Cooling Off

Are there only two poles of decision making timeline?

There’s the impulsive, in a Gladwellian Blink style. Make it quick, on the hoof, with as little time as possible lapsing after causation towards action. If it’s wrong, you can always exercise ‘fast failure’ and re-direct.

Then there’s the prolonged informed decision. Get all the facts together. Assess them. Re-assess them. Think about deciding. Take yet more counsel. Best not rush into anything that’ll bite you later after all.

Somewhere in between, there’s the “sleep on it” approach.

I would say that the majority of corporateers I know comfortably follow this principle.

I do not necessarily share subscription … unless it involves a decision required after suffering a personal grievance.

For me, the emotion following such sleight can be so clouding that a period of reflection is often essential.

I found myself in just such a position recently, and in order to help those involved appreciate taking extra time in slumber before deciding, I invoked Alfred The Great. When a client is about to raise their sword about a perceived sales injustice, with potentially calamitous consequences for you, it could well be a story that helps you too.

In the late 9th Century, what first became England in 927 was at the time split in two. Danelaw to the North and East ruled by vikings, Wessex to the South and West the domain of the anglo-saxons.

Alfred, King of Wessex, was troubled by his viking neighbour and their regular skirmishes. In an effort to keep them at bay, he decided ideological defences could be the key.

As such he took the first steps to codify the rule of law (I believe known as ‘doom’ in the lexicon of the day).

One aspect of justice he was keen to remedy was that of ‘blood feud’. When people were wronged, the victim was permitted to right that wrong by exacting a similar penalty against the perpetrator.

The problem was, that things could easily get out of hand. Several unnecessary murders could follow from an initial kill.

In an attempt to remedy this, Alfred announced that no revenge could take place for seven days. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. We are led to believe that crime fell, as time calmed down the wronged and enabled less-destructive penalties. Wessex apparently became a much more pleasant place to live, of which the vikings took note leading indirectly shortly thereafter to a unified kingdom that went on to become a world-shaping nation.

And in no small part due to the impact of the world’s first ever cooling off period.

Thanks to the re-telling of Alfred’s legacy, I’ve found that most people happily accept to ‘sleep on it’, to the benefit of any decision you’re keen to stay on the right side of.

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