Farsighted is at its core a book about making better decisions, and strategies to overcome our natural tendencies that lead us to make poor decisions. Here, I highlight three concepts that anyone can easily apply to individual or group decision-making.
Structure for Better Group Dynamics
In groups, people are heavily influenced by what others say. Self-censoring vital information, and revising an opinion before sharing it are two examples that lead to not having all the information needed for a good decision. Johnson encourages groups to write down an opinion before a discussion to ensure all opinions are expressed, and not influenced by whomever speaks first or the leader’s opinion.
Another strategy is to call out the different skills or backgrounds of each group member when the group initially meets. This will encourage individuals to assert their knowledge and opinions knowing their unique role brings valued insight to the table.
Explore More Options
Expanding the number of options to consider will help both groups and individuals make better decisions. Johnson reports that only 29% of decisions consider more than one option. When the potentials are expanded, a better decision is identified. Even if the original option is ultimately adopted, the plan will have nuances that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered.
With more options on the table, deliberately limit them to generate more ideas. “If we couldn’t do Option A, what would we do?” By forcing the consideration of an alternate scenario, new possibilities and configurations become visible. Scenario playing, which is a skill developed by people playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, helps devise options that would otherwise never occur to the group. Consider scenarios where things get better, worse, and weird. Rarely do we construct multiple possible scenarios, but it can be a crucial component.
In making decisions, Johnson encourages us to intentionally take two phases: divergence and then consensus. Start divergence with getting as many perspectives and variables on the table, and conduct exploratory exercises; then narrow the options, and seek a consensus or agreement on the correct path.
Assign a Probability or Confidence Level to Your Options
We tend to either refuse to act until we feel absolutely certain, which can paralyze us or our organization, or we act based on a gut instinct that we think is a good direction. Instead, express the confidence of your opinion in the form of a percent. By asserting how certain you are of your idea, you allow yourself room to evaluate new information and potentially change your mind. Beforehand, determine the level of certainty you or your group needs to be at in order to act or move forward. Johnson suggests you can act when you or the group is at 70% certainty, or good enough that you think it is likely to happen.
Finally, construct a Bad Events Table, and estimate the likelihood of different possibilities happening, and how bad it would be if that event did happen. This helps us to stop fixating on what we think is the most likely outcome, expand our view, and see that another future is possible if steps are taken soon.
By taking an intentional approach, groups and individuals can make better decisions. Our decision-making skills will improve when we give ourselves tools to overcome our habits or natural tendencies. Experiment with one of these ideas and see if you get better information from your team, see unrecognized options, or get unstuck from wanting everyone to be 100% certain before moving forward.