Decision Making in the Era of Endless Information
Making decisions is a good use of time. Decision-making moves a myriad of little daily tasks along to accomplishment, allows us to make progress on complex projects, and keeps us on the path toward goal achievement. In the Era of Endless when information never ends, decision-making is profoundly impacted. Endlessly adding data, more information, and inputs leaves us precious little time to stand back and put all the pieces together. Take the example of the April, 2010 BP oil spill. Within hours of the spill the Incident Commander of the Coast Guard (the person in charge) received 400 pages of e-mails, texts, reports, and other messages. “I might have acted faster if there was less input,” he commented.
Endless information can also cause some people to freeze altogether when it comes to decisions. We choose the default 401k plan at work or automatically renew our health insurance policy without considering alternatives because “there is just too much information.”
Endless information can bring decision-making to its knees. To avoid this:
- Pick a time in the information-gathering process to step back, to see the novel connections, detect hidden patterns that emerge and apply judgment about what missing information still needs to be sought.
- Add a time frame to your decisions. A decision has no power if it is made too late.
- Since information is endless but time is not, add a limit to how much time you will devote to finding information.
- Consider team-based decision-making. Divide up the information gathering process between several people, each person share’s the information, and then as a group based on the information, a consensual decision is made
Remember, in the era of endless, there can be no end to the quantity of information we find to solve a problem, address a need or make a decision. Trade in quanity for quality.