Last week we took a spontaneous family trip to scout out the area that the Navy has asked us to make our home for two years come August. I am not much for spontaneity and prefer planning to winging it, but each time I let go and just let the current pull me along, I feel a little more comfortable doing so. The purpose of the trip (and yes, even spontaneous actions require some sort of a purpose) was merely to recon the area within a 25-mile radius of my new assignment. During the 3.5 hour drive to the Greater Norfolk area, we spent time articulating our housing criteria, which boiled down to four things:

  1. No more than 25 miles from work
  2. Within five miles of the primary training pool for one of the area’s youth swim teams
  3. Nice enough housing to accommodate extended stays by family/friends
  4. Aligned with a “good” middle school should my son decide to take a break from homeschooling

As you can see from the list and because we are still eight months from the actual move, we are not in the Let’s pick a house phase; merely the Let’s pick potential neighborhoods. The last three moves we made were done almost entirely based on online information. We posted ads on various online forums, we scoured real estate websites, we exchanged countless e-mails with realtors and landlords, and we had generous friends donate their time to be our eyes on the scene. On all three occasions, we signed a lease without having physically seen our new home in person. We were ultimately pleased with each housing decision we made, but they were not as well informed as they could have been. Each missed our first-hand personal evaluation. To most, the thought of agreeing to a place of residence for a two to three year period without walking through the threshold, driving through the neighborhood, and talking with potential neighbors is uncomfortable. I am among the “most” in that statement. I enjoy making more informed decisions.

Whether it is a new piece of electronic gear, a new book, or a new car, I do a great deal of research before making the decision. I talk to others who have recently made decisions about the same. I read reviews. I touch and feel the product. I inform myself as much as possible before deciding. That is not to say that every well-informed decision I make is a good one and the most informed are not necessarily among the best decisions I have made in my life. At the same time, the decisions made with less information than I would have liked and instead based in large part on my gut are often the ones that give me the most happiness.

Decision makers have a responsibility to do just that…make decisions; how well informed is up to the individual, as is how much risk to mitigate. More information does not necessarily improve the decision, and not all risk can/should be addressed.

During the drive home, my wife and I exchanged thoughts on some of the decisions we have made over the years. Some well-informed decisions we made with great confidence blew up in our faces, while many of those decisions we executed with little pre-meditation were among our finest moments. We thought about our recent adventure and agree that it was both enjoyable and time well spent. We also acknowledge that though our decision on housing will be more informed than our last three, it may not result in a better outcome. Nevertheless, the research continues…

  • How informed are the decisions you tend to make?
  • Are you missing opportunities in your quest to better inform your decisions?
  • How personally involved do you feel the need to get in the decisions that affect you and the team?