Uncertainty and decision making

I recently discovered the Farnham Street website and the Annie Duke podcast really struck a cord with me. She’s an ex-professional poker player who now gives talks on decision making. It got me thinking about how I my own decisions and how I can make better ones.

Difficult decisions are always based on missing information. If you knew an outcome was guaranteed, there isn’t really a decision to be made. I think we should reframe how we approach discussions about complex decisions so it’s front and centre in people’s mind; we’re dealing with imperfect knowledge.

Instead of thinking of decisions (and their outcomes) in terms of good and bad, we should talk about them in the context of being better and worse. Good/bad decisions imply certainty, which is very rarely the case. Changing the conversation, so people talk about better and worse decisions, helps clarify in people’s minds that we’re dealing with a lack of information which will result in compromises or trade offs.

The real world is full of uncertainty and our discussions should accurately reflect this reality. Peddling in certainty is something best left to religion and sales people!

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