People Who Make Confident, Quick Decisions Are Often Making Bad Decisions

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If you are paralyzed by even the dumbest of decisions (which of these equally delicious-seeming Maple entrées should I order today?), take heart: There is value in being slow to decide, and even in being uncertain about your decision once you’ve made it.

A recent Harvard Business Review piece examines the Top Pricer Tournament, a kind of online game that lets business-strategist types demonstrate their business-strategy skills, deciding how they would help (fake) companies out of some tricky problems — things like customer loyalty issues, pricing questions, and response to competition. You know. Business-y things. Overall, responses from players tend to fall into one of three categories. There are the “I-already-knows,” the “Now-I-knows,” and the “I-don’t-knows.” More on that from HBR:

In general, the I-already-knows, confident in their snap judgments, and the Now-I-knows, confident after pondering, tend to be older males. Male business students are also represented in the I-already-knows. The I-don’t-knows, unsure of their thoughtful decisions, tend to be somewhat younger. And females make up well over half of the I-don’t-knows, a much higher percentage than in the other mindsets.

In this little game, one group tended to settle on the best decisions most often: the “I-don’t-knows.” This is supported by academic research, which has suggested that people who make snap decisions are often motivated by a need for closure; in other words, they’d rather have their answer than stay for too long in the unknown. Too bad for them, because the unknown is exactly where things get interesting. Now then, I’ll go back to deliberating my own very important decision of the day: Miso-glazed eggplant? Or the soba-noodle bowl?

A Brief Defense of Slow Decision-Making