February 2024     Edition 173
Goldilocks Thinking

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Over thinking? Not thinking enough? What's the Goldilocks, just the right amount of time, to think about a problem.

Of course, there's no one answer. You'll likely spend much less time deciding what kind of Pizza to buy vs what car to buy.


When faced with a problem or issue, here are a few items to consider that help with Goldilocks thinking.


  • Do you need to think much at all? 

    If the decision doesn't matter, then don't make it matter. If the decision is something you can reverse with little effort, or the downside is so minimal that it doesn't matter, then don't think about it. Make the call and reverse it, return it, and be OK with OOPs if it's not right.

  • What

    s the default outcome?

    If no decision is made, what happens?



Create two dates: 

  • The first is a date when to start to think about the decision. With a decision that is not pressing, ask yourself if you really need to think about this now. If not, stop thinking about it, and put a date that you'll start to think about it.

  • The second is the date that a decision must be made.



Understand Prerequisites

What information do you need to start thinking about the decision? If you decide to buy a home, you first need to understand your own finances, what kind of loan you can get, what you can afford, how many rooms you'll need, etc. If you're looking for a job, the prerequisite might be a certain salary level, location, kind of business, etc.




s the decision maker? 

You, your boss, your significant other, a vote? Usually, the decision maker is the one who has Veto power.




What are the
assumptions you can make about the situation?

  • What information do you have that can give you confidence in those assumptions?

  • If you need more confidence in those assumptions, what information do you need, and how can you obtain that information to either raise or lower your confidence in those assumptions?

  • If your assumptions about the situation are incorrect, how does that affect things?


For example, if you're looking to invest in the stock market and you're deciding about what to buy, perhaps you will want to look at your assumptions regarding what the overall economy might do and why, what your need for cash might be, the market demand for those products, etc.



Write down these key assumptions. Use these as the basis of conversations with others and yourself. Challenge the strength of those assumptions. This is critically important, not only to make good decisions but also for later (see #8).




s the risk? 

What happens if you decide and it turns out to be a bad decision? Can you reverse the decision? How would you manage the consequences? Can you live with the downside?



With the Prerequisites


and the Assumptions


what criteria needs

to be met to say Yes or No

. These are the conditions that if met, you decide Yes, otherwise NO. These factors might be soft, maybe even emotional.



How will you measure success or Oops?.

The sooner you determine you're going down the wrong road, the better you will be.



Make the call and periodically measure and review

so you're not looking over your shoulder and can change course if necessary.

  • You've created a way to discover the OOPs quickly (#9)

  • You've documented the assumptions behind your decision. Periodically, go back to those assumptions. Are they still correct? If so, you're on track. If not, PAUSE, revisit the assumptions, and see if the new assumptions support or don't support your decision. If they no longer support the decision, cut your losses, and reverse, abort, detour, but don't keep proceeding without a change.

The Takeaway:
One of the methods to prevent overthinking for underthinking and getting to Goldilocks thinking is to plan out and understand how much thinking you really need to do in a situation. We often start thinking without understanding the process of getting to a decision and how much thinking we should devote to it.

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