3 Sep 2009

Quick Thinking

Let me paint a regular scenario. We go to a restaurant, a new one. As we settle down the menu is presented. I make a quick survey and decide what to eat. The waiter catches my eye and whips out his pen. The rest of the group glares at me. They are not even through with the first page. How come this guy is ordering now?

Till recently I never noticed this thing about me. I would often take very quick decisions. On a shoot. Or an edit of a film. When I go out to buy something. Clothes. Gadgets. Even while shopping as a tourist. The only exception is a bookstore. :)

Yesterday when we finished buying a pair of jeans (Levis button fly !) in ten minutes, A asked me how could I decide so quickly.

This was the wrong subject to test my quick thinking. Men clothes leave us with little choice. Also I had been holding off on buying a new pair simply because I wanted a buttoned one. Now that new stock was in the stores, I just had to try out the the right fit. Of course it helps if you do not lie about your waist size ! You do not have to try two three sizes and pretend why THIS size is NOT fitting you - It did five years ago....

I often wonder how I would act if I was forced to use the Six Thinking Hats system made famous by Edward D Bono. The idea was to go through a six step process before arriving at a decision. I am sure we do this is some bastardized way, but de Bono codified it as a management process. I probably would fall asleep in such meetings.

In Blink Malcolm Gladwell describes a different mental process - that works rapidly and automatically from relatively little information. Through examples the book argues that spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than carefully planned and considered ones.

I do not know how my system evolved. How I decide what to eat is based on the least complicated thing on the menu although I am open to suggestions from someone who has been to the restaurant earlier. So its not really safe decisions but the idea is to order something as soon as possible so that we can get to the real thing- talk.

Part of the process of arriving at a decision quickly is to eliminate things that do not interest you or you do not think are important. However this can be have other consequences - you tend to ignore experiences that could interest you. On the positive side if you made a wrong decision you can quickly change track, make another one and hopefully cover your losses.

Of course you need to be prepared for the consequences. The King of Quick Thinking, Roald Amundsen was all set to reach the North Pole when he got the news that Peary had reached there first. Immediately Amundsen decided to turn his attention to the South Pole. But he kept this a secret. When news finally reached England that Amundsen was going to compete with British expedition under Scott, they accused him of cheating. But the fact of the matter was that the British expedition reached the Pole later, even though it had a head start. Scott was slow to make decisions and often confused as to how to move the expedition forward.

Of course quick decisions may not work all the time. This post took me two hours spread over three days with a lot of heavy editing and pondering. The button fly jeans is till at the shop - left behind for alterations. Am still wearing my old pair.


Life@60 said...

What about A ? How much time did you spend before you decided to propose to her ? I am just curious........

jalalHB said...

Well I sail in the same boat - I always buy something that catches my eye first. If someone wants to convince me to buy another object that didn't catch my attention goes waste. And 99% I dont repent on my choice.

NaveenKochoth said...

Well.. I guess this is subjective. Both Quick and planned decision making methods have their own pros and cons. When you settle for somwthing too quick, you loose the opportunity ot think about other options - completely unknown to you - that would have been a far better than the chosen one.In the restaurant example you quoted, when you settled for a simple looking (and probably known) menu item, he missed a chance to look deeply into other items. In my opinion, decision making should use both these methods in a balanced way.