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How do you handle making decisions during times of uncertainty?

How do you handle making decisions during times of uncertainty?
(Image credit: SmartBrief)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 200,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How do you handle making decisions during times of uncertainty?

  • I wait until the uncertainty is resolved, then make my decision: 0.80%
  • I proceed cautiously and gather as much info as I can before deciding: 40.96%
  • I make a decision based on the best info I have, then adjust and react later: 58.24%

A caution on caution. While the majority of respondents favor an act/learn/adjust approach to decision-making, a substantive portion of you like to be cautious and gather as much info as you can before making a decision. Typically, people do this with an eye toward reducing or eliminating risk. The more information you gather, the less risk you have, right? Not really. While that works in theory, you must realize that new sources of uncertainty and risk are being added to the system every day so your efforts to reduce it through information gathering are meaningless beyond a certain point.

You can never eliminate all uncertainty. Consider trying the act/learn/adjust approach. Make smaller decisions faster and adjust them as the world plays itself out. Because the cost of inaction can be just as high as acting without proper information.


Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN — the firm’s e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West oint graduate and author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”

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