My wife and I recently returned from 12 days in Hawaii where we celebrated 40 years of marriage. I was very disciplined to avoid doing any real work during that time, rather concentrated on enjoying the sensory overload that the islands offer to us midwesterners.
But I couldn’t avoid the reminders everywhere that decisions have consequences and that it’s important to think through the possible consequences before you pull the trigger on a decision.
I’ve included a picture of a wild pig (pua’a) that we took at Volcanoes National Park because it illustrates that the decision-to-consequence relationship has always been true.
When the early waves of Polynesians came to Hawaii over 1000 years ago, they brought the pig with them (think luau), along with other familiar sources of food. Without any predators (e.g. large cats) and with abundant tropical plant life, the pua’a population grew rapidly to the point where even today there are an estimated 85 wild/feral pua’a per square mile on the wetter parts of the big island. This decision led to the destruction of many native plant species and was further aggravated by later decisions to introduce invasive plant species whose seeds were spread more rapidly because of the pig’s rooting behaviors. The picture shows a fenced-in pua’a to illustrate the park’s attempts to recover native plant species in the rain forest that surrounds Kilauea.
I don’t fault the ancient Polynesians for thinking first of their food supply when launching their outriggers toward Hawaii. They surely prioritized hunger avoidance above biodiversity (a modern abstraction) when making their “Hawaiian Food Sources” decision. But they likely had enough experience on their home islands to know that a pig is a pig is a pig and to anticipate that their pigs would roam, eat, root and reproduce freely in their new home. They could have discussed those risks and perhaps come up some risk mitigation actions. At least their brains (as big as ours) had the potential for that type of thinking.
Decisions have many consequences that flow directly from the alternative selected for implementation. These include risks, opportunities, implementation tasks and derived requirements. It really pays to explore these in our minds before we commit to a specific alternative. The more that a decision is new to us or occurs in a new context, the higher the value of thinking longer, harder and deeper in these dimensions.
Modern decision management experts aren’t immune to decision consequences. We made the decision to fly into Hilo because of better flight connections in our frequent flyer program, but that left a second routing decision on how to get our hotel on the west side of the island. We were arriving at 8 PM local time (after sundown) after an 18 hour travel day, at 2 AM as far as our minds/bodies were concerned. I thought it wiser to avoid the isolated mountain road (between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa) and took the coastal road which at least offered a few towns with services. I never considered the risk of large wild critters in the roadway, despite my many close calls with Indiana deer.
Halfway around the north coast, my bleary eyes spotted a pua’a in the middle of the road, which I swerved to barely miss. Amy was navigating with her iPhone, so she asked “Why did you swerve?” I described the wild pig, which had grown in my imagination from a 100 pound piglet into a 300 pound Hogzilla in my adrenaline rush. She actually doubted my story until days later at the Volcano museum when I introduced her to Hogzilla’s cousin. Imagine that after 40 years of marriage!