Dodos and the importance of making decisions

28 November 2011

Decision-making is like evolution. The wrong decision and you’re dead. No decision and you’re dead. Right decision and you’re alive.

The dodo is a great example. At some point in history, a dodo was born that could not fly. The (temporary) lack of predators on Mauritius meant the non-flying dodo could survive and reproduce, and from there came tens of thousands of dodos.

Until humans rocked up. At which point the non-flying dodos quickly became the precursor of fast food. Kentucky Fried Dodo.

One ill-considered decision by nature killed the dodo. On the other hand, no decisions don’t even allow for failure. No decisions leads to nothingness. At least the dodos have a great story. They’re famous!

The trick is to differentiate between decisions with massive impact (i.e.: delete the “flying” function) and those that have minor impact (i.e.: change colour of beak.) The secret, according to Tim Harford, is to measure the Survivability Index of the decision. Ask yourself: “Will I survive the consequences if my decision is incorrect.” Delay decisions with a low SI. Accelerate decisions with a high SI. When I say accelerate, I mean ACCELERATE.

Full steam ahead, all guns blazing. Make decisions quickly, move on, watch results. If the results are not ideal, suck up your ego, acknowledge the mistake, and change direction.

Having the guts to make decisions and having the humility to acknowledge mistakes. This is the secret to successful evolution.

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