What makes good decision-making?

When asked why she thought she had lived such a long life, one very elderly lady replied “Deciding not to buy a ticket to travel on the Titanic.”

Hindsight is a great judge of our actions. If only it was available in advance . . .

As consumers, many of the decisions we take are subject to a ‘cooling-off period’, perhaps to protect us from persuasive door-to-door sales-people. So, if we wake up the next morning in a cold sweat, realising that we can’t afford the new conservatory, we can cancel the order. But what if there is no ‘cooling-off period’, but we still wake up with that sinking feeling?

What if the decision we’ve taken is truly irreversible?

What if the decision we’ve taken is not just a personal one, but a decision that commits others – perhaps for decades to come in ways that we cannot imagine?

350 years ago, the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire, decided to quarantine themselves in order to stem the spread of bubonic plague. It was surely never in their contemplation that the name of their village would spread down the ages, and that coach-loads full of people would visit Eyam to learn about what had happened.

In more recent history, we now know from the Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq that decisions can also bring negative consequences. Closer still, it is too early to know what will be the full consequences of the vote to leave the EU in June this year.

Our personal lives, and our public lives, are peppered with a myriad of decisions. We would like to think that, because we all take decisions, we are all expert decision-makers. But is that so?

Opinion polls have found that the large majority of drivers believe that they have above average driving skills – but more than 50% of drivers cannot be above average . . . .

While some of our recent history can still be brought to mind, perhaps now would be a good time to take stock, and consider how we make decisions? After all, the decisions we make can have profound long-term consequences – whether to go to war, how to vote in a referendum, or choosing where to live.

How do we make decisions as individuals? How are national and strategic decisions made? Is the use of social media changing how we decide?

What difference could all this make to our lives, our city, our nation, and our world, as we head into the 21st Century?

I am really looking forward to discussing these issues with our advocates and each other, to help us answer “What makes good decision making?” on Monday 14 November.