Faster Isn’t Better: A Case For Prolonged Decision Making

Eli Zeira was the Directorate of Military Intelligence for Israel.

The agency responsible for warning the country’s leader if its enemies were about to attack.

And unfortunately for Eli, Israel has no shortage of enemies.

When Eli took office he set out with a goal of alleviating public anxiety. Because he held a high advisory position, the government followed his lead.

Although an admirable goal, we’ll discover that being cemented on a perspective and defaulting to that decision because you’ve already evaluated it once to your level of satisfaction, often make us blind to details that should give us pause.

Our story takes us to the year, 1973.

There are reports of an advancing Egyptian presence. All which were continuously dismissed by Eli as unlikely and not a concern.

After all, the goal was to alleviating public anxiety and with Yom Kippur (a day of resting, fasting, and prayer) approaching, having a violent encounter wouldn’t fit the bill.

However, after a barrage of these reports leading up to, and ultimately culminating on Yom Kippur, an emergency meeting was called where Eli once again tried to reassure Prime Minister Meir that they did not need to worry about the possibility of war.

As the discussion continued, additional evidence appeared and it became irrefutable that it was only a matter of time before an armed conflict.

With clear communication from the U.S. that they would get no support if they took a preemptive strike, Israel waited.

In Eli’s, and others, eagerness to stick with a decisive judgements and avoid ambiguity, those leaders had almost cost Israel its life in the Yom Kippur War.

The whole event is almost too outrageous to believe, but the lives lost presents the undeniable harrowing reality.

On one hand desire to have closure can be a useful impulse, because it helps us commit to projects rather than endlessly debating questions or second-guessing ourselves into a state of paralysis.

On the other, research continues to show that if our urge for closer is too strong, we “freeze” on our goals and cling to that feeling of productivity at the expense of common sense.

“Individuals with a high need for cognitive closure may deny, reinterpret or suppress information inconsistent with the preconceptions on which they are ‘frozen,’ “writes Uri and Arie in their research “Intelligence Failure and Need for Cognitive Closure: On the Psychology of the Yom Kippur Surprise.”

Summarized: accomplishing something as simple as a decision feels good.

Feeling good is something we can be unwilling to leave, even when the alarms are blaring.

I could probably identify a few times today when I’ve been overly focused on a decision to do something or set a specific goal and overlooked something that should have given me pause.

Faster isn’t better.

Photo by Sebastian Leonhardt on Unsplash.

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