Type this into Google and see what you get. The answer is of course 42 and those of you familiar with Douglas Adams work The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will understand how this answer came about.
In the diagram all of the triple numbers in the x,y and z and cube diagonal planes add up to 42. Therefore this construct is really very important.. or is it?
The Universal Answer…
What if there really was an answer to everything? Well it would be a great leveller but most importantly, or perhaps tragically the concept of success would disappear overnight.
Success can only be measured by comparison, its all about ranking, quantitative or subjective. We have to compare an attribute of our personal or businesses lives to determine success. We subconsciously make millions of comparisons every day, we take in information, make a comparison and make a decision. When walking, driving, talking, playing sport or running a business we follow the same process; Acquire, Compare, Decide.
Acquire, Compare, Decide – It’s as simple as that
“Comparisons”? Surely it’s all about “decisions”, we make millions of decisions everyday, some trivial, some significant. You can’t make a decision without first “acquiring” information and part of the decision making process is making a “comparison” with varying degrees of analysis. Success is dependent on the quality of “decisions” since these should always result in action.
Poor Decisions – Bad Outcomes
It is perhaps easier to think of examples of poor decisions, in business, with public figures, military operations since these create news. Think quickly of 6 things that have made the news in the last couple of days and do a quick assessment of ‘what went wrong’. Try and figure out which of the 3 elements failed. We hear of errors of judgement, of political and industry figures resigning, of business failures and of accidents.
One area which really illustrates the point is air crashes, aside from those due to catastrophic mechanical failure the remainder stem from contradictory data “acquired” from the instrumentation leading to a “compare” failure and a poor “decision” with tragic outcomes.
In business we are not generally operating without external references like ill fated aircrew, but still things go wrong? Surely with the best data and analytical comparisons we should be able to make great decisions.
We probably could given infinite time. Time is an important dimension in decision making and is the parameter we have to trade-off against risk. Consider crossing a busy road. We stand on the pavement and assess the traffic, the average speed and we check for anomalies, is there the occasional fast car or motorcycle. We “acquire” the data make the “comparisons” but since this is our life we play it safe and wait for the time when its 99.999% safe, the problem is it takes us 3 hours to find this set of circumstances and finally cross the road. We have to assess an appropriate level of risk for each decision otherwise it will not be timely and this will mean the difference between success, mediocrity or failure.
Great Decisions – Success!
So if this 3 state process is the essence of everything we do, how can we maximise the likelihood of our decisions being great? Follow these 5 simple steps.
- Establish the timeliness/urgency of the decision.
- Acquire/collect all available information to support the decision.
- Determine an information relevance ranking (when driving a sports car the rev counter is more important than the temperature gauge so it is bigger and centralised).
- Make a comparison evaluation of the information acquired against the desired outcome.
- Make a clear decision and move on – a revisited decision is not a decision.