Blink or Think, Just Not Extinct

This is the last post in my series on decision-making.

The idea behind these posts came from a couple of books that are all about how we think and how we make decisions.

In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell explores the incredible speed with which our minds work to resolve problems, answer questions, and make sense out of data presented to us. He provides examples of people who are so skilled and knowledgeable that they can reliably predict certain outcomes or assess an artistic fake in the literal blink of an eye.

The other book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In this book, the author explores what he defines as two systems at work in our brains. The first is fast and intuitive – and frequently wrong.  The second is more deliberate and logical, and has biases that include the bias of intuition. Our efficient brains are complicated! The questions posed in the last two posts were variations of those presented in this book. They show us how bias works into our processes even when we think we are making a truly “clean” decision.

Many HR folks are involved in one way or another with hiring or developing others. We look at a candidate’s background, experience, education, and accomplishments. We interview to hear stories about how they achieved what they claim. We look for how well we think they will collaborate in our teams. And when we have hired them, we put them to work and offer them some development. We pay them to manage work that involves problem solving and decision making.

And by the way, that’s how we get paid as well. Solving problems, making decisions, and helping a business to run better because the people systems improve the performance of the people. We sometimes forget that and make things more complicated when simpler would be better. We think about what we would like to design instead of what is needed.

In the first of these posts, I asked if you wanted to be business support or business partner. Being someone who makes a difference for the business requires continual learning and continual refining of how we think about our work. Sometimes, we can make a decision in the blink of an eye. Other times, we need to think about it – create some structure to the problem and apply alternatives to come up with the best solution. If you are standing by when others do that, you will never be the partner – you will be following the direction of the decisions of others. Then they don’t need you, they need anyone who can carry out orders. You are, in effect, extinct.

So recognize that while you bring your unique knowledge and experiences to the workplace, you also need to bring the power to make decisions. Good decisions. Decisions that improve the business result. Understanding your decision-making process, and improving you knowledge of your business are two of the most important things you can do for your career. It’s great to have the HR skills, but you have to be able to turn that into results. And you don’t do that by having the new cover sheet on your TPS reports.

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