On May 4, 2010, white smoke began to emanate from a parked SUV in the middle of a crowded Times Square. Fearing a potential catastrophe, the police called the bomb squad.
The bomb squad was remarkably methodical in their approach. One detective operated a robot that broke windows on the Pathfinder. Another detective donned a heavy green protective suit and approached the vehicle to gather more intelligence. Two more detectives helped X-ray the contents. In a magnificent act of teamwork, the bomb squad deliberated, aligned, cautiously removed the material and disassembled the bomb. Crisis averted.
If this approach sounds familiar, it’s because organizations approach most decisions with bomb squad like thinking: slow down, discuss liberally with others, gather as much intelligence as possible, wait for buy-in, avoid mistakes at all costs. It’s a great approach when the stakes are high, but it’s terribly wasteful when they’re not.
In a world where speed matters more than ever, low stakes decisions present an opportunity for a much faster approach, locksmith thinking.
When the locksmith gets the call, he doesn’t assemble a team. He gets in his van and drives, involving as few people as he can get away with. When he arrives at the problem site, he asks for only as much information as necessary to start working. Then, he picks the lock as quickly as he can. The sooner he’s the done, the sooner he can drive off to pick the next lock.
Here’s a critical question to ask before jumping into your next decision: are you diffusing a bomb or picking a lock?