First Thought, Best Thought?

For the past twenty-plus years, I’ve met once a week with a group of friends to play “wargames.”  Not running through the woods (I’m too old for that), but board games that are historical simulations.  It can be tough to make a decision sometimes, especially if you know what really happened and you’re trying for a better outcome.  Rather than agonize, we frequently rely on the idea of “first thought, best thought” as the best approach.

Or is it?  I’ve just run across a business article that says the opposite.  An unnamed private-company CEO is quoted as saying, “Most people don’t actually think. They just take their first thought and go.”

Granted, this is an article aimed at business people, but it does make an interesting point.  Many of our decisions are what the author calls first-order positive and second-order negative.  For example, buying a bigger house than you need, then struggling to make the mortgage payments.  He recommends trying to reverse that; concentrate on first-order negative, second-order positive to look beyond visible costs, especially if there is no immediate benefit, and have the benefits materialize in the future.

In other words, take time to think a problem through, including try to explore it three-dimensionally, even though the extra thinking time appears to give no advantage (first-order negative).  Mastery of a problem in this way will pay big dividends in the future, even though those dividends may not be obvious today (second-order negative).

So I’ll try to remember that, even when the Nazis are advancing on my left flank.

The complete article is at  The photo came from that site.

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