How to Make Decisions That Stand The Test of Time

David Brooks writes in the New York Times:

We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked.

The globalization paradigm emphasizes the fact that information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain.

  • Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information?
  • Does he or she have the training to exploit it?
  • Are there cultural assumptions that distort the way it is perceived?

As a student, I remember boing told countless times that the most important skill I could develop was critical thinking. I still think that’s true. What’s different now is that effective critical thinking and decision making is more reliant than ever on knowing how to take advantage of all the information available, filter through it to get the right mix, then combine it to make a coherent argument that supports your decision.

It’s less complex when you have limited information at your disposal, but more risky because more can go wrong after you’ve made a decision. The advantage of having much more information at your disposal is that the risk is shifted to the front end: if you use that information correctly, you can make decisions that are much more apt to stand the test of time.

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