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Struggling to make an important decision? Use this method to make your best decision with the time and resources you have at hand. Because when you use this method, you only have to make one small initial choice: explore, or exploit?


One simple question.

Decisions, decisions. As a creative man, you struggle with decisions every day. Some are tough, some are tiny. But decisions are a central part of your life. So why do you sometimes lose your way in the swamp — while other times, you can see clearly and sleep well at night? Today, we’re going to look at a simple tool to help you make great decisions consistently.

Explore or exploit? If you want to make great decisions consistently, start with one simple question: explore, or exploit? Because if you choose the explore option, you’re committing to wading through lots of options. While, on the other hand, if you choose the exploit option, you’ll go where you’ve gone before.

Please do this.

Start with this short (less than 12 minutes) TED talk by computer scientist Tom Griffiths, who will walk you through a process of decision making that will help you confidently and consistently make great decisions with the time and resources at hand. And then, come right back for today’s takeaway.

Explore or exploit?

The takeaway.

First, a quick overview. The 37% rule – in the context of today’s discussion, let’s call this a limited exploration. In other words, go ahead and explore, but don’t over do it. Next, a basic question: how much time have you got? (in this talk, this came up in the context of choosing a restaurant, but it can apply to almost any situation in your day). Put another way, how important is this decision? Will it have long-term implications, or not? And then, the concept of “last recently used” (the Noguchi system). Which considers: what makes the most amount of sense in the least amount of time?

The basic principle.

And this, finally, gets at a basic principal of the creative life: everything essential needs to be easy. In other words, if something is essential, don’t make it difficult. Instead, keep it close at hand.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road. When it comes to decision making, start with the basic question: explore or exploit? And then, unless this is a life or death decision (and few are) —

  • Take a chance.
  • Don’t consider all of your options.
  • Be willing to settle for a pretty good solution most of the time — so you can keep moving.


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