Decision-Making Under Uncertainty
Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

Quick Summary

In this manual, we discuss making decisions when things are uncertain and when the stakes are high.

We all know that uncertainty is increasing exponentially right now across more dimensions of life, and it appears that trend will probably continue. And when we're making decisions and things are uncertain…

  • There's a lot of stress
  • The stakes are going up
  • There are more long-term implications

And you have to figure out how to do it because if we can be more effective at making decisions in this context, it allows us to turn challenges, stress, and crisis into an opportunity for ourselves and for those that we care about.

In this manual, we will take a look at the mindset of decision-making.

What exactly makes decision-making so hard, even in normal circumstances? The reasons are many, but they boil down to these…

  1. We have no way of knowing how our decision will impact the future.
  2. When we get stressed, we become less strategic.

Making a decision requires taking literally unimaginable risks: We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, in a month, in a year, in 10 years. When you make a decision, you alter the path of time and causality. You push over a domino that has a whole bunch of other dominoes branching out in front of it that branch out, and you can't see most of the branches.

For complex decision-making, it’s good to keep in mind that some things we can calculate, some things we can't. But even so, we have to go ahead and try anyway.

Getting into the right mindset for decision-making means that we need to …

  1. Own responsibility for the decisions we make.
  2. Practice self-regulation, and make no decisions while we’re triggered.
  3. Collaborate with others and not isolate ourselves when making decisions, especially the big ones.

Once we get into the right state of mind, it’s time to look at the model: how to go about making big decisions in a world with unprecedented uncertainty?

Many people face a huge blind spot here: They focus on what they know for sure versus understanding the uncertainty and how to map it. However, as “a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved,” by understanding uncertainty on a more granular level, we can make better decisions.

To undertake our own mapping of the unknown, inside this manual we will look at it on five different levels:

  • Known vs. Unknown
  • Internal vs. External
  • Known Unknowns vs. Unknown Unknowns
  • Known Probabilities vs. Unknown Probabilities
  • Big vs. Small

Mapping Uncertainty Model Takeaways

The key idea behind this model is to help you map the uncertainty that goes along with decision-making.

  1. Practice self-regulation and make no decisions when triggered.
  2. Don’t isolate. Don’t abdicate. Collaboration is key to high-quality decisions.
  3. To succeed in the future, you don’t need to have a crystal ball and make perfect forecasts. There isn’t a crystal ball.
  4. By understanding the current situation and yourself better now, you can out-think others and create a better future for yourself.
  5. Being a little bit better can make all of the difference.
  6. Don’t be ready for one future, be ready for all futures.

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Other Resources


Scenario Planning Template

Scenario Planning Template

Second-Order Effects Document

Navigate Mental Models Related To Decision-Making