Making Decisions in the Midst of Uncertainty
Annie Duke, Victor Aguilar, and Dorion Positano sit down on P&G’s More Than Soap Podcast to Discuss how successful teams celebrate good decisions, not just good outcomesJANUARY 2024
P&G seeks to foster a working environment where diverse thinking and perspectives strengthen innovation. To support that goal, the company established an employee-focused podcast called “More than Soap.” Dorion Positano, who leads this podcast for the company, has offered to share innovation relevant highlights he’s uncovered with the show’s guests. Following are some key insights from his discussions with P&G Chief R&D and Innovation Officer, Victor Aguilar, and author Annie Duke.
“In Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made one of the most controversial calls in football history: With 26 seconds remaining, and trailing by four at the Patriots' one-yard line, he called for a pass instead of a handoff to his star running back. The pass was intercepted and the Seahawks lost. Critics called it the dumbest play in history. But was the call really that bad? Or did Carroll actually make a great move that was ruined by bad luck?”
We think Pete Carroll might agree that crucial insights come from understanding that a poor outcome doesn't necessarily indicate a poor decision. Carroll's choice, in the heat of that Super Bowl moment, was made with the best information and strategy he had at hand. This reflects a fundamental principle in Annie Duke's philosophy: Good decisions can sometimes lead to bad outcomes, and vice versa.
This insight is profoundly relevant to how teams operate within P&G's Research & Development (R&D) organization. In the intricate dance of innovation and research, teams often must make decisions with incomplete information, balancing probabilities and potential outcomes. A project might not always lead to the desired result, but that doesn't mean the initial decision to pursue it was flawed. It's a reminder that in the complex and uncertain world of innovation, the quality of a decision should not be judged solely by its outcome.
This understanding fosters an environment where teams are encouraged to work collaboratively to take informed risks, knowing that it's part of the iterative process of discovery. It's about embracing uncertainty and recognizing that sometimes, the best-laid plans may not yield success, but they always provide valuable lessons for the future.
Here are the key insights Victor shared for fostering decision making in the face of uncertainty:
Promote a growth mindset: Encourage individuals to view failures and mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement rather than personal shortcomings. Emphasize the importance of continuous learning and development.
Focus on decision quality: Shift the emphasis from solely evaluating outcomes to evaluating the decision-making process itself. Encourage individuals to reflect on the factors they considered, the information they had available, and the reasoning behind their decisions. Highlight the importance of thoughtful analysis and critical thinking.
Foster psychological safety: Create a safe space where individuals can express their opinions and ideas without fear of judgment or reprisal. This will encourage more open and honest discussions, enabling better decision-making processes within the organization.
Align metrics with decision quality: Work towards aligning performance metrics and evaluation criteria with effective decision-making practices. Consider incorporating evaluation criteria that assess the quality of decision-making processes, such as the ability to gather relevant information, consider alternative options, and manage uncertainty.
Provide decision-making training: Offer training programs or workshops focused on decision-making skills and strategies. Equip employees with the necessary tools and frameworks to make informed decisions and mitigate biases.
Global innovation is accelerating faster than ever, and we know that staying ahead of the curve will require diversity of thought and perspective. Explore more perspectives from our leadership team here: https://pgresearchdevelop.com/team/
Annie Duke is an author and a consultant in the decision-making space as well as a former professional poker player. Annie is the only woman to have won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions and the NBC National Poker Heads up championship. Prior to becoming a professional poker player Annie was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he is the co-founder of the Alliance for Decision Education, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve lives by empowering students through decision skills education.
Victor Aguilar leads P&G’s Research & Development (R&D) organization, global innovation program and strategy, with nearly $2 billion annual investment in R&D. Victor is a passionate advocate of equality and inclusion in the workplace, envisioning and enabling a culture that embraces agility.
Dorion Positano is a Brand Strategy and Commercial Operations leader at P&G with experience leading some of P&G’s most recognizable brands such as Pampers, Vicks, Pepto Bismol, Clearblue and Metamucil.