Thursday, January 28, 2010

"We hate to decide. We avoid deciding. We hide from it...Once someone decides, they almost always succeed (unless they want to win an Olympic medal or some other ridiculous prize awarded to just a few). The decision is the hard part, but we spend precious little time on it." Seth Godin

"In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." Theodore Roosevelt

"Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision." Peter Drucker

Today's image: Mount Hood by rasone. Amazing. Thank you very much for sharing.

Be Decisive

One of the most important and difficult responsibilities of effective leadership is being decisive. Gathering relevant information, ensuring data used is credible, timely (fresh), crafting and seriously considering a variety of practical solutions sets, while essential, are the easy parts of the decision making process. The most challenging part involves intellectual rigor devoid of pedantry.

"Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week."
George Bernard Shaw

Thinking is the underlying magic, the hard work in the decision making process, the wellspring of good decisions. Critical thinking, at its best, is an intellectually honest labor, the product of cognitive diversity, it's serious thought imbued with imagination.

"Most people in an industry are blind in the same way - they're all paying attention to the same things, and not paying attention to the same things."
Gary Hamel

My sense is too many firms have defined and adopted so much best practice that they have become, more or less, identical. This operating mindset comes from prizing only the knowable, respecting nothing but the proven, it's a process driven by the singular mission of minimizing the unpredictable. Unfortunately, this approach inevitably leads to institutionalized risk-aversion and incrementalism. Innovation gives way to inertia. Original thinking is not required. Moreover, the "untested" is discouraged, frowned upon. The danger is this becomes an irrational quest for the holy grail of predictability, a search for something elegant (perhaps something akin to the next Black-Scholes formula). Caution, one might be wise to mind the counsel of Albert Einstein: "Elegance is for tailors." In other words, be skeptical of elegant math.

It is my suggestion that there has never been a time more favorable, more ripe for being a contrarian. Dare to embrace the naive assumption. Foster the chaos that is unvarnished candor, search for what's missing, carefully study what your competitors are doing and seriously consider doing the exact opposite. Differentiate in all you do. Create contrast. Each day, ask yourself the most important questions of all...WHY? and WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

"Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen
and thinking what nobody has thought."

Albert von Szent-Györgyi

Once you've done your homework, done the hard work of thinking and reached your decision let me suggest that you add one more important step before taking action. It comes from Harvey Mackay, the famous Minnesota envelope maker turned business writer, and it's a gem. Gather your team one more time and ask...

"What are the five things that could go wrong,
and what would we do about each."

Today's quote by Seth Godin courtesy of Hugh MacLeod. It comes from an interview with Seth on Hugh's blog, Gapingvoid (linchpin: ten questions for seth godin). Earlier this month Hugh started "Hugh's Daily Cartoon" - it's free via email and I highly recommend it, sign-up here.

Get more info on Seth's new book Linchpin, (it's a good read) via Amazon, here.

My thanks to Seth and Hugh.