Thoughts on decision making

Janis Laucenieks

My personal interest through the three weeks spent in Helsinki, Finland and working side-by-side with CircusInfo Finland was to learn more about how people make decisions, whether small or big, how they take the action and what happens when this action has been taken and they are faced with consequences.

The context of the COVID-19 virus spread has influenced a lot of decisions and, in my opinion, the crisis is the best time to see true leaders. Even though there were many interesting conversations, I would like to focus on two that stood out - with Lotta Vaulo (CircusInfo Finland Director) and with Jarkko Lehmus (Producer at Cirko).

From my personal experience I can say that this is a very crucial point – decision making – from your grocery list before going to the store to the greatest decisions about how to spend your life. Whether small or big, there must be some mechanisms or shared knowledge on how people make those decisions. Jarkko is sharing his experience organising a dramaturgy residency held at Cirko, where participants have to agree among themselves how they will make decisions and how they are working together. Creating a safe space together with participants, he wants to point the attention towards concepts that are fundamental in creating a show. What ideas does a collective find to be good and what do they get rid of, how do we know and where we base our decisions?

Jarkko says that he has seen many ways of decision making:

  • Some people use a fight to figure out the one who has won will be the decision maker.

  • Some people throw the dice, letting the decision be made by chance.

  • Some people will talk and have a discussion where the one with the most convincing arguments will take the lead in the decision making.

  • Some people vote, leaving the decision-making process into the majority's hands.

He also mentions different forms of democracy – mentioning direct demos (like in  Switzerland)  where all people vote on all decisions. The advantage for that is that people have all the power. But the biggest disadvantage is that there are uninformed people who vote on issues, maybe in Switzerland this actually can work since their administration apparatus of regions or cantons, as it is called there, ensures that small groups take decisions concerning their local interest. In my opinion it must be administratively quite heavy and only works in these small groups.

The other way is representative demos (that would be the example of Finland and Latvia). In this case people elect officials to make decisions for them and propose laws. The advantage: people can choose experts to make and carry out decisions. But sometimes the biggest disadvantage is that leaders may not represent people’s interests but their own. However, in these situations people can also bring their own initiatives and propositions. They go around officials in order to propose laws; in Latvia for example we have platform manabalss.lv where a new initiative can be proposed to the government if at least 10 000 people have signed in favour. If there is enough support, the law is put up for a vote at the parliament.

CircusInfo Finland director Lotta Vaulo shares another angle of decision making. She encourages me to take time when a big decision must be made. Decisions based on knowledge take time. It is important to ask questions and understand all parties involved. If one has mentors or people that sometimes are not impacted by the decision (friends and family) can serve as advisors and it may be useful for yourself to explain the issue to a random person. She believes that the decision-making process is a reasoning process based on assumptions of values, preferences, and beliefs of the decision maker. Lotta advises to think about different scenarios of the decision and imagine the outcome with empathy.

No matter how and what you will decide, I would add that it is important to stick to your decision until the end. One of my favourite quotes that inspires me is “Je suis le chemin que je suis”,  from French it is a word game with être and suivre that conjugates in singular, first person the same. I like to think, like Taoists, that the only right way is the one that we have chosen.

Good luck in your decisions!

Further reading:

Luke Rhinehart The Dice Man

Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow

50 Strategies To Stop Overthinking – Train Your Brain & Mind

Published on: 20. January 2021

NHLP has been made possible with the support of Nordisk Kulturfond and Nordic culture Point, Nordic Council of Ministers, and Lund Municipality

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©2020 by New Horizons Leadership Programme.