Imagine the scene. A producer pitching the idea for a film: in Africa, people are living insecure and impoverished lives; thousands of people decide to start an exodus to Europe; they walk and walk and walk, and they talk to the media covering their movement – “we are poor because you are rich”; those in the North are fearful of the mass migration from the South.
The surprise about this film? Well, firstly it is has already been made. By the BBC. A long time ago. In the 1980s a pitch something like the one imagined above actually happened. ‘The March’ was made with leading figures in front and behind the lens. It was broadcast over 25 years ago.
Even so, the surprise is not that it was so prophetic – the story remains prescient.
Rather, it is striking that the film is almost totally forgotten. It has never been repeated. You can’t buy it online – even through the BBC bookshop. It has just about disappeared, other than a couple of YouTube clips, for example.
This film was an insight – into insecure lives and the challenge of economic development. Today, in our work (and lives) we are offered insights all the time. Sometimes our colleagues or bosses or contacts expect us to act.
We have four options in any situation:
First, we can IGNORE the information and time to decide.
Or, we might DO something. Possibly instinctively.
These are the two main responses. Both can be due to cognitive biases. The complexity or anxiery might just be too much for our busy life – so we ignore it. Or we are a bit discombobulated and just want to do something – so we rush to action. Either way, we may (over) rely on our intuition.
Or possibly we want to take our time. Our third option is EXPERIMENTATION. We might want to give something a go. We might wish to try something out.
The fourth and final possible choice is EXPLORATION – wanting to find out more, or reflect.
When viewers saw ‘The March’, my hunch is most ignored the implications. Maybe it seemed too fanciful. Or worrying. Some probably signed up to the campaigns for third world debt relief that were popular at the time. Others maybe chose to give supporting a particular charity a go. Some others might have decided to read more about the issues and think about how best to respond.
In our organisations we can manage our DEE-cisions by:
1) being totally clear of the criteria for ignoring a topic or possible choice. Maybe it is the responsibility of another group. However, ignoring should be used sparingly. Often issues that are important are not on the radar. Methods like ‘scenario planning’ help shift some issues from being tuned out to ones that have further effort put into them – i.e. making the shift from ignoring to exploration or maybe even experimentation.
2) Deciding and acting is important for progress. Even here, ‘do and review’ is both poetry and philosophy. When will you take time to see if your ‘no-brainer’ decision had indeed worked?
3) Setting up some trials is at the heart of experimentation. What ‘improvement cycles’ or ‘prototypes’ can you try? The 90 day cycle is really valuable – what will you take stock of in a Quarter? Or 30 days? Or even after a week? This tweet remains a very popular tool for managing this spirit of trial (and error) and taking stock. Experimentation builds momentum.
4) I do believe in the ‘art of procrastination’ in decision making – and this is where exploration can really come in. The ‘art’ thing is the difference between ‘ignoring’ and ‘exploring’ – the difference between unecessary or unproductive delays and choosing deep, insightful thought. Keeping an eye on a topic or deciding to come back to an issue before making a decision can very helpful – or it can be avoidance. A symptom of a troubled group is continually revisiting and changing prior judgments – very sloppy governance indeed. But if it is well managed (sparingly, with strict deadlines and some effort) then exploration is helpful time to ponder and consider – and helps limber up our thinking for a future experiment or action.
So why not try triaging your next set of decisions in the group you work with. What can you ignore? But most importantly, what would DEE have you decide? What should you DO? What could you EXPERIMENT with? What might you EXPLORE a bit more?