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Barnaby Marsh

Dr. Barnaby Marsh is an expert on risk-taking. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he did pioneering research on decision making in complex situations. He works with leaders of major[…]

BARNABY MARSH: Great decisions often come from great information. You need information to work with to make good decisions. It's said that information is more important than knowledge, information is more important than money. Information is probably one of the most important elements that you can have in making your luck and being successful.

Often in decision making people come to the decision with imperfect information and there's a lot of uncertainty. So the first thing a decision maker does who's skilled when they're taking risk is to find out more about the context of the decision they're making and what sort of result will give them the best outcome in that context. What might work well in one context or might what have worked before might not work well now. So having sensitivity of the current context of the environment and the information that be relevant are really two of the key ingredients of making a good choice. You also want to be sensitive to what others are doing around you. So if you know nothing about the environment sometimes one of the best heuristics you can use is emulate what's successful. The very worst that you'll do is probably mediocre relative to the field. That it will almost never be catastrophic. However, if you really want to be ahead of the game you need to go beyond imitating what successful people are doing. You need to figure ways of being bold and taking things in a new direction that can capture people's attention, capture people's imagination and help people shift to that new reality that's emerging. The opportunity in environments are constantly shifting so we have to be constantly aware of how the environment is changing and how that change is affecting people in the environment.

Amongst experts one of the biggest mistakes we sometimes see is the fallacy of excessive expertise. Sometimes there's a shift in the environment and the environment changes. The knowledge that worked before won't necessarily work as well anymore. So the people who are best at decision making or the best at moving forward and innovating are those who are humble, those who are able to see that what worked in the past might not necessarily work in the future. Or whether information might not be sufficient to solve the type of problem that they're currently trying to address.

Great decisions in some ways are always evolving. You make a choice and then it's critical to follow that choice up with another choice that's the right choice and so on. So a great choice isn't a single point in time, but a great choice is a commitment to take a path and a series of decisions along that path to keep things going in the right direction.