In the fast-paced and ever-changing world we live in, making decisions has become increasingly complex.
With myriad options and uncertainties surrounding every choice, it is essential to understand the art of decision-making and its profound impact on our lives. Steven Johnson’s book, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most, offers readers a compelling exploration of decision-making processes and provides valuable insights to navigate the intricacies of modern decision-making.
By delving into the principles of successful decision-making, Johnson empowers us to embrace complexity and approach our choices with an open mind, wisdom and confidence.
Farsighted challenges the conventional notion decisions are straightforward, logical processes. Instead, Johnson sheds light on the inherent complexity of decision-making, where multiple factors interplay, emotions influence judgments, and unintended consequences loom. He emphasizes that critical decisions rarely arise from a single epiphany, but result from a network of deliberations, weighing consequences, and understanding trade-offs.
Drawing upon a range of examples from history, politics, business and personal experiences, Johnson illustrates the intricacies of decision-making, capturing the essence of how our choices shape the future.
By grasping the true nature of complex decisions, readers are encouraged to embrace uncertainty, view challenges from different perspectives, and recognize that even mistakes can lead to valuable lessons.
The power of diverse perspectives
One of the key insights in Farsighted revolves around the importance of diverse perspectives when approaching significant decisions. Johnson argues that surrounding ourselves with individuals who bring varied backgrounds, experiences, and expertise to the table enhances our capacity to make informed choices.
Drawing parallels to the concept of “crowdsourcing,” where collective intelligence yields superior results, Johnson demonstrates how assembling a diverse groups of thinkers can lead to more comprehensive analyses, fresh ideas, and a broader range of potential outcomes. Through engaging case studies, Johnson highlights how inclusive decision-making processes can lead to innovative solutions and foster a sense of ownership among stakeholders.
Overcoming cognitive biases
Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that can distort our decision-making abilities, often leading to irrational judgments. Farsighted exposes these biases and encourages readers to be mindful of their influence on decision-making.
Johnson outlines practical techniques to combat cognitive biases, including considering multiple scenarios, seeking out evidence even if it may not support our preferences, and practising reflective thinking.
By acknowledging our limitations as decision-makers, we can develop a more systematic and deliberate approach to tackling complex choices.
Johnston recommends that when convinced only one particular option is the way forward, to do a thought experiment. Ask yourself, “what would happen if that option was roadblocked?” It is doubtful everyone will sit on their hands, and the brainstorming session may open up creative thinking that was dormant while everyone was concentrating on a single option.
the age of uncertainty
In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, globalization, and unforeseen challenges, uncertainty has become a constant companion. Johnson explores how we can navigate this uncertainty, embracing it as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.
Farsighted advocates for the cultivation of resilience and adaptability, encouraging readers to map out all variables and potential paths to a solution (including what could go wrong).
Thinking through contingency plans for uncertain futures is useful when mapping out possible decisions because it can help see the pitfalls in a particular path. Once you have mapped out predictions of possible paths and variables, only then should a decision be made using the map to pick the path that most closely matches the objectives.
One of the most important parts of decision making in our age of uncertainty is to admit when your thinking is false and to readjust when conditions change, as they inevitably will.
All of this sounds great, but how does anyone ever actually decide? What I have outlined above is careful, deliberate and inclusive. But there is always the moment when the leap of the decision needs to happen. Some use the moral math of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” although that may be too lofty a framework for some personal decisions. Johnson, rather surprisingly, suggests “mulling” as a good fallback.
There are many mathematical methods for reaching a decision but, as the second half of the book comes to conclude, decision making is closer to an art than a science. It is tough to predict the upcoming pleasures and pain that may result from a given decision, we cannot see the future, even using the very best spreadsheet formulas.
Using the methods described above tends to slow down the decision, which thankfully stops the knee jerk reactions. The rest needs to be left to the heart and the head. If you have already been looking at the situation from multiple perspectives and pushed yourself and your groupmates to make a list of possibilities that are clever and innovative, you will already be delivered outside of your default assumptions which is a better place to be for farsighted decision-making.
By adopting a proactive and flexible mindset, individuals and organizations can better position themselves to make well-informed decisions in dynamic environments.
Farsighted by Steven Johnson is a thought-provoking and practical guide to making better decisions in an increasingly complex world. By delving into the intricacies of decision-making processes and the impact of cognitive biases, Johnson equips readers with invaluable tools to tackle significant choices with clarity and confidence.
The book reminds us that no decision is insignificant, and our choices ripple through our lives, shaping the world we live in. By embracing diversity of thought, understanding the complexities of decision-making, and cultivating resilience, we can become more adept at making farsighted choices that lead to a brighter future. Farsighted is an indispensable read for anyone seeking to navigate the challenges of decision-making and enhance their ability to make meaningful, impactful choices.
Credit: Farsighted: how we make the decisions that matter most. Steven Johnson. Riverhead Books, 2018.
Tory McNally, CPHR, BSc., vice-president, HR Consulting, is a human resource professional, radio personality, speaker and problem solver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.