Aggression vs. Perfection – Thoughts on Decision Making

Aggression-vs-perfection-decision-making

People generally use one of two approaches when taking action or making decisions:

  • Slowly: Some would interpret this as a methodical approach.  It takes more time as it requires preparation and adequate research to evaluate all alternatives and respective pros and cons.  In short, the goal for this decision is to strive for perfection, or making the best possible choice for the situation.
  • Quickly – Some would interpret this as a “going with your gut” approach or one that is based on instincts. This type of decision occurs quickly, with little research and is generally responding to a threat, business problem, or any situation requiring action.  Rather than striving for perfection or preparing for this decision, one can think of this as aggressive as it is made with confidence and very little (if any) hesitation/fear.

 

*Note: The use of the term “aggression” is often associated with negative concepts such as emotion, anger, violence, and harm. Here, the term is only used to refer to the quick, confident, fearless characteristics of aggression.

 

Both strategies have positives and negatives but there are situations where one style is better than another.  All too often, people feel that they aren’t ready, qualified, or competent to take a certain action, whether it’s starting that business, going off script during a sales pitch, or even writing a blog.  So much thought goes into these decisions that many people fall victim to something called analysis paralysis which refers to being overwhelmed by the information and task at hand to take any action.

Let’s consider and draw some parallels to the eminent quote “fake it until you make it”.  ‘Faking it’ refers to approaching a situation or problem with the (potentially false) confidence that one is capable of handling it, even if he or she does not have the adequate experience, knowledge, or training (preparation) to do so.

‘Making it’ refers to an adaptation or transformation that occurs over time (development of the necessary ability/skillset) to successfully address the situation or problem one has been ‘faking’ through.  The philosophy of this quote is similar to the aggressive decision-making process as it encourages one to address a situation even if they are not ‘prepared’ as they would like to be.

Let’s now some research investigating the validity of this quote.

  • Amy Cuddy discusses the power in how changing our body language can impact our mindset in her 2012 TED Talk.
  • Ulrich Weger and Stephen Loughman’s (2012) study revealed how believing you know the correct answers before a test can improve test-taking abilities.
  • Kraft and Pressman’s (2012) study found that forcing yourself to smile can improve your mood.

Now the question becomes, does the validity of this quote suggest aggressive decision making is the preferred strategy compared to a perfectionist method?

Not necessarily.  When the stakes are high, time is not a factor and there is potential for significant financial loss, some could argue that it’s best to take a perfectionist approach.

BUT, when the stakes aren’t so high and there isn’t much to lose, the aggressive method can be beneficial.  If you are looking to start that project or business that keeps getting pushed off because the idea just ‘isn’t quite ready yet’, or have an idea that can solve a problem but feel you shouldn’t try it because you are not 100% assured that it will work out, just go for it.

Maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it, but you can probably take Mark Zuckerberg’s:

“But let me tell you a secret: no one does (knows) when they begin. Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.

If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.”

 

Thank you for reading,

Shamit Patel, Sirma Enterprise Systems

Resources

Cuddy, A. (2012, Oct.). Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are

. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological science23(11), 1372-1378.

McCorquodale, A.  8 “Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Strategies Backed by Science. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/74310/8-fake-it-til-you-make-it-strategies-backed-science

Weger, U. W., & Loughnan, S. (2013). Mobilizing unused resources: Using the placebo concept to enhance cognitive performance. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology66(1), 23-28.

Zuckerberg, M. (2017, May). Commencement Address. Speech presented at the 2017 Harvard University Graduation, Cambridge, MA.

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