Hackernoon logoSome Decisions are Mindless, Other Decisions Require Deep Thinking by@Rajiraj

Some Decisions are Mindless, Other Decisions Require Deep Thinking

Author profile picture

@Rajirajraji rajagopalan

developer. writer. tech leader. speaker

If you've been working for some time, you might have wondered occasionally if it was time to change jobs. If you are early in your career, you can bet that this is a decision you will need to make in your life.
Should I look for a new team/job given my circumstances?

As you try to answer this question for yourself, it is useful to know a bit about good decision-making. 

Most decisions we make in our lives do not require a lot of thought.

​Do I want to eat chocolate ice cream or tiramisu cake for dessert?

Do I wear a bright print dress or denim and t-shirt?

Do I want to read fiction or non-fiction next?

Do I *really* want to floss today?

These are decisions that require very little cognitive skill and cycles. They are simple and generally not costly. We make them mostly by how we feel, and it is best not to waste a lot of energy on these pedestrian decisions. People have suggested creating systems and habits in place to aid in making them quickly (e.g.: always pick the piece of clothing closest to you to wear, alternate fiction and non-fiction, always floss after you brush etc.).

There are other decisions that require deep thinking.
There are some decisions we make in life - like the question I started this post with about making a job change - that require thought. We make such decisions many times in our lives, so it is best to understand some tools/tips to make them well. Here are my three tips:
1- Decide on the decision-making framework you want to use

Every complex decision you make is of a different class, so your first order of business is to choose the right framework for your question at hand. This is indeed half the battle, so do spend some time on it. There are many famous decision-making tools you can choose from: simple "pros vs. cons" lists, cost/benefit comparisonsPareto analysismind mapsSWOT gridsdecision matrices and so on. One of these might be the tool most applicable to your problem. You might also come up with something on your own, or you might want to simply "sleep on your decision". As basic as it sounds, sleeping has been proven to recruit creativity and breakthrough thinking. It is an underrated yet highly valuable tool to aid decision making. 

To illustrate, let's get back to the original question about changing jobs. Personally, I have changed teams/jobs multiple times in my life, and I have organically created a framework that I turn to for this purpose every time.First, reflect on what are the most important things that keep you in a team. For me, after much reflection, I know these are: the people I work with, how much learning I am doing on the job, how much impact am I having, and how my career is progressing on the team.Spend a TON of time reflecting on the job and how it is evaluating against these important things.And that's it. It is a not a mathematical formula that will magically give you an answer. The key is to let your brain reflect on the problem at hand, deeply and in ways that can aid your decision-making.

2- Do not ignore intuition

As a person who makes products centered on data-driven decision making, it might seem strange coming from me: listen to your instinct. Don't get me wrong - I tend to use data in making most of my decisions, but especially in areas where I have gained a lot of experience, I don't ignore intuition.
For what is intuition? It is a set of mnemonics your brain has stored away from years of learning - a lot of it subconscious - and it is important to not undervalue that learning.
​Malcolm Gladwell opens his famous book Blink: the power of thinking without thinking with the story of kouros, an ancient Greek statue that the Getty Museum was evaluating for a purchase. The asking price for the statue was $10 million. Every background analysis on the statue checked out, and the piece was purchased. However, an art historian who later viewed the statue was struck by its inauthenticity. The same sense of "something is not right" was felt by a couple more art experts that viewed it. After a few more investigations, it was concluded that the kouros was in fact not genuine.

The moral of the story is that what weeks of initial investigations could not find was ferreted our intuitively by experts. This is because the experts were able to instantly access a lot of subconscious information in their heads collected over years of learning. It is advisable to not ignore what that trove of information points to.

​That said, while intuition is fast, it can be flawed too, so sift what it points to for inherent biases.

3- Assume most decisions are reversible

Most decisions we make in life do not indenture us to them. We can go back and make a different choice, the only loss in most cases being time/money. When you weigh the loss of time/money against the opportunity in front of you, it is likely you come out ahead by making a decision sooner than later. Most of the time, which way you go is less important than what you do down the line.​
​So pick a path, decide on the checkpoints where you want to evaluate how you're doing, have a strategy to roll back or course correct if things are not going as well as you expected. Then make the decision and go on your merry way.

Prominent behavioral scientist Daniel Kahneman says it is best to not judge ​​the quality of your decisions based on how they turned out. If you do that, you fall victim to what is called outcome bias
Judge the quality of your decisions on the process you used to make them.
Use a sound and logical process to make important decisions in your life. Act, monitor, evaluate, repeat. That's the best you can do.


The Noonification banner

Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!