Incomplete Information


Fred Perrotta

Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had.

-Jeff Bezos

I love that line. As an entrepreneur, I'm always making decisions without certainty.

Making a decision and moving forward can be valuable. If you get stuck in a loop of trying to gather more and more information from which to make your decision, you'll lose momentum and, crucially, never have enough information.

Get comfortable with uncertainty by staying flexible after the decision is made. "Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors," he said. For those decisions that can be easily undone, use "a light-weight process." He wrote that you can tell if it's a lightweight decision by answering the question "So what if you're wrong?"

The goal is to get to a good enough decision as quickly as possible. Seventy percent is good enough as long as the decision is reversible or fixable.

Making a decision, evaluating it, then reversing course if necessary can be a faster process than endless information gathering before the first decision. We get even the most researched questions wrong often enough that we can't expect to research our way to certainty.

Bezos's suggestion is similar to lean methodology. Lean advises a continuous process of build, measure, learn, repeat. This is the same idea except the loop is decide, measure, learn, repeat.

Get to "good enough" quickly. Then confirm if your decision is correct. If it is, continue. If not, try an alternate path.

We too often get stuck in the sunk cost of a wrong decision. We want to be right or we get too attached to our opinion.

Bezos's line about decision-making is a reminder to be humble. We're human and, more often than not, wrong. That's fine. We just need to find that out as soon as possible and make it easy to change course.