43 - How to change your spotlight to a floodlight

28-03-2023

decision-making

A common decision-making mistake is that we sincerely believe what we see is all there is. This happens nonconsciously. Before we know it, we’ve turned on our internal spotlight and are looking hard at what it has lit up.

But a spotlight only shines a small part on the stage. It leaves a lot more unseen. That is why I suggest that you turn on what I call your floodlights. Making a consequential-irreversible decision is like combing through a forest. You need the power of floodlights to search for clues.

How do you switch from spotlight to floodlight?

Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the book Decisive, suggest three ways to break out of binary thinking.

Vanishing Options: Say you’re torn between staying in a relationship or leaving it. Now imagine one of the two options (leaving) you’re considering is off the table. What would you do?

What could you do to make your everyday happier? How can you enjoy your partner’s company better? How can you feel more empowered?

This AND that: Instead of having to make an either-or decision, we could look to make a both-and decision.

For the same decision as above, assume that you’re feeling emotionally unfulfilled in your relationship. Instead of having to make a tough choice between staying or leaving right away, could you consider speaking to a friend who relates to you or join a group of like-minded people?

Parents of young children are already familiar with this. They tend to design solutions as win-win. Go to the food court instead of a restaurant so that your son could have Chinese and your daughter Mexican.

Opportunity Cost: Consider what else could you do with the money/time/resources you’re committing to an option.

In 1983, the CEO of Quaker acquired the parent company of Gatorade for $220mn. It was by an impulsive buy, and it led to stunning growth for Gatorade ($3bn). A decade later, the same CEO made another gut buy: Snapple for $1.8bn. Far fewer readers would know Snapple compared to Gatorade, so that should tell you how that deal turned out.

But what happened in the case of Snapple? Quaker framed the decision as:

Buy Snapple

Don’t buy Snapple.

Instead of…

Buy Snapple.

Don’t buy Snapple. Keep the $1.8bn for other purchases.

Looking at a big decision beyond a ‘whether or not’ frame means you’re not at the mercy of your spotlight. It is the first step. You need to follow that up by turning on your floodlights and lighting up all there is to see.

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