It is often unfair, but it doesn't have to be. And, in these matters,
wrong choices are made as frequently as right choices, sad to say. Is
it any wonder that the skill to make consistently good decisions is
a highly-sought after (but seldom found) management quality?
If we make our choices based on presentation rather than on performance,
on promise rather than record, or form rather than substance, we allow
ourselves to be in the position of the ticket-buyer at the lottery window
who thinks he is making an investment in his brightening future, rather
than simply entertaining himself with very, very, very remote probabilities
of a favorable outcome. That kind of self-delusion is not healthy, but
it very common.
If you are apt to believe what you want to believe (and you are), remember
you are in a world full of people, institutions and organizations that
have built hugely profitable businesses on this frailty: they are consummate
experts at getting you to believe exactly what you wanted to believe
in the first place.
The thrill of being right is a drug that few can resist. That is
the first rule of selection.
But consider a busy city street with pedestrians everywhere. See how
they walk? What is the typical "right" way to walk? Or to
carry a bag, or get into a car, or to dress, or to do anything? Someone
once said, given the choice between two evils, choose neither; between
two goods, choose both. That is the second rule of selection.
It takes courage, but it can be done. It should be done.
And, remember that given the choice between action and inaction has
created many a bad selection. The laws of inertia apply unevenly here:
a body at rest tends to stay at rest more vehemently than a body in
motion tends to stay in motion. Inaction is much more attractive to
most, than action. This is the third rule of selection. And,
choosing inaction is far less risky, seemingly. "He who aims at
nothing always hits his mark." Those who do nothing always seem
to achieve their goals immediately. While for those who choose action,
the jury is out for a time, sometimes a long, long time.
You probably see a lot of this around your place of work. But take someone
who is highly activated, aiming at achievement and working hard in many
ways to hone his or her skills. He or she will make mistakes on the
way. True? So in your selection process look a record of mistakes, wrong
turns, things learned should be a positive indicator, not a negative
one. This is the fourth rule of selection. Because a real and
genuine search for a good selection pput you are in a world of action
and reality, where things can and do go wrong.
No one will actually show you exactly and precisely what you are looking
for. This is the fifth rule. If they do, they are prevaricating,
paltering. I have read many times after the selection of a contractor,
an advertising agency, an architect, a school, or even a town in which
to live: "It was exactly what I was looking for." even Magellan
searching for routes to Moluccas was surprised at the discontinuity
between his expectations and reality, and most of us are no Magellans.
Why not hope for something even better than you were looking for? Why
not go out into the world exploring and testing and expanding your expectations?
If all we ever get in this world is exactly what we were looking for,
wouldn't we all be very disappointed in the end. The fifth rule of
selection is, never, never rule out the unexpected, never rule out surprise.
And, the sixth rule is: the best selections are two-way selection.
But this is hard to judge. If the prize is pecuniary, and especially
long-time-pecuniary in rewards, then many complicated and interwoven
things are at risk: careers are made and ruined on good and bad decisions
about money. The sycophantical element creeps into the process at this
point,, doesn't it? It can and probably will appear to be "exactly
what you were looking for." It can also appear to be a readiness
and an eagerness that is a mile wide but only a quarter of an inch deep.
In the heyday of sailing, great sea captains, those great decision-makers,
were held in the highest esteem, and rightly so. They were clearly of
their own mind. No one could talk the Captain into a wrong turn, or
into a stupid mistake, no matter what the pay, no matter what the incentives.
There on the deck of their ships, they knew that to master their universe
they must take great care and rely only on their own experience and
judgement. In fleets, these great captains were at their best, working
together without wireless communication and navigational aids. They
shared experience, ingenuity, and the honest humility before forces
they knew too well were way, way beyond their control. They went forth
not with "expectations" but with ability, vigilance, and all
of the skills necessary to be truly innovative on the fly.
If you acknowledge that you don't really know, and can't know, what
is going to happen next, then
one person you really want to have by your side is someone who is comfortable
in chaos, someone who has a ton of skills in many different ways and
means, someone who has made a lot of mistakes on the way to experience,
and someone who can think of things that work in the midst of whatever
shit is happening. So, the seventh rule of selection is: always
choose innovation as the most useful skill.
And the eighth and final rule of selection is: the decision-maker
must be the sort of person that a healthy selection process is looking
for: non-egoist, courageous, action-oriented, not afaid of mistakes,
embracing the unexpected, mutual and open in all things, highly innovative,
and eclectically talented, because in the end, the fig tree cannot bring
forth apples. See you next time.