The difference between reversible and irreversible decisions
We generally believe that we should gather as must information as possible, because it will help us make the right decisions. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it only hampers our progress. Sometimes it can even be dangerous. Many of the most successful people use simple, versatile decision-making practices that eliminate the need for consultation in certain situations. Here are a few examples: Steve Jobs’ standard answer was simply “No”. Warren Buffet said no to any problem that required a computer or even a calculator. It may also mean that reasoning is done from first principles, like Elon Musk does. Jeff Bezos, the founder or Amazon, asks himself whether the decision is reversible or not.
If the decision is reversible, we can make a quick decision without having perfect information. If the decision cannot be reversed, the process should be slowed down, because we need enough information and we should understand the problem as thoroughly as possible.
He used this process when he started Amazon. He knew that he would be able to return to his own job if Amazon failed. Reversible decisions can be taken quickly without first having all the available information. However, we should be willing to learn from experience if it fails. Sometimes it isn’t worth the time and effort to gather information in search of a better answer. Your research may mean that your decision is 5% better, but you missed an opportunity.
A reversible decision isn’t an excuse for acting recklessly. It is the knowledge that we have to adapt the process of decision-making to the type of decision to be made. We don’t have to make all decisions in the same way. The ability to make decisions fast has certain advantages. There is a difference between velocity and speed. Speed measures distance over time. We can move with speed without getting anywhere. Velocity means moving towards your goals.
With practice we get better at recognising bad decisions. We also don’t classify mistakes or small failures as disasters; we see them as information that can help us in future decisions.
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” — General George Patton
Bezos compares decisions to doors: reversible decisions are doors that open to both sides. Irreversible decisions are decisions that lead only in one direction – once you are through, you can’t go back. Most decisions are reversible, although we can never replace the time and resources used if it fails. Using a door that opens to both sides gives us information – we now know what is on the other side of the door.
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgement individuals or small groups.
As organisations grow, where is a tendency to use the Type 1 decision-making process more often. The result is slow decision-making, unnecessary avoidance of risk, a lack of experimenting and less creativity. Bezos believes 70% certainty is the optimal decision-making point. This means you should make a decision once you have 70% information available. Afterwards you can make adjustments as needed. This is a more effective method than waiting until you have 90% of the information.
Characteristics of leaders
Brilliant leaders share two characteristics:
1. Creating culture
Culture is what we create or what we allow. If we don’t purposefully create a dynamic culture, our culture will sink to the lowest denominator. Culture doesn’t grow overnight. If businesses can do it, then the church can do it too.
The church shouldn’t focus on its history, but on its destination. Church leaders should be the biggest vision creators on earth. But we allow secular leaders (examples being Elon Musk and Richard Branson) to dream bigger dreams than us. Their ambition for space travel is remarkable; our ambition to change the world through the Gospel should be even more remarkable. People aren’t touched by small dreams. Church leaders should believe the impossible, because we have a God who can do infinitely more than we can imagine.
2. Personal leadership development
We should be willing to spend time, money and energy in an area where we got stuck. We should spend time, money and energy to become better leaders. An investment in leadership development will benefit all those that we lead.
What am I reading right now?
Christian worldview – Philip Graham Ryken (2013)
This book is part of a series: Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition.
What is a worldview?
Everyone has a worldview, whether we know it or not. We all have a fundamental perspective of the world that determines our lifestyle. People’s reactions reveal their worldviews.
Ideas have consequences. Even ordinary interactions reflect our dedication and beliefs. Our worldviews come from what we think and what we love, say and do, praise and choose. Different worldviews have culture-wide influences. Some of the most important conflicts in today’s world are caused by clashing worldviews.
These conflicts in worldviews call on Christians to participate in cultural issues with caution. In a society that is increasingly secular, Christians often find that their ideas are attacked. How can we have a Christian perspective on current affairs? It is determined by our worldview – a Christian view that shapes our thoughts, desires, words and actions.
How do we define a worldview? It is the thought system that we use to understand the world around us. It is our way of looking at life, our interpretation of the universe, our orientation in terms of reality. It is the overarching framework of our basic beliefs about the world; the set of hinges on which all our thoughts and actions hang.
Ideally, it is an organised framework of beliefs that help us to see the bigger picture. It gives us a true perspective on the meaning of the existence of humans. It is the story that we use to answer questions with – questions such as: How did we get here and why are we here? Why did things go so wrong? Is there hope to set things right again? Where will everything end? There is often a gap between our worldview and the world we experience. Every one of us have basic beliefs about who we are, where we come from and where we are going. We accept our world view as a given and rarely notice it.
What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends om what sort of person you are (C. S. Lewis).
Our family background, life experiences, economic situation, education, cultural context, national heritage, language community, physiological characteristics, psychological characteristic and historical situation all have an influence on us. Our world view isn’t only a private perspective, but also correlates to the views of others. For he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost.[a] “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. (Proverbs 23:7). All people worship. The only question is who or what they worship. Anything you worship, apart from God, will eventually consume you – money, power, property, your body, beauty, sex, etc.
A worldview can’t be reduced to a set of rational statements. It is a matter of the heart as well as the mind.
The creation mandate
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28). People were appointed to represent God’s sovereignty on earth. Everything belongs to Him. God placed the earth in our care. The creation mandate calls on us to enjoy nature, but it is also the basis on which we can explore the world through science. God who founded everything in the world according to the norm of quantity and has endowed man with a mind which can comprehend these norms (Johannes Kepler).
Humans searched for independence. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6). Before this point humans only knew about goodness; now they also knew evil. The fall (the first sin) had tragic consequences, starting with feelings of guilt. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even people with a Christian world view aren’t immune to the consequences of sin.
An incomplete task
If we know what the problem is, it can help us find a solution. If we are convinced that our sinful nature, we call for help that only God can give. This answer doesn’t lie in us. God must come to save us. That is what God does. They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
Jesus’ salvation work raises our perspective and gives us a vantage point from which we can see the world the way God sees it. I now see things the way they should be – from God’s perspective. The forming of a Christian worldview is a gift of God’s mercy. We see the three stages of salvation history together: what the world was made to be (creation); that the world became (as a result of sin); and what it can be (through God’s grace). This three-dimensional perspective explains why the Christian worldview is both brutally honest about the problems we face, and hopeful about what God will do.
The paradise completed
Sin doesn’t have the last word because we live in the hope of grace that is still to come. We live in the ‘already’ as well as the ‘to be’. God has already established the salvation through Christ but haven’t fulfilled all His promises of His coming Kingdom yet.
The end of the world
What does the Christian worldview tell us about the perfect world that is coming? Hinduism says that we will be reincarnated into another form; pantheism says that we will become one with the universe; naturalism says we won’t exist anymore. They all believe that we only live for the moment – for this life. They don’t give any attention to their eternal destination. The Christian worldview says that death is not the end. Our current lives have consequences in the future. We know that Jesus will come again. This means the end of all earthly existence. The universe will first be destroyed and then restored. Jesus comes as the final Judge. Everything that is wrong, will be corrected. Everyone will appear before Christ as the Judge. This promise of judgement give meaning to everything we say and do. God fulfils his promise to make everything new.