Happenstance vs. Conscious decisions

Happenstance vs Conscious decisionsSince my days at the Technion I have a habit of keeping in touch with research guys – for the least, they always have something new to say 🙂

One of them told me once about a study where he interviewed people about how they chose their profession. The results were very interesting – about a half of his study subjects reported that their choice was more influenced by random circumstances than by a rational decision-making process. A HALF! If this is the real case (and I hope you know not to assume that an academic study could be immediately translated into real-life recommendations), then either the person you’re talking to right now or you yourself fall into this group.

The examples included someone who entered the closest building because of rain when she was looking for a faculty to sign in or someone who didn’t like the receptionist in the medical school, so she became a social worker. If the gender bias has somehow crawled into your head while reading the previous sentence :-), the list also included a guy who quit a 10-year career of IT developer, becoming a journalist, after fighting with his boss and another guy, who became a System Administrator after successfully graduating as an Applied Engineer specializing in building Nuclear reactors. However, most amazingly, no significant difference of job satisfaction was found between the two “decision groups”!

So what does it say about our ability for rational decisions?

Several important points could be stressed based on this example:

  • Regardless of our mastery of the decision-making process, there are situations      when we do not apply it at all, even if the issue at hand is a most crucial one.
  • Despite the fact that other half of the study population arrived to their decisions      consciously, there is no reason to presume that they are somehow immune to      the mechanism mentioned above in regard to issues other than the choice of      profession.
  • The consciousness of choice didn’t seem to have any influence on the choice      outcomes, and therefore – on the “end quality” of the decision.

And this is where the root of the problem hides, to my opinion.

Because if the reality doesn’t consistently provide us with sanctions for living in a world molded by happenstances and not by conscious decisions, we assume that it’s OK to leave things to chance. But if the financial crisis and its coming second wave have told us something, IT’S NOT OK! Things do not have a natural tendency to turn up OK in the end, but to the contrary – they always proceed to a state of maximum possible chaos.

There is one line of defense, though, a “thin red line” standing between the rein of chaos and society, a line consisting of people whose job it is to ALWAYS MAKE CONSIOUS DECISIONS! People who take responsibility for their own actions and the actions of others –

Managers.

What is your take on that?

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