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Adaptive decision making in uncertain times

Adaptive Decision Making

In the past article, I explored how knowledge improves your decision making in uncertain times. In this article, I will explore adaptive decision making.

An adaptive approach[1] in decision making can improve your situation, especially in uncertainty. In this approach, you break big decisions down into smaller ones. Then while making every decision, use the best available information and incorporate as many stakeholders as possible. Always keep your options open to allow for future changes when more information becomes available.

Governments have used this style of decision making in the coronavirus crisis. They assess the situation daily if not hourly based on new information on the virus spread, the number of infected patients, and the death rate. They incorporated all stakeholders into the decision-making process, health professionals, economists, police, army, etc..

On a personal level, every one of us has to use the adaptive approach of decision making in such an unprecedented crisis. We are all now facing unforeseen circumstances that require effective and efficient decision making to survive. At work or home, we are now facing new challenges.

Adaptive decision making in uncertain times

Adaptive approach in decision making

Break small decisions into smaller ones

Don’t panic; no one knows what’s happening right now, even governments with all its financial and logistical resources are adapting along the way. Assess your financial situation, put a short, medium, and long term plan. Reallocate assets according to current risk. Many expect to be in this lockdown for the next month. Even if we overcome the crisis in a relatively short period, the economy will take much longer to recover. So be prepared.

Use the best available information

Gather knowledge as you go on many levels. In the past article, I covered the importance of acquiring the right information from the right resources on the number one enemy of our time, the coronavirus. We now have more spare time at home. Use it to learn a few new skills, a language, or improve your job market eligibility by gaining more experience in your expertise. There are several online platforms for learning that offer free and paid courses in every subject you can imagine.

Incorporate as many stakeholders as possible

You are not in this alone. Discuss challenges with your partner, kids, family, or friends. Share your decision-making process with people who are affected by the outcome of the decisions, reduces risk, distribute responsibility, and improves output.

Always keep your options open

Uncertain times require that you shouldn’t make decisions that have no turning back. Keep your options open and plan to have an exit strategy. Balance your money, time, and interests and diversify.

Assess frequently and adapt

Assign an hour every day, week, or month according to the unfolding situation, to assess the situation. If any new information arises that affects your home or work, reassess your decisions to make sure that you are on the right track.

In the next article, I will discuss further decision-making style for uncertain times.

Parts of this article were published in my book, In or Out: A Practical Guide to decision making.


[1]      Morgan MG, Kandlikar M, Risbey J, Dowlatabadi H. Why Conventional Tools for Policy Analysis Are Often Inadequate for Problems of Global Change. Clim Change 1999;41:271–81. DOI:10.1023/A:1005469411776.