The thing about decisions

I often get the urge to write in reaction to things that have a negative impact on me. Not necessarily just aggravations. Often it is people making things too easy for themselves. I notice time and again, for example, that there are spelling mistakes on many signs, or that journalists, who ought to be trained in this area, cannot get their grammar right. I’m neither a language specialist nor a purity fetishist, but I do believe that it doesn’t hurt to at least make an effort when you do something. It makes your own statements and actions a lot more credible.

What really gets on my nerves are intellectual announcements that in their superficiality have shortcomings in precisely this effort – and it is not always the US president who makes them. People often discuss why his core electorate do not completely turn away from him, especially when he does not deliver the results he has promised. As is so often the case, oversimplified and usually completely inadequate explanations are presented – for example, that these are simply stupid peasants.

Which brings me back to my point of departure, that in my opinion there are too many people who make things too easy for themselves. And that also applies to decisions and decision-making.

The World Wide Web is swarming (alliteration!) with articles giving tips on dealing with decisions. Correct decisions, it goes without saying. “Learn NOW how to make the right decisions” is one of the lead stories, accompanied by the astounding revelation that goals help with decisions. Others, on the other hand, enlighten us with the fact that they too have made right and wrong decisions in their lives.

And that is where my multiple aggravations begin. Brief research in the same medium could have brought the authors the insight that psychology and brain research came to the conclusion which unmasks such propositions as completely meaningless. Those so inclined may consult the results of Daniel Kahnemann, David Eagleman or Gerald Hüther to assess and evaluate my admittedly subjective view. This is because I am not primarily concerned with judging the correctness of the contents, but with the level of effort necessary for the research.

For a better understanding, I cannot avoid a very simplistic summary of the research results of the above-mentioned authors. In principle, the vast majority of so-called “decisions” are completely unconscious, based on sensory stimuli filtered through our brain. And that is a good thing. Recognizing the lion behind the tree as such and not brooding about it for ages has certainly saved the lives of some of our ancestors. D. Eagleman even goes so far as to question our existing understanding and system of law on the basis of this filtering mechanism of our brain, since it is difficult to distinguish between “conscious” and “unconscious” and thus also between “guilt” and “innocence”. In defence of the legal system it should be mentioned that it was founded one to two centuries before these research results. Thus it should be noted that the so-called permanent “free choice” rather belongs into the category of “enlightenment myth.”

Another aspect that irritates me in this context is the arrogance behind the classification of so-called “right” and “wrong” decisions. Some readers may know the expression “shoulda coulda woulda.” Decisions per se presuppose a choice between alternatives. The categorization into “right” and “wrong” is based on the result and always in retrospect. It is automatically assumed you know the outcome if the alternative is chosen. What a hubris to believe that one can predict the result of an unselected alternative with certainty.

In my opinion, there are no right and wrong decisions. If we accept this, new perspectives and thus opportunities will always arise. In project management and in real life.

Mae West’s approach promises a lot of fun, which according to my research she is said to have actually lived: ” Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.”

Original text: RGE
English translation: BCO

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