Asking the Right Question

A Framework for Making Good Decisions

Severin Perez


At its core, decision-making is about answering questions. Should we launch this product? Should I order take-out for dinner? Should I go on this date? These are conditional questions that reflect some number of possible futures. The decision occurs when you select one of the futures and take the action that it prescribes.

From a mechanical point of view, decision-making is straight-forward. Each time you come to a branch in the road, you select one of the options and proceed onwards. If you aren’t concerned with the ultimate destination, it’s a simple process. Of course, most of us are concerned with the destination, and it may be that not every branch in the road will get you to where you’re going.

Now, we start to see how complex decision-making really is. Knowing that there is a branch in the road isn’t enough — you need more information. Does the left branch lead in the direction you’re going? Does the right branch? Is one of the two routes longer? Safer? More scenic? In short order, your top-level question has devolved into a series of sub-questions.

Gathering Information

If the top-level question is what defines your decision, then the sub-questions are what define whether you’ll make a good decision. It’s here…