 primary dispositions that keep us trapped with this orientation:

One is, OVERCONFIDENCE, the common tendency to subconsciously overestimate how much we know about a particular subject matter, which apparently blinds us to the great possibility of our lack of the crucial information required to proffer a skilled solution.  

We can be so focused on asserting what we know about a subject matter that we fail to consider what we don’t know about it.

The implication is that we tend to make decisions without considering the limitations of the facts that form the basis for our conclusions.

In this sense, more than what you know about a particular problem, it is always very important to constantly ask the question; “What else do I need to know in order to reach a sound conclusion with respect to the problem at hand?”

Two is, AVAILABILITY BIAS, the proposition that the most available information is the most relevant, even when such conclusions are totally illogical.

There’s the tendency to assume that a majority opinion is more accurate than the minority opinion which is why we can confidently adopt the “majority carries the vote” method in making decisions.

The most readily available data, because it is common, vivid and probably, generally acceptable, tricks us into thinking that it is central to the issue at hand. Such automatic assumptions can be very misleading, because more often than not, the most pertinent data is neither the most obvious nor the most useful.

The last one is, FRAMES, the mental state that allow us to control what information we attend to, and the ones we filter off.

Frames are the reasons our minds, when faced with a particular problem, tilt toward one particular interpretation of reality and away from other possibilities.    

This is no fault of ours. It’s all in the mind. It is however our responsibility to consciously push our minds to consider other possibilities outside our particular frame of reference.

It begins with the realization that the key to generating creative solutions to a problem lies with using multiple perspectives or defining a problem in different ways.

***

If we must begin to enjoy greater output in our careers and business, then we must seek daily to balance each maxim in every decision-making process.

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