Sometimes The Result Of Good Decision Making

Decision making is using what you know to get what you want.

 When the doctor prescribes a drug for your illness, you are warned about unintended consequences. When you are making important personal decisions, you should warn yourself about unintended consequences. Unintended consequences do occur. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Things happen.

Decision making consists of choices and consequences. The decision maker makes a choice intending to achieve a positive consequence. The decision maker usually is in control or has major influence of the choice, but not the consequence.

What is a good decision? One of the hardest things to grasp about decision making is that the goodness (superiority, excellence, validity) of a decision choice depends on the process of deciding, not on the consequence. This is because what you decide to do is usually your choice; the result is not. Even an excellent decision making process can result in an undesirable, unintended consequence. You decided to fly on American Airlines Tuesday at 10:00 am. The flight was delayed three hours or crashed. Was that a bad decision or a bad outcome?

A good decision does not depend on a good outcome. A poor decision could be the result of any of the many cognitive biases that interfere with judgement. Or an unawareness of some attractive options. Or a miscalculation of probability of possible outcomes. Self-serving subjectivity can also interfere with good decision making. Good decision making depends on the process of deciding not on the consequence. (Note: It is well established that human decision makers are not perfectly rational choosers. In other blogs I have suggested some strategies for non rational, good decision making processes).

If someone chooses an action, intending to achieve a positive consequence which doesn’t happen, it seems natural to consider it a bad decision. However, the decision maker should be evaluated on what he/she can decide. Decision makers vary in the skills and knowledge of the decision making process. It seems logical that skilled, knowledgeable decision makers will have more positive outcomes/consequences — but not guaranteed.

The bottom line: When making an important personal decision, be sure to think about how you are deciding as well as what you are deciding. The process of deciding determines the goodness of a decision. Remember this is true when evaluating the decision making of others. Intended consequences don’t always happen.


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  1. Dr Jim Bright says:

    A tiny slip up at the end of, what is as usual, another great article. The penultimate sentence “The process of deciding determines the goodness of a decision.” overstates personal agency in the “goodness of a decision” unless you define a good decision as one that flows from a good process irrespective of outcome – in which case the statement is tautological. I think what you mean, what is consistent with your position on the limitations of knowledge, and what is truer is that the process of deciding influences the goodness of a decision.

  2. Eugene Unger says:

    Thanks H 👏👏 loved it

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Eugene Unger says:

    Truth or consequences

    Sent from my iPad


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