If you’re finding it harder to make good decisions these days, take heart. It might not be a sign of decline or advancing age. (I know that makes me feel better.) Effective decision making is actually getting much more difficult for everyone, everywhere. So say the members of the U.N.-supported Millennium Project, an international network of more than 1,000 scholars, executives, scientists, policy-makers and futurists dedicated to exploring global futures.
This multicultural think tank convenes electronically each year to analyze and identify the key issues facing humanity. Its “State of the Future” report lists the “increasing difficulty of decision making” among the planet’s top 15 challenges — right along with sustainable development, water shortages and global health threats.
Project members are concerned that, at this critical time, the “complexity, number and frequency of choices” are growing “beyond the ability to know and decide.”
Decisions simply aren’t simple any more — too much information and the sheer number and intricacy of options have negated our abilities to make decisions as we once did. As we multitask and flit among multiple, massive data sources, nothing gets our undivided attention.
Unfortunately, the internal wiring of our brains has a set threshold for just how much information it can process and store. So, there is always more to know than there is the bandwidth and time to know it.
We’ve also lost many of our old, comfortable certainties. Experience has become less relevant because we’re living and working in a turbulent, unpredictable new world. Change happens overnight. Competition comes from surprising new entities and exotic geographies. Tried-and-true success formulas no longer produce the same results.
The number of people weighing in on decisions is increasing too, adding to the complexity. With the explosion of blogs, wikis and other user-generated content, for example, it is getting harder to gauge the importance and accuracy of information — and that’s if you can find it.
Professor and author Paul C. Nutt estimates 50 percent of all decisions companies make are failures. Intense competitive pressure to act quickly is one of the likely culprits. Even though research shows only one in 10 decisions actually is urgent, and only one in 100 is a crisis, corporate decision-makers feel pressured by the media, their shareholders and analysts to come up with answers at ever-accelerating speed.
When these instant decisions turn out to be bad ones, everyone’s energy shifts from solving the problem to justifying the decision and assigning blame.
This cycle can create paralysis. Many executives are so fearful of being wrong, they do nothing. Instead, they wait until they are positive they have all the right data to drive a perfect decision. Meanwhile, problems go unaddressed, opportunities are lost, the workforce loses motivation and momentum and everyone’s confidence drops.
As a chief learning officer, you’re certainly not immune to the complexity and diminishing capacity of decision making. Emerging discoveries in cognitive science, rapid innovation in delivery and learning management technologies, a growing body of research about the strategic importance and bottom-line impact of workforce development all have made your job both easier and more difficult.
That’s where Chief Learning Officer magazine comes in.
Our main mission is to provide you with relevant, consistent, actionable information that enhances your ability to be decisive and create clarity out of confusion. One way is through the CLO Business Intelligence Industry Report, which offers valuable data on key industry trends and issues aggregated from surveys sent to 1,320 of your peers — the members of our Business Intelligence Board.
The 2007 CLO Business Intelligence Industry Report is hot off the press, and it includes some fascinating new facts about the state of enterprise education and the challenges facing senior learning executives.
Do you want to receive a copy of the Executive Summary? Making that decision should be a snap! Just go to www.clomedia.com and download it. You also can order the full report through our Web site.
Editor in Chief