How to Avoid the Deadly Sin of Decision Making

Making a good decision is easy when we have all the facts. Where most of us go wrong is when we don't. In these circumstances, many of us fall prey to the #1 deadly sin of decision making: Assumptions.


Assumptions Create Unstable Outcomes

The Assumption Problem

An assumption is a belief based on insufficient information. The reason why we are easily swayed by this deadly sin is that it's easy. It requires little effort to make an assumption instead of seeking more information.

None of us would build a corporate office on an unstable foundation. However, we often make decisions that are built on an "unstable foundation." This happens when we rely on assumptions. Unfortunately, assumptions can be costly, as was in the case of the Challenger Space Shuttle and the 1929 US Depression.

Case Study: Challenger Space Shuttle


On January 28, 1986, the Challenger Space Shuttle was launched. Excitement was in the air as thousands of people watched the shuttle launch. Within minutes after the launch, shock and horror reigned as the shuttle exploded, killing all passengers. How did this happen? The Rogers Commission Investigation found that the o-rings on the rocket were brittle. Shockingly, this issue that was known to NASA managers; however, the scope of the problem was assumed to be insignificant. Unfortunately, this assumption cost the lives of 7 brave astronauts.


Case Study: 1929 US Depression


In August 1929, the US Stock Market reached an incredible peak. It was prime time to have stocks. Sadly, the unbelievable peak was short lived. On October 18th, the prices started to decline. At the sight of declining stocks, people assumed that they were going to lose the value on their invested stocks. In a mass hysteria, billions of shares were traded, and the market crashed. By 1933, 30% of the US workforce was unemployed. All of this contributed to the Great Depression.  


The Assumption Solution

If we want to make wise decisions, we can't lift off with brittle o-rings. We can't be afraid of stock market drops. Making decisions on an unstable foundation will cause companies to fall at the slightest wind. Instead, when we are about to make a decision, ask these 3 questions:

  1. What assumptions am I making about this decision?

  2. Can I eliminate these assumptions with more information?

  3. If more information is not available, what is the cost of my assumption being wrong? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Use this process for every decision. By eliminating assumptions, we will avoid the deadly sin of decision making.


The Training Fallacy Can Secretly Undermine Your Efforts


One of the greatest assumptions in organizational training is believing a well-presented seminar equals high learning retention. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. To learn about effective strategies for getting a better ROI for your training program, go to 3 Smart Strategies for Saving Your Training Program.