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Wise Dads & Uncles: Think Long, Think Wrong

 

Family game table with Dad and Uncles.

Family game table with Dad and Uncles.

The family game table is a learning center. Games of spades, bid whist, gin and dominoes command audiences of people either waiting their turn, instigating and agitating, or just taking it all in. You find them at summer barbecues, family reunions or the impromptu house party.

My uncles had deep baritone voices that, by default, made you pay attention – especially my Uncle Knobby. One of his favorite sayings plays on repeat for me. Typically, he’d pull that gem out to rattle an opposing partner as he/she agonized over the next play.

“Study Long, Study Wrong” (interchangeable with the title)

In business, it’s commonly referred to as analysis paralysis.

The game table tease works well as a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs. Business decisions aren’t to be taken lightly. They do require forethought, planning and careful consideration. However, they don’t typically call for the months or years that over-analyzers take to make a move. At some point a skilled leader, like a confident card player, must decide to go all in.

Here’s an example of a personal long-wrong fail. An idea for a product name hit me a while back. I sat on it, wondering if, how and for much it would take to make it work. I shelved it, but it nagged at me. After months, I pushed myself to act on it, pulling up the trademark database to research the name. One month earlier, another company acquired the trademark. Bam! The booming bass of a voice gnawed at me … long and wrong.

A second commanding voice rang in my head, that of a favorite professor, Professor James March. His book and course on organizational decision-making may have been a bit over my head as a college junior, but they are increasingly relevant. In office hours, Professor March would caution me about over thinking an answer or theory. His goal was for people to understand how and why decisions happened. What ‘s clear is the fact that someone out there will make a move without needing handwriting on the wall and sand or parting to seas to do it.

It’s All About False Control

To defer or delay decision, many go into over-planning mode.

“Over-planning comes from anxiety. It’s a way of dealing with worry and can give people a false sense of control,” explains Pepperdine Professor Dr. Thelma Bryant-Davis. “It can go too far when a person loses flexibility, when they have set goals that are unrealistic or too rigid.” (Alexa Pugh, Learn Vest for Business Insider)

Marrying a final decision to the sense of perfection or control can lead to the loss of valuable time that could be better served testing out a product or idea. So what if the idea ultimately doesn’t work or requires a major shift? Did haggling over it change that fact? Probably not.

In a NovoEd course Decision Skills: Power Tools to Build Your Life, Instructor Chris Speltzer also focuses on the process and information individuals use to make decisions. He teaches the foundational tenets of a good choice. Where the course helped free many from the cycle of analysis paralysis is with a basic principle that could change a long-term habit of waiting too long:

“Whether my decision is good or bad depends on how I make it –       not on the outcome.”

Simply put, a person can make a great decision that could still fail or lose. That doesn’t mean it was a bad decision. Even if you were wrong, it could have been your best move at the time. If a businessperson conducts smart research, takes a survey of the resources available and spends adequate time developing a solid strategy, her decision process is a acceptable.

Sidewalk card game on Dryades Street, Central City New Orleans. Derek Bridges

Sidewalk card game on Dryades Street, Central City New Orleans. Derek Bridges

Back to the game table. Leading with your off-suit could yield control of the hand to your opponent (fail) or it could draw out your partner’s winner setting you up on a train to Boston (win). Go with the information you have available to you. Unless you’re cheating, you won’t know who’s holding what. The same holds true for that business idea you’re holding on to so tightly. Just play to win.

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This entry was posted on 08/22/2014 by in DOOR #3 and tagged , , , , , , .
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