From Our President

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Allan Feifer
President, DEC International

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Perfect Knowledge

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My role at DEC is changing and it’s making me much more contemplative than I have been in the past. That’s a good thing. The funny thing about getting older; your IQ is certainly not going up, but my decisions making tends to be more conservative. Some of the actions I took in years gone by would not go the same way if I were making them over again today. Some of you already know that I’ve been a pilot since 1972. That’s a long time and makes me feel a lot older than I thought I was! There’s an old expression that all pilots know and most actually adhere to:

“There are old pilots, and, there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots”

How many business decisions would you revisit if you could? Business decisions boil down into one of two categories:

  • Analytical
  • Emotional

All of us would like to think that we almost always make analytical decisions when it comes to business, but what starts out as considered thought often winds up being an emotional decision. Some call it from the “gut” and others just let the spirit move them at times. However, all of us possess the competing internal interests of desire, needs and a sense of what is correct or incorrect based on analysis of a given situation. How we balance these interests determines much of what we will accomplish in business and often in life.

Too many of us indulge in wishful thinking, where we assume the best and minimize the downsides of our decisions. Often, we get away with it, but other times we don’t. Recognizing the signs is often problematic for the same reasons we indulge in wishful thinking in the first place. Airmen are continually exposed to and sometimes actually learn how to recognize emotionally based wishful thinking. There are six different personality traits that define someone who is predisposed to an irrational urge to pull tigers tails. They are:

  • Anti-authority—ignoring what other people, both in authority and/or otherwise knowledgeable individuals say or knows about a particular course of action.
  • Impulsivity—Making snap decisions without clearly thinking through the potential consequences
  • Invulnerability—I call this the fat and happy attitude. Thinking that you, among all people, will not be touched by failure. That, you are a Master of the Universe.
  • Macho Man—this is the scariest of them all. The person who takes risks in defiance of his own knowledge and experience. Taking chances to show how good you are.
  • Resignation—giving up or thinking that you don’t have any other choice.
  • Mission-itis—an over the top focus on getting to whatever destination/position that blanks out everything else in your mind in spite of conflicting messages or knowledge to the contrary

Say it can’t happen to you? Dozens of pilots go to their death every year engaging in one or more of the above forms of suicidal thought. Every accident and every bad decision is part of a chain of events/decisions, which, if not for one thought, one action, things might have turned out differently. If you agree, let’s see what we can do about it.

There are two schools of thought on what you can do to eliminate or reduce wishful thinking. The first says concentrate on the pitfalls of every decision and you’ll make less bad ones. The problem with that is there are always pitfalls and sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible to quantify the risk to a degree that leads to certainty. The other school of thought centers on the inevitability of risk, especially in entrepreneurial situations, where doing nothing is simply not possible. As a pilot, I always have the option of not flying a mission at a particular moment. But, as a businessman, you are often in for a penny, in for a pound and hiding out is not an option, unless you are ready to retire! Here’s my approach:

Break your decision making down into critical and non-critical issues. Identify the critical decision issues as soon as it is feasible and write them down in a place that is segregated from all your other day-to-day notes. Give them importance. These important decisions are a kind of critical path that you ignore at your peril. Once you get in the habit of writing them down you have accomplished the easy part. The harder part is how to know that you have made the best decision possible. Try and avoid being emotional about these critical path decisions. Invite trusted individuals to help you with their advice as you critically analyze those issues that can ruin your day, if not your life.

Decision making is an inherently flawed process unless you control all elements of the issue; which we rarely do. In the absence of “perfect knowledge” we as individuals often come to decisions based more on our emotional makeup than the facts as presented. And, that’s fine; all of us have a different propensity for risk and varying degrees of experience applicable to any single problem. Minimize the chances for disaster by always being on guard to a flawed or even worse, absent process for accessing risk in our critical decisions.

Good Selling!

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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