The article is about research done by Rebecca Spencer of UMass Amherst. It showed that those making decisions the same day were happier with their decisions than those who slept on it.
I don’t dispute Ms. Spencer’s research. I suspect it is right. The sleeping on it that concerns me, however, isn’t based on decisions made the next day, but on decisions made the next week.
“Better Decisions are Made When Allowed to Gel Over Weeks Rather Than Days”
My experience shows that better decisions are made when allowed to gel over weeks rather than days. Specifically, by allowing weeks to pass I find in working with clients:
- During a phase where we are brainstorming ideas, more ideas come to mind over the course of a week’s time
- During a phase where we are evaluating ideas, new pros and cons emerge over the course of a week’s time
- During a phase where we are determining the best course of action, decisions change over a week’s time.
Let me give some examples:
We are brainstorming ideas for a Marketing Plan. The client attends a local Rotary meeting, hears a speaker, and suddenly has the idea to partner with the speaker and deliver a multi-discipline talk designed to promote both businesses. The client sends me a text message and asks to add that to our possible strategies for next week’s meeting.
We are evaluating ideas for a social media campaign. We feel it’s great to add more personal posts to the client’s Facebook page, in order to build rapport. During the week I recall an earlier strategy session involving Brand Image where we wanted to add formality to our image. I send an email to the client “I forgot that in our Brand Image work we wanted to reduce the informality. Let’s revisit personal posts next week when we meet.”
We are determining the best course of action during an expansion decision. The best alternative seems to be to create another office in a different county to expand geographically. The Pros seem to outweigh the Cons. During the week the client remembers that some time ago he had heard that the county under consideration wasn’t open to his way of doing business, and maybe we should either elect a different county or else scrap the idea altogether.
“Accuracy Increases by Allowing Time Before Finalizing Choices”
All three cases highlight the increased accuracy of the decision-making process by allowing time before finalizing choices. Why is this? I don’t pretend to be a psychiatrist but I assume there are intuitive and subconscious processes going on in the intervening days. Those processes can be dwarfed by the powerful frontal cortex of logic. During intense strategy sessions the intuition is muted but later, at unexpected times such as while watching TV, the subconscious is working to evaluate those decisions at a level not possible during strategy meetings.
A psychiatrist would probably laugh to read my interpretation of how the brain works, but as a consultant I am confident of the result: allowing days to pass results in better made decisions. At Performance Business Design we remedy weak areas of a business by meeting in a series of weekly meetings, typically 6 or so. Often enough, clients will suggest that we double up, to two meetings a week.
Michael Emerald, CFA
Business Strategy Consultant, Performance Business Design
Note: pictured is Sharon Kania, our marketing director