The power of simplification

by Jeff Hilimire on January 20, 2014

“The great simplifier”. That’s what my good friend, Donovan (Sandbox Digital), refers to me as when I’m giving him advice. And he’s right. I prefer to hear enough of the problem to get me to a viable solution and then make a decision. To say I’ve never been subject to the classic analysis paralysis would be an understatement.

Simplifying things has made me a more effective leader, but its helped tremendously that I’ve had partners and leaders in my companies to balance me. Right now, Ryan (co-founder and COO at Dragon Army) provides the perfect counter-balance to my let’s-just-make-a-decision-and-move-forward mentality. I’ll quickly get to a decision I think is the right one and about half the time Ryan agrees and about half the time he weighs in with points that make more sense, and then we make a decision. So for us, it works.

The real benefit of simplifying things to make quick decisions is the ability to move fast and spend more of your time executing and less of your time pondering. Too many startup leaders I meet seem to spend an eternity trying to make a decision. Stop worrying, make a confident decision and get to doing!

Here are some tips to simplifying your decisions:

– Boil a decision down to its most important parts. This will allow you to see the “forest through the trees” and get to the major points of the decision.

– Listen to your co-workers, friends, mentors, etc, but only if you’re going to be able to make your own decision afterwards. If you sway like the wind every time someone talks to you then it might be better to find another way to make the decision. Remember, your goal is to actually make a decision, not wait so long that the decision makes itself for you and in the meantime you’ve lost bucket-loads of time.

– Stick with your gut most of the time. Balance it against the “worst case”. I always think, “What’s the worst thing that will happen?” Usually, its not as bad as you initially think. And usually, your first instinct is the correct one.

– Try a decision tree to look at the possible end results in the decision. Below is a simple example. I used this method when I was trying to map out how and when to leave Engauge to start Dragon Army.


Hopefully some of those tips will help you focus on making quick decisions so you’re not bogged down with the decision-making process. The extra time you currently spend stressing over decisions isn’t healthy and its usually not going to result in a smarter decision, just a longer one.

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