Look For The Right Information, Not Just More Of It, To Make Better Decisions

Look For The Right Information, Not Just More Of It, To Make Better Decisions

You probably think that the more information you have, the better the decisions you make will be. This isn’t always the case. In many cases adding more information can make your decisions worse if it’s not the right information.

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As author Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, more information doesn’t always help. He uses the example of doctors trying to predict heart attacks. Paying attention to smaller health factors that don’t actually predict heart attacks distracts from the things that actually matter:

What Goldman’s algorithm indicates, though, is that the role of those other factors is so small in determining what is happening to the man right now that an accurate diagnosis can be made without them… that extra information is more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issues. What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks is that they take too much information into account.

In order to improve those predictions, doctors were better off focusing on a few risk factors that accurately predicted heart attacks. In the same way, we can make better decisions by spending more time honing in on the specific nature of our problem and filtering out the rest of the information, rather than trying to analyse everything. For example, rather than trying to figure out if you’re unhappy enough to quit your job, ask yourself what exactly you’re unhappy with. What things cause you stress every day, and do those things relate specifically to your job, or can you relieve that stress some other way? The more you can improve the quality of the question you’re asking, the more you can focus on just the information you need to answer it.

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