Make More Decisions

There are two types of choices:

  1. The choice that is difficult or impossible to undo
  2. The choice that is relatively easy to undo

Type 1 Choices

Type 1 choices are the type of choice that take time to make. They have considerable risk involved. Fortunately these choices are not every day choices. These choices take time to make and are difficult to undo and they should be made carefully.

Type 2 Choices

Most choices are type 2 choices. They are reversible or the consequences are low. They are the type of choice where making considerable effort to choose correctly is actually the wrong choice. These choices should still be made with good judgement, but don't spend so much time that other decisions are waiting on this one.



The timer on the left is making a choice every five seconds and it is right about that choice 99% of the time. The timer on the right is making a choice every second and is right 70% of the time. Notice that even though the timer making a choice every second is not right all the time, it achieves a much higher number of correct choices than the timer making a choice every five seconds.

Identifying a Type 1 from a Type 2

Ask yourself, if this is the wrong choice, what is the worst case scenario? What is the best case scenario? What is likely to be the outcome? If the worst case is not that bad, or something you can fix, it is probably a type 2.

Building Software is Documenting Decisions

Software engineering is the process of documenting a decision tree for a machine. Machines don't make decisions, they are programmed what to do and they do not vary from those instructions. Lucky for engineers, almost all decisions in software are type 1 decisions, where a bad decision is corrected in a future release--where other engineering projects like bridge building have larger consequences for bad decisions.

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible -- one-way doors -- and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don't like what you see on the other side, you can't get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions.

But most decisions aren't like that -- they are changeable, reversible -- they're two-way doors. If you've made a sub-optimal Type 2 decision, you don't have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.

As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavyweight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We'll have to figure out how to fight that tendency.

Jeff Bezos