Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Blog 2 of 5 on excellence in decision making.
Making decisions that are well informed is more critical in this time of the pandemic than it has ever been before. As this pandemic unfolds, we can see how leaders all over the world are responding in different ways. The best of them are both measured, knowledgeable, humble and prepared to shift. In South Africa, so far, our leaders have made us proud. We know that we have one of the world’s best Epidemiologists and infectious diseases specialists, Professor Salim Karim in the role of chief advisor to the Government on Covid-19. He has recently become a household name in our country as he openly shares the data behind the decisions. What is remarkable is his ability to put very complex issues into simple language that the average person can understand. Even more remarkable is his humility. He is not afraid to admit mistakes, or that he, as everyone should be, is still learning.
In any decision-making process the very first and critical step is to gather all the views.
This means all of the views, with no view to be considered irrelevant or unimportant. This sounds deceptively simple however we have two impediments to doing this well, the first being intellectual arrogance and the second being time pressure.
Impediment #1: Intellectual arrogance
People who know they are smart and have achieved well in their careers are all at risk of falling into the intellectual arrogance trap and it could be you. The acid test is dogmatic attachment to your own opinion. Sometimes it’s more subtle when you think you can make decisions on behalf of other people because you know better. This is ego at its worst, shooting from the hip and making statements from your gut rather than based on facts.
Impediment #2: Being in a hurry
The second impediment is time pressure, which can also be described as expediency, urgency and stress. What is called for is patience and calm. The more we are able to approach this with ease, the clearer our thinking will be. We have time, in fact we must make time to consider all the facts, and once we have them act decisively and quickly.
In summary the first step of our decision-making process is gather all the views. As you may have gathered this requires patience and openness to listen. In Lewis Deep Democracy we call this the meta-skill of neutrality. To be able to listen openly to all views requires a level of maturity and impartiality which only comes with self-awareness and discipline. To summarise; we need humility and ease.
Antidotes to the impediments: Humility and Ease
To make this practical, we can apply this to a very real problem we are faced with at present and that is the best way to deal with the poverty-stricken people who will be at risk of starving.
If this problem is approached with intellectual arrogance and time stress, the risk is that the solution will not be the best one. We could end up wasting food and money by giving it to the wrong people, or not distributing in a fair way. This is top of mind for me as I observe how both the government and the privileged community is responding. There are food parcels everywhere, being distributed all over, but yet there are still those going hungry. As I drive around my neighbourhood, I have observed many on the streets, all men and I wonder where are the women? I wonder is what we are giving them what they need, where will they cook, and are there others hidden away that we don’t know about?
Gathering all the views means that we talk to these hungry people. Find out who they, are what they need, who else are they feeding.
I suspect there is a sensitivity required as people may feel ashamed. We need to hear from the hungry people. How exactly we do this, I’m not sure but I do know we will be better able to address the problem when we get their voices into the room.
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