We Can’t Make Decisions Anymore.

We live in a world where what others think, say and believe matter more than ever. Online technology probably is the biggest influencing factor for this. The ability for online peer reviews, product-related chat groups, social media feeds and brand product review sections on websites to influence buying decisions is infinite. Think about your own circumstance; perhaps you were recently in the market for a new car. How did you go about the buying process? You probably went to a bunch of car manufacturer websites so you could read all about the vehicles of interest, their trim levels, options, prices and financing options. I am 100% certain you also went to other websites such as Edmunds or JD Power, or any of the thousands of websites dedicated to reviewing and assessing cars. You read expert opinions, owner comments, ratings and reviews. You likely even posted something on your Facebook wall about wanting feedback on specific cars from your friends. Maybe you went old school and just talked to your neighbours across the street. Whatever the case may be, you probably spent a ton of time and energy gaining as much information as you possibly could about various cars so that you could make the best decision possible.

What I described above is 100% and perfectly fine and normal. I do it all the time when I’m about to make a relatively big purchase, or something I know little about. I’m doing it now as I’m in the market to buy a bigger vehicle. But what happens when you spend too much time researching, collecting information or even “snooping around”? If you think about this question within the context of work perhaps you may have an interesting response. I am not overly confident about this theory but maybe there’s a certain threshold where spending too much time doing this actually impedes your ability to make decisions, take action, successfully perform work tasks or move forward. You have so much information and it becomes a daunting, and even impossible, task to sift through it all to make a decision. Or, because we have so much information at our fingertips via so many means that we crave finding out more. We don’t need it but the absence of knowing a small fact drives us to want to find out.

How does this type of impulsive behaviour impact us at work? Does it help or hinder? This goes back to my original thought about passing a certain threshold. I would argue that this threshold is multi-faceted. When you pass “the threshold”, whatever it is, you are actually impeding your ability to succeed as you’re simply wasting time. There is no further incremental value in continuing to “snoop around” so to speak. You already have enough information to satisfy your objectives but you continue on seeking out more. I picture this like a bell-curve. The vertical axis represents value, and the horizontal access represents time, or activity. The value rises the more time you spend until it hits a point where there is no incremental value to be gained. Then it starts to drop and it actually negatively impacts whatever you initially set out to do.

It’s interesting that I am writing this article because I have never thought about this topic before. Is it even a problem? Certain recent events in both my personal and work lives indicate that it is. It would be nice if we can just make a fricking decision and get on with life… eh!

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