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Why A Little Uncertainty Can Be Good for Important Decisions

decision makingSometimes you really should widen the frame and check the assumptions. Sometimes the things that seem certain should be examined a little more closely. Particularly for something that is important.

I like to be certain, of course. It’s great when a piece of knowledge, a concrete experience, or a indisputable fact guides my way.

That’s confidence building and fun.

But it isn’t always the best way to get the best results.

Many times, I’m better off being less certain, hesitating a bit, and questioning things at least just a little further.

Creative and elegant and robust solutions are more apt to come from a more complete and nuanced understanding of a problem or a situation.

I’m not talking about analysis paralysis all day long…that’s no good.

I’m talking about those times when something is important enough, or when something is tapping into emotions a bit more deeply than it seems it should, or when maybe the answer feels a little too obvious…

That’s when it’s often a good time to pause and reflect a little more deeply and ponder a few questions.

“What is the problem we are trying to solve?” Revisiting that question is a good place to start.

Further questioning helps: “Why does the problem exist?”

What is it that sets the conditions of the problem? Why are those things the way they are? Are they likely to remain intact over time?

Widening the frame to take a broader view can help uncover a perspective that more narrow framing would crop out.

Questioning the assumptions, especially the ones that aren’t explicitly stated, helps to consider where things really stand right now and how they might play out over time.

Are the things we know to be true really true? Will they always be true? Why or why not? What might cause them to change…

The standard way of doing things might be fine. A commonplace view of the problem might be accurate. Characterizing things quickly might be efficient.

Introducing some uncertainty, however, might reveal more and better opportunities.

Sometimes it is a good idea to more closely examine what appear to be the foundational elements… to give ’em a little shake and see how they hold up (or don’t).

A good way to play around with this idea this week would be to test the waters in a real life situation and ask just one more question before deciding on a course of action.

Take one of these opportunities to go one step further than you would normally.

Ask yourself one more question before you make a decision.

Ask one more question before the meeting ends.

Pretend you are your boss or your boss’ boss and ask one more question from their perspective.

Or pretend you’re the customer and ask one more question.

Ask one more question that seems so obvious that it shouldn’t be asked and see what happens.

Ask if anyone else would like to ask one more question.

Widen the frame and check the assumptions.