Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Success Podcasts: Senturia on Decision Making

One of my favorite podcasts is I’m there for you Baby, featuring husband-and-wife entrepreneur team Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry.

Early in each podcast is a segment entitled “A Piece of Neil’s Mind”, filled with trenchant observations from business and entrepreneurship. Highly experienced , with a rascally wit, Senturia knows his stuff, and in this week’s rant, on decision making, he reminds me a lot of Charlie Munger, whose wealth of wisdom I have been commenting on lately (here, here, and here).

I am guessing that the podcast I am discussing will be archived here .

I strongly recommend going to the source, and listening to the podcast. Here are a few of the points Sentutia makes:

Making Decisions

All of us need to overcome two strong obstacles to good decision making:

1. An inordinate belief in our own talents

2. The tendency toward overly quick resolution, due to unwillingness to “sit” with multiple alternatives. Chalie Munger has referred to this as “bias from consistency and commitment tendency” in The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.

The Solutions:

1. Slow down your thinking.

2. Be ready to hold multiple (opposing) ideas in your mind simultaneously.

3. Work toward a superior (new) solution, not merely the “least bad” current solution.

4. Practice Integrative Thinking.

Senturia on Integrative Thinking:

1. Determine Salience (Which factors are relevant?) As many as you can tolerate.

2. Analyze causality (What is the true cause?) Keep many factors in play. Don’t rush to a single cause

3. Use decision trees. Determine the "archictecture" of how the decision will be made. The alternatives. The branches.

4. Determine not only the decisions, but the order of decisions to be made (which first?).

5. Achieve resolution. “Mix and match” until a winning concept emerges. Don’t be afraid to live with complexity until you have a great solution. Don’t settle.

In my previous career, I had the privilege of watching many great advertising creative directors at work, and I noticed that the best ones were those who could wait for a truly great idea to emerge. In my service-oriented role back then, I always wanted to rush to a solution, and , especially, to bill the job! But I can now see how my efficiency may have been misplaced.

After all, if Brahms could ruminate for decades before finally releasing his first symphony…surely we can take a few extra minutes to make a good decision.

On a personal note, we were planning a vacation recently, which had a lot of requirements: (scenic beauty, wi-fi, shopping, within automobile range). Weeks passed debating between Pennsylvania and Denver. But it was worth waiting for the superior solution to emerge, and we had a great time in Boulder.


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