“The two biggest dangers in decision making are not making enough decisions and then not correcting the bad ones.”
— David C. Baker
When things are tough, making decisions seems harder than ever. There are new problems, new factors, entirely new circumstances. There seems like there’s less and less to go on.
And, of course, that leads to paralysis. To indecision. It leads to waiting for perfect clarity, and a desperate hope that the answer will reveal itself if only there were just a little bit more data. A little bit more information. Or just a sign.
But not deciding is still deciding. Choosing not to take action is the same as choosing to let others decide for you. Or simply allowing circumstance to control everything.
As U.S. Grant said:
“Anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong we shall soon find it out, and can do the other thing. But not to decide wastes both time and money and may ruin everything.”
That’s the thing. If you make a decision, and it’s the wrong one, at least then you’ll know. And you can do the other thing.
Not deciding means letting nature take its course. It means letting someone else, like your competitor, take the opportunity. It means watching as business dries up, knowing you should be doing something, just not what.
The stakes, at times, are high. Waiting to make a decision can decide the fate of your product, or your business. But making the decision, doing the bold thing—that can provide you with exactly the clarity you’re looking for.
As Blair Enns says, “The universe rewards action. Because action yields information.”
Making a decision makes you more likely to be able to make better decisions in the future. Because there's more information and more to go on. And making more decisions gets easier and easier, because each one yields yet more information.
It’s true, as astronaut Chris Hadfield says, that “there’s no problem so bad you can’t make it worse.” So the answer is not recklessness, or baseless speculation. You still have to think about your decisions, and weigh the consequences and outcomes.
But waiting for perfect clarity is the same as deciding not to act. Because you’ll never have it—but you might just lose your opportunity to make the decision at all.