OK! This is more of a play on words, because I’m not talking about the Pareto principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. But now that I have your attention, Jeff Bezos was recently featured in an article about how much information you really need to make business decisions. He proclaims 70% is just fine and who can argue with his success?
We’ve heard the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Well, don’t let that stop you from making your business decision. And making the decision not to decide doesn’t count, because that’s not really moving the ball forward. You’re never going to have ALL of the information. Highly successful people tend to know when to pull a trigger and realize it’s not a one-way street, especially with a contingency plan in place. It’s not just MBA-talk, by the way. Contingency plans should be part of everyone’s business or personal career plan.
So what happens before you make that decision? What leads up to the 70 (certainty)/30 (uncertainty), or 80/20? One thing I’ve learned from my executive coaching practice is that is it incredibly helpful to ask “how will you know when you’ve reached your goal”. It’s a simple question, but it truly solidifies what “success” looks like. This awareness serves as the green light. It can set the stage for forward movement, provided you have the motivation to make it happen. Motivation is the gas pedal and is driven by two things -- importance and self-efficacy. Is it important enough for you? I mean, I’ve had the awareness to lose 10 pounds for well over 5 years, so the green light has been staring me in the face. But guess what? I love food. And eating good food is more important to me. The end! No forward movement! Self-efficacy is if you think you can do it. Without that, there’s still no forward movement and the gas pedal remains untouched. This leaves us with the elephant in the room. What do you do when you know what you want to do, it’s important to you, but you think you don’t have enough information to make the decision to move forward on your crafty new business idea? Most of us probably hit the brakes instead of the gas. The shakers and movers tend to hit the gas, but at which point does it make sense to do so? When you have 70%, or 80% of the information? It’s a personal decision, but we heard Bezos’ take on this. Remember? The successful guy? Ask yourself, “How much information is enough for you to make a move?” Keep in mind, unless you are jumping out of a plane without a parachute, making that decision sooner rather than later begins the process of moving forward. That, in itself, will uncover more information (data points) leading to further course-correction down the road. The phrase NOT “missing the boat” also comes to mind here.
In closing, I reflect on the time I planned the opening of the National Instruments office in Germany. I planned it alright, but it didn’t go as planned. I could have planned some more and delayed the opening by 6 months to a year, but I probably would have been kicked to the curb. Today’s business environment is much different than in the days of Jack Welch. Technology has helped increase the speed of business at a lightning’s pace. So unless your decision is terminal, making the move at 70% is enough and it gets your endeavor moving forward sooner. What does the 70% information look like for you to begin moving? What can you stand to find out on the fly, to make corrections while you’re moving forward and not standing still? And don’t forget your contingency plan.