04 Mar 2019
Decisions versus outcomes
Do not confuse the outcome of a decision with the decision itself.
You can make a good decision but the outcome of it can still be bad… and visa versa
The decision, it is yours. The alternatives you have belong to you. You have total power over the alternative you select, but seldom over the consequences of selecting that alternative.
Abbas, Ali E.; Howard, Ronald A.. Foundations of Decision Analysis, Global Edition (Page 26). . Kindle Edition.
Or to put it very simple: a decision and the outcome of it are two separate things and therefor should be measured separately.
One of the best examples we have to distinguish the decision itself from the outcome, is when we talk about drunk driving. Although many people come home in one piece after drunk driving, almost everyone will agree that it is a bad decision to take the wheel when drunk. We also understand that people get in car accidents when sober and that this does not mean it was a bad decision to drive.
Unfortunately for us, this is one of the few clear scenario’s where we understand the difference between the quality of a decision and the outcome of it. Most of the time it is more cluttered than that. Think about the following: is it a bad decision to mary someone when it ends in divorce?
We often confuse these two concepts. We talk about making a good decision when the outcome of it was good and visa versa. This is such an important concept, yet it was not until I started reading a book about poker that I came across a word that captures the meaning of our confusement between decisions and their outcomes:
our tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome.
Duke, Annie. Thinking in Bets (p. 7). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
So when we talk about a good decision, we should talk about the quality of that decision, not about the quality of the outcome.
There need to be a couple of basic elements present when you want to have a qualitatively good decision. I will talk about in my next blogpost.