Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yoga-nomics: Shallow Bowl Solutions


So, once upon a time, in a far off galaxy, I was studying for my MBA degree in Rochester, NY. Most of the study was interesting and I was absorbed in the world of finance, accounting and economics in order to bring more humanity to health care. Unfortunately, the world took a right turn just as I earned my degree, and hasn't come back.

One of the more interesting people there was a Professor William Gavett. In one lecture he put the drawings on the board (it was a long time ago) and pointed to the image on the left saying this is how most of us view most decisions. That is, there are a lot of wrong solutions to a problem, indicated by the rapid drop off to the left and right, but only one discrete point of the correct decision. The implications are astounding for most situations; whether at work or at home, we wrangle and debate to reach this one ultimate decision point, burning untold brain cells and creating all sorts of dysfunctional relationships!

However, consider the image on the right, he baited us. What if the decision space was more like a shallow bowl where there are many correct decisions within close proximity and with very little variance? Well, after considering this, my perspective was changed quite a bit. What would it mean if most situations had a whole raft of possible outcomes that were in fact fairly similar...

Now if we are talking about a solution that requires pinpoint accuracy, say making an incision on me to remove something that shouldn't be in me, then I want the decision to be precise. But aren't most decisions we are involved in more like selecting a meal? All are nutritious and satisfying, but decisions are more about personal preferences and style than substance.

The implication for me has been to be more tolerant of other points of view when making decisions and keep the shallow bowl in mind. After all, how badly can we mess up if so many solutions are so close to being right on...