Situations Ripe for Mistakes

by Krishna on June 30, 2007

We all make mistakes from time to time — some of us more than we would like. Usually, when we look back at some of our past mistakes, we wonder how we could have made them in the first place. Our decisions that led to the mistakes were not logical and could have done with better analysis. One reason is that many decisions are made in situations where we are unable to think clearly. Here are some examples:

Fatigue: In my opinion, this is perhaps the #1 factor behind wrong decisions. The common kind of fatigue is where you are really tired after a long day of work and meetings. Towards the end of the day, when your brain has effectively stopped working, someone casually asks you to make a choice or decision. Sometimes, you don’t even recognize it as an important decision. You don’t analyze the situation properly or you give vague instructions. When you are really tired, you just want any new problem or the messenger to go away.

When you have a situation where you are pressed for time to make a decision, first, you need to recognize it as such. Then ask the person if they really need a decision at that moment or can it wait for later. If the decision has to be made soon, first take a few moments to calm down from the exertions of the day, clear any distractions and then focus on the problem. If you cannot do that, then make a partial decision that can hold the fort until you feel better.

Mob Thinking: When there is a lot of noise and hype for or against something, it is easy to fall in with the wishes of the crowd. Usually, that is the wrong move. Purchases made, technology chosen or process adopted just because something is in fashion can backfire. When you see someone arguing passionately for something, the first thing you should do is find research that argues for the opposite. Sometimes, you may still go ahead with the popular choice, but at least you are now aware of the pitfalls.Product sites like Amazon have customer reviews where you can see both positive and negative reviews. I have found it useful when I really like a product to read the negative reviews. You can find somebody complaining about a missing feature or some bug. Once in a while, you may see a glaring problem that may help you avoid a bad purchase. Beware of reviews where the product ((like movie or electronic gadget) has not yet launched, because you don’t have enough reviewers to provide accurate feedback.

Fear: When people are afraid of losing something, they fail to act or make decisions. Fear of a bad economy could cause employers to conserve money instead of making valuable investments. When people are afraid of losing jobs, they fear any change in equipment or processes that could make them redundant. When people fear punishment, they fail to escalate problems that then become huge and unfixable. If you are in such a situation where your decisions are influenced by fear, think about how you can fix the situation to reduce the fear as quickly as possible. For example, taking insurance and creating and funding an account for any emergencies in the family can help reduce the fear of not having money in a difficult situation. Constantly improving one’s skills can reduce the fear of unemployment.

Many internal emotions and external factors can influence our decisions more than we admit. Although we would like to think logically and unemotionally, various situations can prevent that from happening. The best we can do is recognizing when we are being forced to make an important decision under non-ideal circumstances or postpone a necessary action because of an irrelevant factor. Being self-aware will help.

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