Type 1 vs Type 2 Decisions

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.

As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to fight that tendency.

Jeff Bezos

2 thoughts on “Type 1 vs Type 2 Decisions

  1. Good quote. I agree. But it doesn’t say enough about type 2 decisions. There are more ways to screw them up than to treat them as type 1. You still have to take some necessary factors into account, or you’ll end up reversing the decision for bad reasons, and possibly have to re-reverse it unnecessarily later.

    Make stakeholders feel heard by listening to them. Figure out what factors are relevant and immediately available, determine whether you have enough to go on or whether the next step needs to be gathering more info, then decide. “Enough” should not be very much, and the decision can be conditional (it’s a type 2 decision, make good use of that.)

  2. I’d suggest that at least in part, this tendency in larger organisations is because as they grow, it becomes harder to tell the difference between type 1 and 2 – the people responsible for making that decision have grown further away from its impact. Things get treated as type 1 by default, because they can’t easily confirm that they’re not.