Making Flash Decisions: Choosing devil or the deep blue sea

We’ve evolved through ages and survived because of our superior intellect and better ability to make decisions. Still sometimes, the circumstances make the decisions tough and hard to take. Making flash decisions are the hardest of all.

We take thousands of decisions in a day without realizing the inherent spontaneity in our decision making process. The time to wake up, office route, overtaking vehicles, stopping by for coffee, greeting colleagues, taking calls, taking breaks, the list goes on. These are routine decisions which work in auto mode within our subconscious intellect. They are part of daily chores of our life.

There are decisions working at conscious level of our intellect – what to wear, where to go for holidays, which company to work for, whom to make friends, whom to marry, etc. These decisions are simple, moderate to tough, depending on the choices available and consequences of making decisions.

In both the above types, we follow the natural decision making process, sometimes, without realizing the steps involved – understanding the problem, information gathering, finding alternate solutions, picking the choice and finally taking action.

There are other more complex type called flash decisions where we are forced to make choices in the fraction of seconds. The challenge here is to complete the loop in flash of a second. We go through the following very quick steps without realizing their lightning fast transitions:

Analyzing situation and make choices: We scan through the situation quickly and simultaneously make choices.
Weigh pros and cons: We analyze the positives and negatives of our choices. In flash decisions, we generally have to choose from two options. Research proves that our mind can work consciously only on two alternatives at flash speed.
Take decision: Finally we act and make our choice.

I’ve no intent to preach the academics of decision making process but to challenge your neurons and your decision making instincts; although modern life throws enough of those challenges everyday where making decisions are like choosing between devil and the deep blue sea.

The below story resembles many of our everyday dilemma.

There is a small town on the far outskirts of a city. The children of the town play wherever some open area is left for them.

There is a railway track passing through the town, thus dividing the town into two parts. Adjoining the functional track, there is an old track which is no more in use from past many years.

Due to urbanization reaching the town, the open space for children has been shrinking which, many a times, make them play near the danger zone of the railway tracks. The children are wise enough. They generally avoid playing on the functional track and play on the redundant and obsolete track.

Today is fine sunny afternoon. A group of 20 children are playing on the railway track. In the spur of excitement, they drift to the functional track. Although they might have realized their mistake; but at this moment everyone seems to ignore the danger except one child. He has left the group and gone back to non-functional track, playing with his toys sitting exactly in the center of the track.

Meanwhile, you are passing through the small road just parallel to tracks. You’ve seen the children playing; you paused for a moment and moved ahead.

Suddenly you see a passenger train coming with high speed from the opposite direction. It’s heading towards the children who are playing on the functional track 100 meters ahead . They are too engrossed in their game to notice the impending danger. Your heart starts pounding and mind seems to become numb.

You’ve noticed that you are standing near the track changeover lever. You realized that you can put the train to non functional track by pulling the lever; and save the innocent lives of 19 children.

You are about to pull the lever; suddenly the thought of lone child playing on the non functional track flashes through your mind. The poor chap will definitely lose his life due to your imminent decision as he knows for sure that train will never come on that track. He is completely oblivious of the coming train.

Many voices start hammering your head in the fraction of that second. Will it be right to save the life of 19 children at the expense of a lone child? Is it right to put the life of the innocent child at stake; that too when he is doing the correct thing by playing on non functional track, unlike other children? If you don’t change the track, then will it be right to let the 19 children die for their minor mistake of playing on the functional track?

You are standing there unmoved and utterly confused; although you know that you have to take decision lightning fast…

Think critically, what decision will you take? What is the right decision? What are the facts and assumptions on which you will take decision? It’ll be interesting for you to grapple for pros and cons before reaching to any conclusion.

See if your thinking follows the flash decision making steps. There is no right or wrong choice; but only catch 22 situation, the situation where you select between devil and the deep blue sea in flash of a second.

Article Courtesy:

Hardeep Handa

Hardeep Handa

I am a seasoned marketing professional. I am ardent reader and avid writer. Management and technology equally excite me. I write regularly in my blog and

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