Not Deciding Is A Decision

A story today that seven percent of newborn’s have an email address at birth. By the age of two, 81 percent have a ‘digital footprint’. 

Today, we need not even be sentient before we are defined by others. And the simple truth is that from the moment we are a failed pregnancy test we have two choices. Define ourselves. Or someone else will.

But whereas the multi-faceted talents of humans are often lost when their owners being placed into early boxes, businesses instead benefit from clearly defined intent.

For some companies, the willingness to define themselves comes without supporting action.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster, for instance, focused attention on BP’s claim to be safety conscious. And on corporate behavior that undermined that claim almost systematically. 

But for most companies the failure goes far beyond the incongruity between stated intentions and action. 

It rests instead in the belief that in the absence of a definition, the world has no negative view of you. That your image is for you to define. And no one else.

This is the fantasy of management that believes the absence of a decision is not itself a decision. 

I have seen companies at intimate quarters act on the basis that the availability of a senior executive to attend a meeting was the pivot point in a process.

In the real world, the availability of a senior executive is entirely meaningless to the regard in which that company is held by its customers, suppliers and shareholders. The employees might care, because they’ve been trained to do so. But everyone else is interested only in impact. Whether financial, environmental, social or humanitarian.

And today, impact is created by companies and individuals moving not at enterprise speed but at entrepreneurial or social speed.

And in those companies every minute is spent acting. Because they know where they’re headed. And how they’re going to get there.

So the next time you find yourself waiting for someone at your company to make a decision, remind yourself of one thing.

They already did.

They just don't know it.