Two-way door decisions

We all make decisions all day long, from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. But how often do you think about each decisions you make, and the impact it can have? We are all the sum of the choices we make, and that goes for a business as much as an individual.

Some leaders make decisions in the same way every time, regardless of what the issue is. This may seem logical, because it breeds consistency and reliability. However, like a batsmen judging each ball on its merits, a smart leader knows to judge each issue based on its own particular nuances.

There are many ways to classify the different types of decision you need to make, but one effective method I’ve came across is one-way and two-way door decisions. It’s something Jeff Bezos has written about before, and Atlassian’s work futurist Dom Price has brought up at a few Virgin events.

Essentially, most decisions we make are not necessarily final – they are two-way door decisions. Even if they seem definite, they are actually reversible. You can walk through the door, see how it feels, and walk back through to the other side if it isn’t working. For a business trying to be innovative and nimble, its leaders need to make plenty of two-way door decisions. 

This is also connected to covering the downside. It’s something I always try to do in business. For example, when we launched Virgin Atlantic I made a deal with Boeing that we could hand the plane back in a year’s time if the airline didn’t get off the ground. Thankfully, we never had to. But if the things hadn’t worked out, I could have walked back through the door.

Of course, some decisions are so big that they need to be extremely carefully considered, with consultation, discussion and plenty of time taken. But these are few and far between. 

Richard Branson and team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

Too many leaders see every decision as irreversible and make it a one-way door decision – especially as they grow. This results in slow processes, lengthy, laborious meetings, a loss of momentum and ultimately less progress.

The key is being able to spot which decisions are one-way and which are two-way doors. Make decisions, learn and improve. Now, step through the door and start moving forward.

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