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The Art of Decision Making

All decisions are made on the basis of incomplete data, so either learn to live with this fact or get out of the game.

– Robert Townsend

As the CEO of a technology company, a space that changes and transforms itself faster than anyone expects, making quick and reasonable decisions in light of limited available information is a challenge that I face almost every day. I like to think of decision-making as an art because I believe there is much more to it than just following a set of rules, a process, or a framework. Making sound decisions does not only involve gathering and analyzing information to be situationally aware but also involves being self-aware and having a good enough understanding of possible outcomes.

Robert Townsend, the author of one of the best-selling management books of the 1970s, Up the Organization, suggests that there are only two types of decisions: those that can be made quickly because they are cheap and easy to correct; and those that should only be taken after due consideration because they are expensive and difficult to fix. I completely agree, and this also forms an important principle in my personal decision-making.

The worst decision a leader can make is not to make one. In fact, most people do not realize that postponing and delaying the decision is a decision in itself. People refrain from making important decisions because most of the time such decisions are uncomfortable or inconvenient. When I find myself stuck in situations where every path seems to have a trade-off, I ask myself, “If all constraints were removed, what would be the right thing to do here?” By “right” thing, I am referring to what is morally the correct thing to do. There is always one set of truth or facts, and the rest are simply opinions. In such situations, I let my core values and beliefs define my decisions. Following your inner moral north always leads you to the correct choice.

I am eager to know what your thoughts are on decision-making. What processes or frameworks you follow to make critical decisions?


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