yes, and . . .

 

Using the framing of the “another way to think about the method” (p.6 of the prompt):

 

  1. Commit to Making a Decision:

I had a hard time with this project. I do not agree with/ascribe to the outlined method for how to make decisions. This doesn’t feel trivial to me: this is something I have a given a lot of professional and academic time and thought to – from my Master’s thesis on reflective practice to my work in dispute resolution. Part of me wants to make the decision of not making a decision, to just skip out and not write this one. Alas, I won’t. I will commit to making a decision! I will commit to writing the post.

 

  1. Frame it Generously, with lots of room for insight

I’ll frame the question as, “what do I write this blog post about?”

This leaves generous wiggle room, space for a million sub-questions. One option: I could write an outline of my own thinking about decision-making. If I do that though, should I frame it as a pointed critique of the prompt or as my own way of doing things? If that, what specific points would I highlight? Who do I consider my audience? Would I write it as narrative or with more objectivity (so to speak), citing behavioral economics and action science? Alternatively, I could throw that out the window and write about my experience attempting to use the prescribed method of the prompt to work through a decision. That whole process is actually much too long for a blog post, but I could write about some of it. This appears to be something like what I’m doing now.

 

  1. Ask, what is this for? And define what success looks like

This is for my own personal growth and development – clarifying my own thinking, learning in the process, opening myself up to change. This is for meaningfully contributing to the conversation with all of you. This is for fulfilling my commitment and completing the post. Success looks like completing it on time. Success looks like writing something coherent, as judged by my own metrics and the comments of the cohort.

 

  1. [optional and advanced] build a decision tree, feed it data and update as you go

 Skip!

 

  1. Organize your priorities and don’t proceed until the constituents agree

I think this is talking about when you’re making a group decision, but I often think about the ways group decision-making processes mirror (fractals!) our own internal decision-making processes. I can thus read this as only proceeding when I’ve reached internal consensus, when I’m at peace with my own decision.

Except, I cannot hold off until I have reached internal consensus. I have real-life constraints. My biggest constraint right now is . . . time. I’ve been working on this for some time already, and it’s due tonight, and I have other priorities for today, my next meeting in just a few minutes. So, I’ll reframe question 2 and ask: given my limited time, what should I write this post about?

And then I’ll allow the answer to emerge . . .

 


RS. Understanding the sunk cost fallacy is a powerful tool in decision-making. There are several other behavioral economics concepts I think about when evaluating my own decisions and actions:

  1. loss aversion – we are often willing to risk more to avoid loss than we would for an equal gain.
  2. the endowment effect – we more highly value things that we already own than the same thing or an equally valued thing we have no sense of ownership over. So, if someone hands you a chocolate bar that’s worth $1 and then offers to trade it to you for a $1, you may be inclined to decline
  3. the ikea effect – similar, but instead of ownership it’s labor. People more highly value ikea furniture they did a mediocre job of putting together themselves than the same product perfectly assembled.

Analyzing our actions to test them against these and other concepts can be immensely valuable. That doesn’t mean it provides enough clarity to make perfect decisions. The IKEA effect was taught to me by a professor who scoffed at it, telling the class how ridiculous he is that he feels attached to his IKEA furniture. For me, though, I love that people love their IKEA furniture! Better to feel good about a piece of imperfect craftsmanship than to feel indifferent. Where it gets problematic is on the level of effecting other people. A manager feeling over-attached to a business plan they came up with may inhibit them from listening to their team or observing the real effects. Having this language and understanding of the non-robotlike-goofs of the human brain allows us to see what we’re doing, empowers us to make choices. It doesn’t tell us what those choices should be.

Author: carrieswatkins

Carrie is pursuing her Master's degree in City Planning at MIT

3 thoughts on “yes, and . . .”

  1. Carrie,
    I really appreciate how you skillfully and respectfully push-back against approaches that don’t resonate with what you know to be true for yourself. I definitely appreciated the reflections/perspectives you shared in our team phone call on Monday night along the same lines as your post.
    I resonate with the resistance you have towards the method outlined in this week’s prompt and appreciate that you engaged in the method to some extent, nonetheless. Nice going.
    What I wonder is if you naturally, i.e. without thinking about it, do a lot of the steps that are outlined by the method. When you are trying to decide something, you think about all the options, you think about the dependencies, you understand the order and the magnitude of the issue in front of you … and then what you do that the method doesn’t describe is that you let it percolate a little bit. You let your subconscious play with it. You let the decision emerge and reveal itself when it is ready. A much more artful practice, in my estimation.
    It seems reasonable to me that the method doesn’t work for you because it doesn’t really give you something new.

    Like

  2. Carrie,

    I appreciated the perspective of your post. Which part of the process did you struggle with? Why? What are some of the dependencies that are connected to your options? Does the sunk cost of time play a role when considering options? What are you gaining from each option? Did you learn anything about yourself during this process?

    I look forward to seeing your reflections on this prompt.

    Like

  3. Hi Carrie,

    I love it when someone says “F This” and waves a jackhammer at the walls that have been imposed on an activity (in this case, the theory and prompt) since I enjoy the spark of critical thinking it inspires.

    I guess my question for you is: what would you propose? How can you add or refocus the methods provided to us to better fit the needs you see in real-world decision making and the wackiness that is the human mind?

    Excited to learn from you!

    Like

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