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Decisions and More Decisions

 By Gene Benson 

Our decisions matter. The importance of our decisions canrange from relatively insignificant to critical. Some decisions are made afterconsiderable thought and analysis while others must be made within a fewminutes and with incomplete information. A few must be made within seconds andrely on the near instant recall and analysis of our experiences and knowledge. 

Here is an exercise that clearly illustrates the benefit of makingbetter decisions. For simplicity, we will consider all decisions to be binary,either correct or incorrect. In our exercise we will use a hypothetical exampleof a task that requires 500 decisions. In the past, I have used this task torepresent a pilot making a flight in a small general aviation airplane but it could apply to many other high stakes activities. 

In most situations being 95% correct would be quiteacceptable. But 95% of 500 decisions is just 475. That leaves 25 incorrectdecisions. What if one of more of those is critical? 

If we improve our score to be 99.5% correct, we will make498 correct decisions leaving incorrect decisions to be only 2. That is muchbetter, but what if one or both of those decisions is critical? 

If we can do better yet and reach a score of 99.95% correct,we will have 499.75 of our 500 decisions correct, leaving just 0.25 decisionsincorrect. Statistically, all our decisions are now correct. 

It is an oversimplification to treat all decisions ascorrect or incorrect. Many decisions do fit in that binary mode, but otherswill fall in a range from best possible to worst possible. Any effort toimprove decision making will aim toward either making more correct decisions ormoving the scale in the direction of best possible. 

Our decisions do matter, especially if we are engaged inhigh-stakes activities. 

Over the next few weeks, I will follow up with moreinformation on decision making including the different kinds of decisions, thedifferent mechanisms involved in making those decisions, the factors that canadversely affect our decisions and some ways in which we can improve ourdecisions making.

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