One of my favorite ideas of all time comes from the comic book world. It is called the multiverse. Basically, it means that there are parallel universes nearly identical to each other. So there’s multiple versions of Earth and the people in it. In one of those universes, perhaps I get to live as a panda caretaker—one of my secret dream careers.
The multiverse idea also means that every decision we make, starts a new branch. The reason why every earth is different is because the people living in each one, made different decisions. Maybe they decided to walk into a different coffee shop one morning, bumped into their future romantic partner and their lives took a wildly different trajectory.
I sometimes wonder about these decision branches as I go about my daily life. What if I turned left instead of right? What if I walked into this coffee shop instead of that one? As you can imagine, you can quickly drive yourself crazy with all the what ifs.
The multiverse is a fun idea to play with—and for Marvel to make billions of dollars from it—but we need something more useful in our lives. That’s where decision dividers come into play.
Going Back to the Root
I’m not one to constantly refer to the latin roots of words but it is helpful in this case. The word decision in latin is made up of two words, “de” which means “off” and “caedere” which means “cut”. Together, they make up the word decidere.
For this essay, the meaning of cut is highly relevant. Good decisions should reduce complexity and options. Unlike the multiverse, it shouldn’t create more branches and overwhelm.
When companies make decisions, it should be easier to move into the future. I often work with executives who are making decisions left and right but can’t seem to get through them all. After they make decisions, they are confronted with even more.
Part of this relates to the idea of induced demand where if you build a new bridge or highway to reduce traffic, you will be surprised when you end up with even more traffic. The possibility of more options encourages consumers to drive more. Robert Moses—from the fantastic book The Power Broker—learned this lesson the hard way when he built many of the bridges and tunnels in New York. The more he built, the more traffic increased.
To avoid inducing demand for more decisions, we need to truly cut down our options. That is, we need to make decisions that limit what we can do going forward. One of the best examples of this idea is Gucci.
Gucci Doesn’t Care Why You Don’t Buy
I’ll admit that I am not a Gucci customer. I have never been attracted to their products and I don’t even think I have ever stepped foot in their stores. Gucci doesn’t care, of course.
There’s a thousand reasons why people don’t buy Gucci products but only a few on why they do. If Gucci focused on the objections, they would end up creating products that would alienate their best customers. Imagine trying to buy cheap Gucci products. You would think they are knockoffs.
Gucci offers insight into what it means to make a decision that removes options. By focusing on high end fashion, they can discard plenty of possibilities. They don’t have to worry too much about discounting—they rarely do it—, they don’t have to run surveys asking customers why they didn’t buy and they don’t have to spend time going after the wrong customers.
Instead, they can focus on a handful of key decisions. Who are their best customers, what do they care about and how can they offer them relevant products?
Gucci demonstrates that you don’t get brownie points for making decisions. You get them for making the right decisions and ignoring everything else.
A good decision should be judged on how many other decisions you no longer have to make. When companies formulate a good strategy, it should be crystal clear on the things they will not do.
You Don’t Want to Live in the Decision Gym
I have previously mentioned that making decisions is like a muscle that needs to be used to get stronger. I still believe that but I don’t think people should spend their entire day inside the decision gym. You need to step in for a short while, make important decisions and then walk out.
The goal isn’t to spend as much time as possible in the gym though I’m sure some people would love that. The goal is to become effective in a short amount of time. There’s plenty of other things you could be doing besides making decisions.
In the multiverse, I can fantasize about alternative career paths. Perhaps my panda caretaker equivalent actually hates his job, who knows. Regardless of what earth we live in, we need to make fewer but higher impact decisions. You can start by following Gucci and only caring about what matters.
Photo by Julien Tondu