'We should also pay particular attention to the first decision we make in what is going to be a long stream of decisions...When we face one decision it might seem to us that this is just one decision without large consequences. But in fact, the power of the first decision can have such a long lasting effect that it can percolate into our future decisions for years to come. Given this effect, the first decision is crucial and we should give it an appropriate amount of attention.'
- Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational
It's rarely practical to trace and review the great-great-great-great grandmother Decision that gave birth to the successive generations of decisions right down to the one that is now in labour in our brain.
The Five Steps to a Good Decision perform the kind of audit recommended by Dan Ariely without the need to identify and scrutinise the First Decision.
In Step 1, we remove our finger from the fight-or-flight trigger and surrender to the surrounding forces of emotions. We allow them to capture us so we can wallow in our solitary confinement of self-pity. We don't even try to put on the camouflage of reason and return to the decision making front. We lie on our bunk and sulk.
In Step 2, purged of our inward looking selfish emotions, we return to the external task at hand - serving our Widget - and name the issue before us that is relevant to our Widget work. We focus on what needs to be done today, and not what we did yesterday.
In Step 3, we assess the information that we have today, and gather more if we need it with an inquiring mind. We're looking at facts and data, not precedent.
In Step 4, we check for bias. We deliberately scan our thinking for anything that is obscuring our view of our Widget. We're filtering out echoes from past decisions.
In Step 5, we allow a hearing. We invite anyone who may be affected by our decision to go over our reasoning and see whether it supports our likely conclusion. We're bringing in an external reviewer to see if our options are backed up by data.
The Five Steps not only lead us to a good decision, they self-clean our brains of any residue that may taint the next decision.
Be attentively curious.