Making Decisions in Uncertainty!!

Paras Kher
There is a big difference in playing chess to that from playing poker, in former you foresee definite moves in advance. Hence, In chess two equally good players will either result in a draw or one will only win if other player makes a mistake. There is no uncertainty in chess, both players have same information in front to make decisions. On the other hand in poker two players, with whopping difference in skills, can be still uncertain of outcome. Life is more inclined to poker over chess. In poker, like in life, one can win a game even though cards dealt in beginning aren’t the best ones. Its quality of our decisions when all cards aren’t visible to everyone and a little luck.
Every day we make decisions from trivial ones to life altering ones. Almost in all cases there is an element of uncertainty. “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get” they famously say. You can win with weak cards and also lose with strong ones. It’s not what you have but what you make of it – it’s your attitude which will determine your altitude in life. One very important idea to recognise here is that an outcome has no direct correlation with quality of our decision. Everyone takes decision based on information present at a point in time in past. It is a natural tendency to look back in hindsight to connect dots for justification of why we did or shouldn’t have done. This ignores that what seems obvious now wasn’t obvious in past. We cheery pick facts to support analysis e.g.- how many of us have read articles on penny stocks where we should have invested 5 years back to be millionaire now or why we should have 2 invested in real estate market in past to retire early now. If your look harder you will see a tiger in clouds also. Eyes see what the mind knows!
There is no evading to uncertainty in life, so let’s consider below 5 points for course correction & making better quality decisions:
First step in good decision making, in uncertain times, is to make peace with acknowledging that almost all the time we don’t have all facts lined up while making decisions, which is okay. Growing up we were discouraged to say “I don’t know”, this is considered a sign of failure. We now know better it being a popular myth. Acknowledgement is first hurdle we need to overcome. Admitting that we are not sure invites others to provide inputs and corrective actions in long run.
Second perspective to consider is that we are never one hundred percent right or wrong, there are so many solutions & shades of grey in between. Difference between a rookie and an expert is that an expert will consider all possible outcomes with whatever little information available. An expert will consider what possible scenario will not result in positive results.
Third is to understand that we tend to believe what we hear or read, that necessarily doesn’t mean it to be a fact. Howsoever we may like to ignore but we do live in a world of heavy advertisement and fake news. The idea of fake news is to amplify what we already believe and not to change our beliefs, that’s why a fake news of particular theme speaks to masses. It’s always a good idea to verify the source, before acting on presented information.
Fourth diversity helps in forming effective decision making process, as it gets better coverage analysis of a subject. Generally we like people who are like us, our clones, it is a natural tendency to gravitate towards people who think like us, this inherently leads to ‘Group Think’. Having a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ or more diverse sets of people on a panel, improves quality and coverage of decisions.
Fifth to consider is to discount immediate gratification over long term rewards e.g.: deciding to eat more ice-cream over long term health benefits – moments on lips forever on hips, having spent on current leisure over individual saving goals, etc. The key here is to ask ‘What will my future self-think/do in this scenario?’. Human brain is wired to magnify situation immediately in front of us, this is a survival tactic – a result of our older evolutionary part of brain. More rational brain will answer what is for greater good.
In beginning these five tactics will require more effort, once a part of our thinking process these principles will come naturally to us.