Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What's your decision-making style?

When Making Decisions, Are You a Satisficer or a Maximizer? | LinkedIn

The article linked above is a very clear explanation of the two main categories of decision-making.  In brief, a "Satisficer" is someone who sets a rubric--a set of rules or qualifications that the option must meet--and chooses the first option that meets those standards.  I am a Satisficer.  The decision-making process, in my head, is simple.  I figure out what I want, find that thing, and I'm done.  If I can't find the perfect option, I pick the closest thing to it.

On the outside this looks a lot like making snap decisions, but it's not.  It just b-a-r-e-l-y side-steps the craziness of second-guessing myself.  I learned Satisficing at the knee of a brilliant and cut-throat businessman:  my dad.  He said (more than once, as I'm a slow learner), "There's no right decision.  There's only the best decision for that moment in time."  Granted, this approach can drive Maximizers to drink if it's the one used by a partner (life or business), but it's pretty efficient.

It's also how I wound up with such an odd assortment of horses, vehicles, living situations, investments, and personal possessions.  In my book, that's what makes life interesting.  My friends think I need help.

The second main category mentioned above is "Maximizing".  The Maximizer is the person who continues to search even after the decision has been made and all options appear to have been exhausted.  There's no such thing as exhausted options to a Maximizer.  If s/he finally settles on a house to purchase, s/he will spend endless hours poring over additional real estate ads looking for that better deal or for proof that the option chosen was the absolute best one.

This approach would drive a Satisficer like me completely insane.  "Pick one!" I yell in my head as I watch my friend try on seven nearly identical dresses. Eventually I also yell it out loud, which may be why she stopped taking me shopping with her.  In my defense, she picked me because 1) I have better taste than she does, and 2) I'm good at making decisions.  Had she picked a fellow Maximizer, they'd still be at Marshall's with armloads of dresses for that 2009 dinner-dance she and her hub were going to attend.  Or she would have chosen three, taken two spares with her to the dinner, and done quick bathroom costume changes at appropriate moments.  Maximizers lend comic relief.

I think it's obvious how this applies to this horse life, but I'll belabor that a smidge here anyway to fill up the page.  As I said, I have always had a rather odd bunch of horses in my life.  I bought the first one because that ugly, attitudinal Appy mare was the only thing in my price range ($800) at the time at the only barn I knew about that sold horses.  Easy-peasy.  When that didn't work out so well (she gave me some fun times and my first major concussion), her replacement was the only male horse I could afford to trade her in on.  At least I'd set two qualifications at that point:  price and gender.  I didn't know enough to add more, like "training" and "soundness".

No, not a really tall toddler.   At 34.5 inches, Duke met two
of the qualifications in my rubric as a replacement for 15.3 hh
Rat, my daughter's Morgan.  1) He's a horse. 2) He's the spitting image of Rat.
Done and done. 

So it went down the line.  As my knowledge base grew, so did the requirements in my rubric.  But in each case I never looked back, never looked around, and never second-guessed.  I worked the choice until it stopped working, then made a new one.

My Maximizer friends are hell bent on finding the Perfect Horse.  One of them will never buy a horse because her standards are way higher than her budget will support.  Another will buy something soon, and in a year find something better and pass the first one along and so on, because that's how this particular Maximizer rolls.  Most of my friends and family lie somewhere between those extremes.

But this summary leaves out the most popular (and in my view, the most fun) decision-maker of all.  If you haven't read the book Blink, by economist Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, you really might want to add it to your winter reading list.  What else have you got to do now that you've watched all your horse training vids for the eighth time and it's too blasted cold to ride?

Blink is about how we make snap decisions.  I'll guarantee it will make Satisficers smile and Maximizers itch and whimper.  We Sats (I made that up; it's not a thing...until now) are always looking for a quicker way to the end result, so we'll jump at the concept that our brains have ways of sorting options without our being entirely aware that they're doing so.  Maximizers will be screaming at the pages because, "How can you be sure there isn't something better that you're missing?"

Satisificing makes my world go round in some oddly entertaining ways, so I am not likely to change.  But if you find that your decisions are leading you down paths to which you simply can't adjust, you might want to consider switching modes.  We all write our own stories, so write it the way it works for you and phooey on the haters.

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