The two hardest things in the world to say

They must most definitely be “I love you” and ” I don’t know”. Though thankfully, not together – or in that sequence!

Earlier today I read a delightful article by Rory Sutherland in The Spectator. In this article, Rory points out how we’ve come to extol the virtues of decision-making based on mathematics to levels that can no longer be supported.

Rory’s point is that mathematical-based decision making is effective only when your assumptions are right. And in today’s disruptive world, they will rarely be.

What mathematical-based decision making doesn’t take into account are a whole lot of variables that are impossible to either predict or place a clear value on in terms of impact they will have on a situation.

In our business, for example, advertising, it may be theoretically possible to grow by 10% if the economy also is. However any decision taken based on this factor alone would be univariate in nature – and one that does not take into account a whole range of other factors capable of influence.

Factors such as possible changes in the leadership helm of key clients, departure of key personnel within the agency itself, a disruptive new model or technology (and let’s face it that’s something that’s happening to us on a virtually daily basis), a new competitor to our business, a new competitor to our client’s business – the list of variables is endless.

It is because of this endless list of variables that can singly or multiply influence outcomes that we must rely on something superior to mathematics in the process of decision making. Our gut, our instincts, the way we fundamentally feel a situation will turn out.

To develop a good gut and the instinctive prowess that comes with it we need to be continually informed. It is the steady and constant stream of information fed to our brain and its due processing that will lead us to develop heuristics, in some cases a series of them.

It is these that will ultimately lead to more creative, informed and effective decisions.


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