After the Games are over

It often suits us to delay decisions. What we sometimes do is pick a landmark in the calendar (Christmas, Summer Holidays, Labor Day in the US), and agree to make the big decision after that.

The London Olympics make a classic watershed. For the whole of the UK, and Londoners in particular, London 2012 has been for years a distant beacon. Now it is somewhere between an all-enveloping news event and a national celebration to which the world has been invited. It’s full-on, it’s immeasurably exciting……and it will soon be over.

For athletes, officials, the media and indeed Danny Boyle and his team, London 2012 has been the focus of incredibly hard work, planning and training. As the medals roll in, national doubt and cynicism seems to have been replaced by something close to euphoria.

But it is all going to end on Sunday 12th August (give or take two weeks of the Paralympics). What then? For the medal winners, their coaches and families, time to celebrate success, or live with not quite having made it. For the army of games makers and volunteers, time to take a well-earned rest. For the media, time to get over the laryngitis, and to find something else to write and talk about.

For those of us who have been putting off big decisions, Monday 13th August will be a big day. Time to decide, yes. However that’s not where we start. Every decision is a journey – not a single step. I believe it is absolutely essential to avoid ‘early decisions’ at all costs, and use a methodical process.

But ‘methodical’ doesn’t mean that it is all about logic. Academics have made great progress over recent years in understanding how our brains work. Our conscious mind can only cope with a tiny fraction of what we see and experience. Smart decision making is a mixture of good thinking and harnessing the power of the subconscious brain.

For me the process goes like this:

• What is my goal? What am I really trying to achieve?
• What is my main opportunity? How can I realise it?
• If there is a problem, how can I set about solving it?
• Look at the options. It is not just a matter of looking at the most attractive upside. I also need to avoid disastrous downsides
• Choose the most viable option – and make the decision on a balance of reason and gut feel
• As well as making the decision, I also have to ensure that we can sell it up, down or across. My decision will only work if I can communicate it and make it stick…
• …which is all about implementation. Nor is the world going to obligingly stand still and allow me to pass. Carrying out my decision may take some time, and throughout I have to stay alert and flexible. Competitors or enemies won’t make it easy, and I am always going to have to deal with outside factors, slings and arrows – and our fickle old friend, Lady Luck.

As you look forward to making a decision after the Games are over, you might be tempted to think it’s going to be a straightforward business. I don’t want to alarm you, but it could turn out to be a bit more complicated than you might imagine!