Architects must think creatively and mathematically if they want to design structurally sound, yet attractive, buildings.
That’s according to Sussex University Professor Brian Bates.
He studied the work practices of architects and found many of the best defer making decisions about their work for as long as possible.
British comedian John Cleese first publicised this study by saying:
"The first thing [Bates] discovered is that the creative architects knew how to play. They could get immersed in a problem. It was almost childlike, like when a child gets utterly absorbed in a problem. The second thing was that they deferred making decisions as long as they could."
So what can busy entrepreneurs and executives learn from architects at the top of their game?
Big Decisions Are Supposed To Be Difficult
Making a crucial decision feels uncomfortable and for good reason. The verb “to decide” derives from the Latin word decidere, which literally means to cut off.
Saying yes to one job candidate means you’ll probably have to send another a rejection letter. Act on the first business idea, and you’ll have less time and resources for the second. Say yes to a glass façade, and you might have to say no to keeping energy costs down.
We have an aversion to loss.
Often entrepreneurs and executives reach a decision because they’re tired, out of time or unfocused and not because it’s the right one.
If you’re not ready to cut yourself off to future opportunities, defer the decision for as long as is practical.
Depending on the scale of the decision and whom it impacts, you could defer for an hour, a day, a week or longer. Remember, instead of saying, “not ever”, you’re simply saying, “not right now.”
This could be a new project you want to commence in a week or two or a request from a colleague to create a new type of report. Or perhaps you’re mulling over an idea for a business venture that will demand lots of time and money for the next twelve months.
How To Defer Big Decisions
If you’re managing a team, put information about crucial decisions into a single place where everyone can review, for example a shared document, presentation or internal messaging tool.
Add it to an agenda and ask your team for their input the next time you meet.
Alternatively, if you’re working for yourself, set aside part of the week (like Friday afternoons) for reflection.
It’s difficult to reach a big decision while staring at a computer screen or mobile device, so let your subconscious mull over what’s at stake and what you’ve gotten wrong in the past.
You might gain an unexpected insight about a big project or crucial hire while walking the dog, relaxing in the sauna or working out at the gym. These ideas are far less likely while clicking on another instant messaging notification or responding to an email.
Keep A Decision Log
A decision log is a place for recording decisions that team members and colleagues can review or collaborate on.
This way your team can avoid having the same conversations over and over. A decision log for a team should record:
● The topic(s) under discussion
● A three-to-five line description of the decision
● Supporting rationale
● Who approved what and when
● The impact of these decisions
● Any other options and follow-up items
● The process and timelines for reviewing decision
If this log is for you alone, simply record what you decided and why and when you will review this decision.
Finally, if you get a decision wrong, reflect on the reasons. Then, like any creative professional, come to a better conclusion next time.