03 Nov 2018 18:59 IST

Diwali, and the takeaways for decision-making

If the information a manager uses is incorrect or biased, how can the resultant decision be right?

Diwali, or Deepavali, is around the corner. Hope that you burst lots of crackers and have fun with fireworks, in a safe and responsible manner. But wait, is that a politically correct wish?

Every year I see an increasing number of messages advocating a cracker-free Diwali. For years we have been told of the child labour that is being exploited in the manufacture of such fireworks. But I recently spotted a rather contrarian message that bursting crackers is support of child labour! Most of these messages are based on information that is partially, often wholly, incorrect.

Let me explain some of these aspects which would also set the context as to why this is relevant to management.

Adherence to norms

There are three key sources for fireworks, or crackers. The first is the legally licensed and regulated sector, a large portion of which operates in the South Indian town of Sivakasi. The next is the multiple small, unlicensed and illegal units that churn out crackers without any licence or safety measures. The third is cheap imports which are usually completely unregulated in terms of adherence to norms.

Take the two key objections that are invariably brought up to dissuade anyone from using fireworks; the use of child labour and impact on pollution levels because of crackers.

Child labour is used, or rather only used, in the unlicensed and illegal units. However, the messaging broadbrushes this as being a universal fact in any fireworks manufacturing unit. Next is the pollution plank, and it is ironic that pollution becomes a major concern only during Diwali. Why is it that everyday pollution is not an issue? Why do people use vehicles indiscriminately adding to the pollution while talking about the one-day pollution caused by fireworks?

The debate of what is right and wrong can go on with regard to this subject. However, I raised this to highlight an important lesson with regard to managers and management.

Check validity

The major role of any manager is to take decisions based on information available and to act on the same. However, if this information is itself incorrect or biased, how can the decision be right?

In simple terms, the manager needs to first check and evaluate the information for validity, accuracy and pertinence. Simply put –

- Is the information still valid or has it become outdated/ incorrect?

- Is the information accurate or not?

- Is the information pertinent to the decision-making process or is it actually irrelevant?

If the information for decision-making passes these three checks, only then can such inputs be used to take decisions. One of the common mistakes committed by a person is that of having selective perception which leads to a bias with regard to information and processing of the same. When a person bases decisions on information that has been processed with a bias, the decisions will also invariably be incorrect.

So, remember to make your decision on how to celebrate the festival without any bias. Hope that this would become a good managerial habit, enabling you to make sound decisions in the future. And Happy Diwali, once again!

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