Don’t end up a flat squirrel

Do you ever put off making a decision?

Do you ever put off making a decision? You’re not sure what the right answer is so you procrastinate? Do you hope that the situation will go away, be taken out of your hands and so you won’t have to decide anything at all?

I expect we’ve all done that at some time or another. And sometimes deliberately choosing not to decide yet is the best thing to do. But there’s a big difference between choosing not to decide and being indecisive.

Progress over perfection

We’re often held back by perfectionism. We want to get it right, to be right and to make the right decision. There are some problems with this. Perfectionism is something very individual and subjective. What you decide is perfect is unlikely to be the same as someone else’s view. We’re also our own worst critic and when we think we’ve fallen short of our own flawed idea of perfectionism, we beat ourselves up for not being perfect. This can have a big impact on our confidence making it harder to step out of our comfort zone and make decisions in the future.

Whatever our craft, we’re always learning

I’m not sure that ‘perfect’ even exists. I believe that we can always improve and we’re always learning, whether that’s about ourselves, our colleagues, or the work we do. Whatever our craft, we’re always learning. So, my first tip is to break out of the perfectionist mindset and get yourself a new mantra – ‘progress over perfection.’ The next time you’re procrastinating over making the perfect or right decision remember that progress is more important than perfection.  Make the decision, apply for the job, have the candid conversation with your boss, press send on the email, publish the blog…

We hold back on making decisions because we want to get it ‘right’. We fear failing or being criticised. Like a rabbit in headlights (or flat squirrel) we don’t make any decision for fear of getting it wrong.

There is not a single right answer

For any complex problem there’s never one single right answer. By complex problems I mean problems that involve people, problems that you encounter in your everyday work and in particular when you’re making decisions involving changing something or figuring out what might happen in the future.

We can’t predict the future. If the last couple of years has taught us anything it’s that. We can have a hunch or an inkling and test it out. For example, if you’re launching a new product or campaign, you won’t know for sure how your customers, clients, supporters or employees will respond until you make a decision and implement it. So, to find out you have to launch the product or campaign and learn from the responses you get.

I train teams and individuals in innovation and creativity skills and one of the big things I teach is the importance of building a culture where it’s genuinely OK to learn from failure. We share our failures. We make it safe to say, ‘that didn’t work’ to stop failures being repeated.  We learn that working through problems isn’t as linear as success and failure, there are many solutions to a problem, therefore it’s more about testing and learning to find the best one. Test out your idea as small and as low risk and possible, learn about what worked and what didn’t, make adaptions and try again. This sort of approach has been called a lot of jargony things, including lean methodology or agile working. Whatever you call it, remember it’s fundamentally about progress over perfection and to achieve that you have to make decisions to take action.

Whatever methods you use, it starts with your mindset. If you’re keen to learn and make progress then testing and learning is just part of everyday working life.

The next time you’re procrastinating ask yourself ‘why?’ Why am I not making a decision? What am I afraid of? Identify what’s stopping you making a decision. To overcome your decision inertia remember there is much more to be learned by making a decision than doing nothing.

Be decisive. Right or wrong make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.

I’m not a flat squirrel. I’m an innovation squirrel, if you’d like to find out what innovation animal you are then take the quick quiz here.

Thank you Nikki Wrench for sharing this image in the Furloughed fundraisers group which gave me the inspiration for this blog.

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