Chris Burnor Philosophical Nerd

Incremental Decision Making

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I found this article in the New York Times a while ago and it got me to thinking about how we actually make decisions and the different philosophies that we use to govern our decision making process. This is vitally important to start-ups as 80% of the work amounts to making decisions. The funny thing about those decisions is that most of them are inconsequential, but a few of them turn out to be vitally important. Unfortunately, we usually do not know ahead of time which decisions are the important ones and which aren’t. This means that each and every decision could turn out to be extremely important down the road – a paralyzing situation.

I think the solution to this is to take an empirical approach to decisions. As much as possible, don’t make big decisions all at once, in some cases you have to (take this investor on or not, hire this person or not), but as much as possible, but break them into processes that you can guide as they happen rather than that lock you in.

This is what I mean by ‘empirical decisions’:

  1. Make a hypothesis of what you think you should do and why
  2. Run experiments to test those hypotheses
  3. Compare the results of your experiments with your hypotheses with your experiments and use that to revise your hypotheses.

Each of these steps is actually vitally important. It is not enough to simply run experiments without first creating some sort of framework as to what those experiments are testing. And unless you actually compare the results wo your hypotheses and use them to refine your hypotheses, you are just going to be forever shooting in the dark.

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