Stochastic Decision Making
Flip a coin
Stochastic decision making, or random chance, works well for low-stakes decisions when options are well-defined, and all possible outcomes appear equal or unclear.
- Slow – Fast 95% 95%
- Independent – Collaborative 40% 40%
- Hierarchical – Egalitarian 60% 60%
- Private – Transparent 50% 50%
A stochastic solution is one where you choose randomly (or almost randomly) from a number of comparable options.
The process can be as private as a coin-flip or as public as a roulette wheel; the point is not to waste time doing deep dives when any option will work equally well or when it’s unclear which one is better.
It also works well when making any decision will be better than avoiding making a decision.
- Might reveal new ways of doing things
- Might be dangerous
- Options should work equally well, but that might be subjective
- Gather your options
- Vet them to make sure they are well defined and comparable, eliminate options that are considered inferior
- Add them to a randomization method (e.g. coin flip or wheel, or intuitive selection)
- Flip the coming (or make a decision)
Looking for something more structured? I can’t blame you. NextDecision provides a selection tool that simplifies decision-making when it matters.
Common Mistakes, Challenges and Traps
Rejecting the process after not getting what you want
It’s especially easy to question making a random choice when you don’t like the outcome. Be sure to agree as a group, before deciding, that you’ll commit to the final decision whatever it may be.
Falling prey to the either/or fallacy
The either/or fallacy is a cognitive bias whereby we think in only absolutes and frame every decision as only two possibilities. When making a random choice, don’t skip brainstorming options with your group